ISLAMABAD  - The legal saga dogging Pakistani cricket administration took a fresh turn on Friday as the government withdrew its challenge to the reinstatement of the game's ousted chief. Earlier this month an appeal court restored Zaka Ashraf as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, eight months after another court had thrown him out over election irregularities.
The government challenged his reinstatement in the Supreme Court but withdrew its appeal on Friday. Irfanullah Khan, a government lawyer, said Friday's move came after judges indicated the government had the power to replace Ashraf if they wished, without the need for a court ruling. "We have withdrawn our appeal against Ashraf's reinstatement," Khan told AFP. "As per law the government can exercise its powers (to appoint a new chairman) without prejudicing the orders of the Islamabad high court."
Ashraf's suspension in May last year triggered a slew of legal hearings and appeals.  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed veteran journalist Najam Sethi as PCB chairman but he too fell foul of the courts, with another judgment severely curtailing his powers. Critics said the turmoil was damaging the game at a time when Pakistani cricket needs strong leadership as it tries to persuade foreign teams to tour again after a long hiatus over security fears.
Ashraf's lawyer Karim Kundi, however, ruled out his client's removal. "Under the PCB constitution, the patron can only remove Ashraf on three counts: one that there are financial irregularities in the board, two that the PCB has become dysfunctional and third that there are sufficient evidence to back the first two causes," Kundi told AFP. The PCB has suffered regular bouts of institutional uproar since its inception in 1948.