Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
In the first official response to the ICC's decision to exclude Pakistan from hosting the 2011 World Cup, the Pakistan board has issued a legal notice to cricket's governing body, calling the decision to do so discriminatory and "legally flawed."
The ICC decided at a recent board meeting in Dubai to take away Pakistan's share, as one of four co-hosts, of the World Cup matches. The move came after terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team during their February-March tour, which was itself the first major bilateral contest in Pakistan since October 2007. A number of teams since then had refused to visit in the wake of an unsettled and increasingly violent domestic backdrop. The meeting also said that international cricket was unlikely to return to Pakistan till 2011.
Ijaz Butt, chairman of PCB, had hitherto maintained a stony silence on the decision, to the ire of much of the population here. But at a press conference at the board's HQ in Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, flanked by senior officials and legal advisors, he said that the manner in which the ICC decision was taken was "legally flawed...unfair and discriminatory" and that Pakistan intended to fight for its right as co-host.
The notice has been sent through its legal advisors Mark Gay, of DLA Piper, and Tafazzul Rizvi, the PCB's legal consultant. "We are most concerned about the manner in which the ICC took this decision," Butt said. "There was no notice prior to the meeting that a decision of this nature would be taken. There was no proper security assessment of Pakistan nor of the other Co-Hosts of the 2011 Tournament. We believe that more could and should have been done to review the actual situation to deal with the matter on a non-discriminatory basis. We will push for the matter to be expedited."
In particular, Pakistan's gripe, Butt clarified, was that the status of the 2011 World Cup was not on the original agenda of the ICC Board meeting on April 17 and 18 (when the decision was made). The implication is that Pakistan wasn't given a fair opportunity to defend its case as a co-host.
"This issue was not on the agenda," Butt said. "There was a discussion of the Sri Lankan attacks on the agenda and this topic came up. They never gave us notice and it was not on the agenda. We want to revoke the decision full stop."
Butt repeatedly pointed to what he claimed were also uncertain security environments in the other co-hosts - India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - and said that provisions are in place for such decisions to be taken as late as 18 months before an ICC event, something that would have given the board time to prepare a security plan and for inspections to be carried out. It is the absence of this process, more than anything else, which has seemingly spurred the PCB's move to send a legal notice.
The legal notice has been sent to the ICC president David Morgan and under the ICC's constitution, the PCB is asking for the matter to be referred to the disputes resolution committee. "The matter has been submitted to the president of the ICC's dispute resolution committee. He can either refer the matter to the dispute resolution committee which is made up of ICC's officials or to the independent arbitration before the court of arbitration sport court. The PCB prefer impartial arbitration in the interest of justice, equity and fairplay."
If the disputes resolution committee fails to come up with a satisfactory solution, the option to take the case further remains. "There are two options with the disputes resolution committee," Salim Altaf, the board's chief operating officer, told Cricinfo. "Normally all disputes are resolved there. But if there is no satisfactory resolution, then the case can be sent to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), in Lausanne, Switzerland."
Ratification of the ICC's decision was expected to take place at the annual board meeting in June, though now that no longer seems a foregone conclusion.