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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ijaz Butt has government support to act against Afridi: Sources

Karachi: The Pakistan Cricket Board has privately got support from the corridors of power to proceed with their disciplinary action against Shahid Afridi despite the issue slowly being politicized with the growing involvement of politicians and government functionaries.

The disgruntled Afridi has also appealed to the chief patron of the board, President Asif Zardari to intervene in cricket matters and take out time for cricket.

He has appealed to the President to save Pakistan cricket from further damage from the present board headed by Ijaz Butt. But well-informed sources told PTI that Ijaz Butt had spoken to those who matter in Islamabad and they had told him he should proceed according to the book against Afridi.

"Butt has got tacit support to do whatever he feels is right at the moment in the Afridi case," one source said.

He, however, conceded that the sports minister, Engineer Shaukatullah who hails from the tribal areas was working behind the scenes in support of Afridi and trying to move the corridors of power to remove Butt as the board Chairman.

"Shaukatullah has quietly told the media that the Prime Minister and President have asked him to submit reports on the row between Afridi and the board," the source said.

The source said even the PCB was aware of the fact that Afridi perhaps more than any other cricketer commanded lot of popularity and fan following among the masses.

"The board is expecting more backlash in the coming days from different quarters but they are firm that they are doing everything according to the rules and regulations governing the players central contracts."

He said the board was now even prepared to fight a legal battle with Afridi if he wanted.

"The e-mail he has sent to the board its language indicates it has been prepared by a legal person. But if he wants to hire a lawyer he is welcome to do so."

But while the board says it is firm in dealing with player power which it sees now in the shape of the defiance being shown by Afridi, political pressure is increasing on it to resolve the issue quickly.

"They are politicians who are not aware of what is happening in the background," one source said.

Interior minister, Rehman Malik on Thursday said he would like to see the row between Afridi and board resolved soon and he would try to get him to reverse his retirement decision and back in the team. "I am a big fan of his," said Malik.

Even the tribal elders of the Afridi clan have held a press conference demanding Afridi being given justice.

Another source in the board said that they felt let down by Afridi given the support he had got from Butt on many fronts.

"Apart from the issues that are public they are many things about him that the board choose not to make public because of its repercussions on Pakistan cricket. He should have shown more patience."

But a source close to Afridi said that the board ignore that he had also learnt about his being sacked as captain through the media.

"He is hurt because while he accepts the board Chairman has supported him but feels this gives Butt no right to ride roughshod over senior players and treat them unjustly."

"Even if Butt wanted to remove him as captain he should have had the decency to speak to Afridi about it as he had done a lot of hardwork with the team that was being undermined by the interference by the coach and manager and other elements."

"Afridi is now ready to all the consequences of his action but is confident that the power of the people will prevail and Butt will be forced to back down," the source said.
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