Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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The Pakistan Cricket Board has for the very first time recognised umpiring talent in the country by offering contracts to three of their top umpires. The scheme is however limited and only offered to three of the ICC international panel umpires from Pakistan - Zameer Haider, Ahsan Raza and Shozab Raza.
"The plan for umpires was long due," Zakir Khan, the PCB's director for domestic cricket operation, told ESPNcricinfo. "The scheme was actually formed to encourage those who are representing Pakistan in the ICC international panel, so only three umpires were offered the six-month contract."
Totally five names were suggested, including Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf, but the PCB decided to reward only three umpires with six-month contracts, each carrying a monthly stipend of Rs. 50,000 (USD 550).
In 2011, six umpires were interviewed by the ICC including Nadeem Ghauri, Khalid Mahmood and Ghaffar Kazmi, though Haider, Raza and Shozab were selected for the ICC panel. The trio is currently in UAE officiating in Pakistan's series against England.
The campaign of initiating the contract system was originally raised by Dar. The objective was to promote successful umpires from within the circuit. The scheme is set to be reviewed annually.
"It's not about the number, it's about the quality," Khan explained the idea of picking up only three umpires. "We are not discouraging the other umpires and this will inspire them to rise high and reach the benchmark to attain the incentive which is performance-based. This process will be reviewed in June this year."