LAHORE - A two-member bench of the Supreme Court Monday set aside a May 17 judgment of Islamabad High Court (IHC) and restored Najam Sethi as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman till fresh election for the board’s top slot.
In a hearing on Monday, the court directed current PCB chairman Najam Sethi to continue in his post for seven days before the appointment of an election commissioner and an acting chairman, who will be responsible for conducting the election. The PCB has also been directed to implement its new constitution. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case here. The hearing went on for five hours before the bench wrapped up the case.
During the hearing, Sethi informed the court that he has no intention of contesting the new election for the chairmanship, but he could hold a position in the new governing board, which is likely to be formed soon. The Supreme Court set aside an earlier high court order that had reinstated Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman. The apex court dismissed an order from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in May this year that had restored Zaka to the chairman’s position in the board. The Pakistan government appealed against the IHC’s decision and the matter finally ended up in the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has set aside the high court order according to which Zaka was reinstated,” Irfanullah Khan, the government’s legal advisor, said and added: “The government will appoint an interim chairman and election commissioner in seven days to implement the new constitution.”
The Supreme Court’s verdict is the latest event in the PCB’s ongoing turmoil, which dates back to May 2013. Last year, Zaka became the PCB’s first elected chairman, but shortly after he took office, the IHC - responding to a petition filed by a former Rawalpindi Cricket Association official - suspended him, calling the election process ‘dubious and polluted’.
In June 2013, the court upheld Zaka’s suspension and later that month Sethi, a senior journalist and former caretaker chief minister of Punjab, was named the interim PCB chairman by the government. The very next month, the Islamabad court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to carry out polls for the PCB chairman’s post by October 18 and overruled all major decisions taken by the Sethi administration. The election, however, never took place and after a succession of legal developments - including the dissolution of the PCB’s governing board in October and the formation of a five-man interim committee headed by Sethi to run Pakistan cricket - the IHC reinstated Zaka as PCB chairman in January this year.
In a familiar twist, however, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PCB patron-in-chief, dismissed Zaka and dissolved the board of governors. The PM directed a management committee to pick a PCB chairman from among its eight members and it chose Sethi.
In May, Zaka was reinstated for the second time in the year but lost his place to Sethi again within a couple of days. The developments set the stage for a protracted legal tussle within the board. Earlier this month, the government decided to form a new constitution for the board and replaced Sethi at the helm with an interim arrangement.
Sethi was reinstated a day later, as the Supreme Court struck down the decisions of the government and asked the PCB to return to status quo.