The musical chair in PCB

By Muhammad Asif Khan

The latest incident in Pakistan Cricket is seen, by many, as the biggest jolt ever however the dismissal of an ‘elected’ chairman and the appointment of a ‘controversial’ figure should not be seen as an isolated event.

Najam Aziz Sethi, who was earlier the interim chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has taken over from the first-ever elected chairman of the Board, Zaka Ashraf. Mr. Sethi and his Management Committee were mandated by the government of Pakistan to fix the PCB constitution before holding transparent elections.Image

What could be the repercussions of this move will be discussed later, but as I mentioned earlier, the action by the Patron-in-chief, who is the Prime Minister as well, shouldn’t be isolated.

When Ijaz Butt completed his 3-year term in 2011, Zaka Ashraf was appointed as the chairman, who later on drafted a constitution and got himself elected in May 2013, for the term of four years. At that point, the Government did not feel appalling; however, a few petitions were filed against the election.

Let me simplify the situation. At that time, the PCB – in view of it’s constitution – constituted a Board of Governors [BoG], excluding Karachi & Lahore, the biggest nurseries of Cricket in Pakistan, then the patron at that time – The president of Pakistan – nominated two candidates – Zaka Ashraf and former Lahore Stock Exchange chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan, who were interviewed by a PCB committee which unanimously recommended Mr. Ashraf for the chairman’s post. The same day the BoG endoursed the recommended nominee and Zaka Ashraf made history by getting elected for the first time.

The Government was unmoved however a few petitioners felt otherwise and approached the Islamabad and Sindh High Courts, where after months of hearing the Islamabad High Court, while sidelining Zaka Ashraf, ordered the government to appoint a suitable person to take charge and hold elections. The court also suggested that the new chairman must at least be a first-class cricketer.

Zaka Ashraf went into an appeal which resulted in his re-instatement in January this year, but the drama continued and the Government approached the apex court, only to withdrew the appeal which gave an impression that Zaka Ashraf was safe but in reality his days were numbered as the Supreme Court, on a query from the Government’s lawyer, directed the Government to exercise its constitutional right.

What constitutional right the Government had?

The Para 41 [of the previous PCB constitution] says

“The Patron, in the presence of sufficient evidence and being satisfied that grave financial irregularities exists in the Board and that the Board is dysfunctional, may by order in writing reasons, supersede the Board and appoint an interim committee consisting of an administrator and as many members as deemed necessary for carrying out the functions of the board:”

With this provision in the constitution, the patron could dismiss Zaka Ashraf however that wasn’t done and he carried out his duties as the chairman of the PCB.

The twist came on February 10th, 2014, when Zaka Ashraf was terminated by the Prime Minister (Patron) but prior to the dismissal the Para 41 was amended as follows

“When the Patron is of the opinion that the Board is unable to perform its functions properly in accordance with this constitution he may, by order in writing, supersede the Board and constitute a Management Committee comprising up to eleven members”

The question is that if Zaka Ashraf was incompetent then why was the constitution amended to get rid of him in the first place? The time to put a check on Zaka Ashraf was right after the elections he held in May 2013.

There is white-paper as well, which reportedly contains grave financial misconduct by Zaka Ashraf. If the paper is genuine then the old question arises again, why the constitution needed to be altered to dislodge Zaka Ashraf?

Zaka Ashraf got elected in an awkward fashion alright, but the way he was removed was doubly awkward rather dubious. In a nutshell, the latest chopping gave birth to a lot of ambiguities.

If the Government dismisses an official by mentioning reasons then it should also present the logic behind someone’s appointment as well, isn’t it?

It probably won’t be wrong to say that if Zaka Ashraf was the first-ever elected chief then Najam Sethi is the most controversial chairman in history. The controversy surrounds him isn’t my subject, but the Government must have looked into all the aspects before this ‘bold’ appointment.

Now the PCB is again in the hands of an interim set-up, which has vowed to fix the constitution first. My humble suggestion to them is to increase the sense of participation and don’t pick and choose amongst favourites. Include every association and department in one single committee to elect a chairman, amongst the regional officials. Transparency comes with accountability of every individual, including the chairman.  The role of the chairman should also be curtailed to make him a supervisor, not the one who pokes in every committee.

And why should we wait, for a new constitution, to hold people accountable? If the Government can check the ‘wrongdoings’ of the past chairman then they could/should check the ambiguities of the incumbent officials too.

A few days back, the PCB advertised the posts of team coaches. One of the mentioned eligibilities were having at least five years of working experience in their respective cricketing role with elite cricket teams and cricketing management. However, the track record of the appointed individuals doesn’t reflect this attribute. Also the post of ‘chief cricket consultant’ was not even advertised.

Later on the way a few former cricketers were humiliated by one of the PCB’s management committee members also went unnoticed.

Lastly, let’s try and figure out the repercussions. Recently at one of the ICC meetings, an attendee taunted the Pakistan board as inconsistent. Is the Pakistan Cricket Board actually inconsistent? No need to answer this query.

Similarly, how could the Big-three issue be tackled adequately in the future? If Zaka Ashraf ‘mishandled’ the case, then let’s hope Mr. Sethi would do wonders, but seemingly Pakistan doesn’t have an option left.

This move also suggests the ICC and its member countries that Pakistan Cricket Board wasn’t out of the Government interference as yet. How the apex body would react to this situation still remains to be seen, but if Pakistan wants to regain its stature in world cricket, it must put its own house in order, otherwise the taunts will keep coming.

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