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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Malik supports Zulqernain’s asylum claim

Interior Minister Rehman Malik puts himself in direct conflict with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), saying he agrees that runaway cricket player Zulqernain Haider faced threats from the “cricket mafia” and he was right to desert the Pakistani team.

Pakistan’s refugee cricket player yesterday met Interior Minister Rehman Malik at his sprawling London bungalow to appeal for security in Pakistan — and possibly revival of his cricketing career - should he return to the home country.

The former Pakistan wicket keeper deserted the team in Dubai and fled to Britain, where he sought asylum in November last, claiming that he received death threats for refusing to fix two games. He also announced retirement from the international cricket.

Malik’s acknowledgment that the “cricket mafia is strong” and that “the cricketer had the right to flee abroad” will shock many in the PCB, who blamed Haider for bringing shame to Pakistan by deserting the team in the middle of a one-day international series.

The wicketkeeper was suspended and an investigation was opened in his case by the PCB “for violating terms and conditions.”

The Pakistan wicketkeeper claimed asylum in November last, announcing retirement and claiming to have received death threats after refusing to fix two games.

His departure from the team put the Pakistani side in a spin and Pakistan cricket was discussed in negative terms all over the world.

His confirmation that Haider was receiving death threats not only strengthens the cricketer’s asylum claim but also puts the minister in a direct clash with PCB chief Ejaz Butt and fellow Sports Minister Ijaz Jakharni, who carpeted the player for deserting the team.

In the meeting on Saturday, Malik asked Haider to consider returning to Pakistan and pompously assured him of full security there. He also advised him to approach Butt for revival of his cricketing career.

However, the former player was still undecided. “Rehman Malik has made promises, but I am not sure if he can be trusted at all,”S Haider told The News, expressing his gratitude to the minister for recognizing this fact that he received threats to his life.

“I will assess the situation, the steps he takes for the safety of my family and myself and then see whether to return or carry on living in London. I put my life at stake because I had had real threats to my life.

I am thankful to the Interior Minister of Pakistani for recognizing this fact. He agrees that I have left my family and children behind because of genuine reasons.”

Haider said what he did was for the love of cricket and to save the game from criminals. “Pakistan needs me and I must be allowed to play for the national side. Malik can do something about it if he wants and I will see how he fulfils his promise,” he added.
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