An extraordinary judicial intervention in the affairs of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has thrown everything and everyone into confusion, disarray and gridlock. Worse, it is threatening to post huge financial, administrative and sporting losses on the only tax-paying national sport institution in the country.
Ex-Chairman PCB Zaka Ashraf was “suspended” by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in May pending investigations into an alleged motivated and polluted “election” for the PCB chairman’s post. On the orders of the IHC, the government appointed an “Acting Chairman” on June 22 pending resolution of the case.
On July 4th, the court dismissed Mr Ashraf and ordered the Acting Chairman to hold elections to the chairman’s post within 90 days. Under the PCB constitution, a four-member committee of the ten-member Board of Governors (BoG) elects the chairman from amongst two nominees by the Patron. However, in the detailed judgment actually released on July 22 but made effective from July 4th, the court made some extraordinary interventions to delete and add sections to the PCB constitution on its own motion.
First, the court changed the designation of Acting Chairman (AC) to Caretaker Chairman (CC), a notion that doesn’t exist in the constitution. Second, it barred the CC from effectively managing the PCB – he was not allowed to hire, fire, terminate or transfer, or to sign medium or long term contracts, or to appoint a selection committee, and so on – other than on a “day to day” basis. This is why media-broadcasting rights were sold by the PCB only for two Series in 2013 instead of for five years as per global practice. Third, it held that the PCB’s general body of over 111 members from regional associations, rather than the BoG elected by them as written in the constitution, should directly elect the chairman. Fourth, it said only a graduate first-class cricketer could contest elections and it mandated the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct the polls — both terms are alien to the PCB constitution. The cut-off date for doing all this was October 18th. Finally, it appointed a DMG officer as Secretary of the PCB, in violation of international commitments to the International Cricket Council. In short, the court practically wrote a new constitution for the PCB without any debate or discussion.
The government challenged the judgment on the ground that the court had gone beyond its constitutional ambit and seized executive powers to write a new constitution. The PCB challenged it on the ground that the new “electoral college” was 35% incomplete because of various “stay orders” granted by other courts to disputing candidates forming the new electoral college. The ECP told the court it was not its mandate to conduct such elections under Pakistan’s Constitution.
The situation took an alarming turn when it transpired that the IHC Division Bench supposed to hear the Intra Court Appeals could not be constituted before the cut-off date of Oct 18 for various reasons. Fearing a constitutional, administrative and managerial void in the PCB after Oct 18, and with the aim of enabling the PCB to be represented at the ICC meeting in London on October 19, the government issued a notification establishing an Interim Management Committee (IMC) on Oct 14 to run the “day-to-day” affairs of the PCB pending a decision in the court cases. This step was within the given parameters of the PCB Constitution.
On the morning of Oct 29, the Honourable Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the IHC, who has presided over the matter from Day-One, struck down the IMC (which he had earlier upheld vide earlier order dated 21 October 2013) and issued contempt notices to the Government, ECP, IMC etc. He also nominated an ex-judge at a fee of Rs. 2,500,000.00 to be paid for by PCB to hold PCB chairman’s elections in November on his terms and conditions.
One critical question has to be settled. Can a court take away the power of an elected government to legislate a constitution for the PCB in accordance with global standards and practices and exercise? Interestingly, the latest pronouncement of the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Appeal titled Dossani Travels (Pvt) Limited v. M/s Travels Shop (Pvt) Limited & others has held inter alia that it is not the function of the High Court exercising jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution to interfere in the Policy Making Domain of the Executive.
Nowhere in the cricketing world is the head of any Board a first-class or test cricketer elected directly by a general body. The reason for this is that the basic functions of cricket boards are financial and managerial, with only sporting activities guided by committees headed by ex-sportsmen.
The PCB is incurring financial losses of billions by delaying urgent financial, administrative and sporting decisions. The matter needs to be brought to a fair, just and constitutional closure as early as possible by the honourable Judges in the national interest.