Zaka Ashraf ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/zaka-ashraf-635770), the head of the PCB, has been accused of “flagrant misdoings and unconstitutional decisions” by a member of his own management committee, as the official end of his incumbency approaches.
The four-month tenure of the administration led by Ashraf is due to end on November 5, at the end of this week. But there is no certainty that it will, even as the charges of the management-committee member indicate that alarm and unhappiness with Ashraf’s chairmanship is at its peak, both within the administration and outside of it.
Zulfiqar Malik, the management-committee member, made the allegations in an email to Ashraf and the management committee. The email, seen by ESPNcricinfo, is copied to the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) ministry, which has oversight over sports in Pakistan. In his email, Malik has accused Ashraf and the administration of:
Failing its legal, prescribed mandate, which was to manage only the board’s daily affairs and not make long-term decisions
Ignoring directives from the IPC to hold board elections so that the interim set-up finishes, and a chairman is appointed
Failing to provide his degree certificate, which is a prerequisite for becoming a PCB chairman
Allowing his son Chaudhry Khan Mohammad to meddle informally in board matters
Misusing the office of the PCB election commissioner to carry out political victimisation of opponents and running rigged elections in regions
“I have noted some flagrant misdoings and unconstitutional decisions by management that I wish to bring on record,” Malik writes. He says the email is an attempt “to absolve myself from the unconstitutional decisions and wrongdoings which have taken place over the period of time without consultation or approval of most members”.
The two most serious issues are the lack of movement on board elections as well as the scope of this administration’s work beyond the prescribed daily decision making.
“[But] this MC led by Mr Zaka Ashraf has not confined itself to day to day affairs and has taken many long term decisions which violate the mandate given to this MC,” Malik writes, going on to cite several examples of the appointments the board has made as breaches of this mandate.
“The appointment of Chief Selector (Inzamam ul Haq, who has now resigned ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/inzamam-ul-haq-steps-down-as-pakistan-chief-selector-amid-conflict-of-interest-allegations-1406269)) for three years on hefty Rs 2.5 million pm (per month), appointment of several Directors, Consultants, officials, Scrutiny and other Committees, approval of various projects and budget, huge expenses on different heads, hiring of legal counsels on exorbitant rates and removal or sidelining some key officials fall in the categories of long term decisions in violation of the clear cut mandate of the MC.
“Turning deaf ears on IPC Ministry’s directives… for holding Chairman election was the most serious violation that Zaka Ashraf and this MC committed”.
In response, the PCB said, “Every decision is taken according to the constitution.” The board also defended the nature of its decision-making, saying, “Any and all decisions have been taken to ensure day to day operations of the PCB continue unencumbered.”
The email was sent on October 3. A week later, the IPC asked the PCB for a comprehensive report on their operations, including updates on progress towards elections, details of all appointments they have made, and contracts they have signed. The ask was to have been treated as “Most immediate”, but the PCB has not since provided a report.
“Matters between IPC and PCB are internal and PCB would not like to offer a comment on its dealings with IPC,” the board said. “Needless to add that there exists a constant flow of communication between PCB and IPC.”
“We are left stranded here… Our board is supposed to own us. It is a terrible feeling to know your board will take credit for your success, but disown you when things don’t go your way”
A Pakistan player to ESPNcricinfo
In August, the IPC had sent a note to the prime minister which seemed to cast doubt on Ashraf’s future ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/political-developments-raise-questions-over-zaka-ashraf-pcb-future-1393837), though right in the middle of a political transition, nothing came of it.
Compounding these governance matters have been the ongoing and public mis-steps that enhance the sense of a floundering board. Prime among those was the press release issued in the aftermath of Pakistan’s loss to Afghanistan ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2023-24-1367856/afghanistan-vs-pakistan-22nd-match-1384413/full-scorecard), calling for fans to support the Pakistan team while at the same time not offering any support itself, and instead, shifting blame for the team’s failings squarely on to captain Babar Azam ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/babar-azam-348144) and selector Inzamam: “Looking ahead, the board will make decisions in the best interest of Pakistan cricket based on the team’s performances in the World Cup.”
Pakistan then lost a close game against South Africa ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2023-24-1367856/pakistan-vs-south-africa-26th-match-1384417/full-scorecard) by one wicket, pushing them to the brink of elimination from the World Cup after four consecutive losses. And the press release did not go down well with a side already struggling in India.
“We are left stranded here,” one of the players told ESPNcricinfo. “The entire team is under so much pressure from back home. Our board is supposed to own us. It is a terrible feeling to know your board will take credit for your success, but disown you when things don’t go your way.”
After the loss, the Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/mickey-arthur-43937) pointedly called out the “witch-hunt”.
“They’re going to be blaming everybody, don’t worry. It’s just the way of the world,” Arthur had said ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/icc-world-cup-2023-pak-vs-sa-mickey-arthur-pleads-for-pcb-to-avoid-witch-hunts-as-pakistan-challenge-falters-1405754). “It’s really unfair to start a witch-hunt, certainly on Babar Azam, on Inzi, on our coaches, on the management team. What I do know is the boys have tried, and the effort of the coaching staff, [and] the effort of the players has been first-class. If they would see that the amount of effort that the players and staff put in, they would be amazed.”
Since then, Inzamam has stepped down as chief selector, although not over the results but because of a potential conflict-of-interest issue, which is now subject to an investigation. Separately, a controversy has grown over remarks made by Rashid Latif ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/rashid-latif-42423), the former Pakistan wicketkeeper and captain. Latif alleged on a TV show that Ashraf was not answering calls from Babar, as a sign of their apparently deteriorating relationship. That prompted the leak of a WhatsApp conversation screenshot between the PCB’s chief operating officer Salman Naseer and Babar, in which the Pakistan captain is denying having made calls to Ashraf. According to the TV channel that aired the screenshot, they were given permission to do so by Ashraf.
The PCB said: “It is a channel’s discretion and policy to determine what or what not to air. PCB has no say or control on channel’s editorial policy.”
Ashraf is said to have met with the interim prime minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar in Islamabad in recent days. As patron of the board, Kakar is also the holder of Ashraf’s destiny. Details of the meeting are not yet known. But it did lead one official to suggest that Ashraf’s main objective through this tenure has been to secure an extension, at least until a more favourable political dispensation takes charge at national level.
For the moment, as of November 5, Ashraf’s management committee will cease to exist, and unless a government notification is issued, that will throw an already embattled board into a legal and leadership vacuum. It is not improbable that a notification comes over the weekend, though it is more likely that something emerges at the start of next week.
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo
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