ISLAMABAD - Pakistani cricket turmoil deepened Saturday after Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended a management committee appointed by the prime minister and reinstated Zaka Ashraf as chief of the cricket board. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had sacked Ashraf on February 10 this year and appointed a committee chaired by Najam Sethi to oversee cricketing matters. The detailed court order, likely on Monday, will further clarify the bigger picture.
Saturday's order meant all decisions taken by Sethi are now null and void -- including the appointments of head coach Waqar Younis and Zimbabwean batting coach Grant Flower. It is the third time Ashraf has been reinstated since May last year. Judge Noorul Haq Qureshi heard around 25 petitions from the employees of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) who were sacked by Sethi, and read out his decision in the court.
Ashraf's lawyer Karim Kundi said the court decided to revert to the situation of February 10. "The notification of February 10 has been struck down as null and void as it was illegal, and as natural consequences Ashraf and other board staff who were superseded by the order are reinstated," Kundi told AFP.
"We were not the petitioner but we were made a party of various petitioners against Najam Sethi for termination of dozens of employees," Kundi said. "Wrapping up the various petitions judge suspended the SRO issued by PM on February 10. And natural legal interpretation suggests that Zaka Ashraf is back as chairman. I am not sure if there is any other interpretation but meanwhile this is the best understanding by the judge remarks."
Ashraf hailed Saturday's decision. "This is a win for Pakistan cricket," Ashraf told Pakistani media. "I will try to correct the wrong things in Pakistan cricket and do whatever is good for Pakistan cricket." Sethi said he was waiting for the court's written orders. "I am waiting for the court's orders and it will be up to the government to appeal where they want," Sethi told a private TV channel. "The instability in the PCB is not good for cricket."
On February 10, Sharif superseded Ashraf-led governing board and directed a management committee to pick a PCB chairman from among its eight members. The committee chose Najam Sethi, who has acted as interim chairman while Ashraf was suspended in 2013 by the same court. Sethi has been working as the PCB chairman, leading the eight-member adhoc management committee that, apart from Sethi, included Shahriyar Khan (former PCB chairman), Zaheer Abbas (former Pakistan captain), Naveed Akram Cheema (chief secretary, Punjab), Shakeel Sheikh (former member of PCB board of governors), Yousaf Naseem Khokhar (former member of PCB board of governors), Iqbal Qasim (former cricketer), Ijaz Chaudary (IPC secretary).
Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi, heading the single-member bench at IHC, was the judge hearing petitions against the PCB challenging the termination of a number of employees in the board, including that of former chief selector M Ilyas. Although Ashraf was not the petitioner, he was the aggrieved party with the February 10 order.
Pakistan's Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination, which oversees sporting matters in the country, is likely to challenge the decision next week. The same Islamabad court had suspended Ashraf in May last year, ruling his election "dubious". Sethi was appointed PCB chairman in June.
Ashraf appealed against the decision and was reinstated on January 15 this year, before Sharif again sacked him a month later. The frequent changes have made Pakistan the laughing stock of international cricket. The Supreme Court earlier this year refrained from taking the case ahead, suggesting that the government has the authority to initiate changes within the PCB.