Crooks all around the world are at times not convicted because of some loophole in the law or some technicality. This blog has not attempted to say with conviction that the three accused players are definitely guilty. However, the evidence against them is very cogent. People around the world are questioning about the law of England and Wales, and why under this law the trio of Asaf, Aamar and Butt cannot be convicted/charged/sentenced.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, News of the World (NOTW) is considered as a sensationalist tabloid and has been the subject of various defamation claims. The date, time and context the videos of Majeed boasting about match fixing and Wahab Riaz/Umar Amin accepting money from him, has shed doubt. One wonders whether this is because the NOTW cannot do any better, or is it because they considered their evidence to be so convincing that they did not focus on its presentation? NOTW has brought in these allegations but it does not have a clean reputation- this can be gauged by the successful defamation suits filed against it. This, however, is not to say that what they have projected is doctored, or untrue.
The second problem is one of technicality. The menace of spot fixing is a relatively new phenomenon. Whereas the law provides to some degree details and penalties of various cheating offences in sport, it does not categorically delineate the offence of spot fixing. Even if Scotland Yard considers the available evidence as convincing, what does it do with it? The Police has to charge someone according to the law of the land and if the law does not make a satisfactory provision for an offence, the police is ineffectual. I don’t think the main problem is the evidence, the problem is jurisdiction and technicalities.
Keeping these two hindrances into account, the matter must be directed to the ambit of the international governing body for cricket, the ICC, or the Pakistan Cricket Board. The “punishment” for these offences has to be disciplinary action. This materialises in either a ban, a fine or both. However, there are problems here, too.
The ICC cannot take as proactive a role in this pursuit of justice, as the PCB. In many ways, the ICC will be dependent on the PCB for information and direction. The ICC has an Anti Corruption Unit but it is not run by cricketers. Also, if the ACU’s job is to ensure that renowned bookies do not approach cricketers, what does it do in a situation where the team management or Board officials might be involved? The players come into contact with people from all walks of life- team officials, Board officials, the press, celebrities, the common folk. How far can the ACU go? How does the ACU prevent players from having links with bookies in India and Pakistan? In many ways this is a war the ACU may never be able to win.
Coming to the PCB, we have already seen the knee jerk statements of officials. Ijaz Butt very
confidently told the BBC that the tainted trio will play all matches. However we are now told that the trio are under mental pressure and have been dropped. Ijaz Butt has been handpicked by the President of Pakistan who is a convicted criminal with a plethora of criminal and civil cases against him. Butt’s close relative is Choudhary Mukhtar, a high ranking PPP minister. This nepotism clearly points negatively towards Butt’s integrity. At the moment the following people are involved with PCB to some extent:
Shafqat Rana, Ajaz Ahmed, Waqar Younas, Mushtaq Ahmed (England’s spin coach but regularly meets Pakistani players), Yawar Saeed. Accusations have been made against all of them. The names of Ijaz Ahmed, Waqar and Mushtaq were mentioned in the Qayyum Report which was the first judicial inquiry into sport in the world. It was considered at the time that the PCB was involved in corruption itself which is why an impartial Judge conducted the inquiry. The Report clearly mentioned that these accused players should not be given positions of responsibility as there are doubts over their integrity. Ijaz Ahmed is Salim Malik’s close relative. Shafqat Rana is reported to have accepted a bribe from Wahab Riaz. Whereas, Yawar Saeed has been amidst copious conspiracies that have befallen Pakistan cricket. So much so that his integrity is doubted by most fans.
Now, to the evidence. Majeed clearly names Butt, Asif and Aamer. He
indicates in which overs the no-balls would be delivered. Aamer’s no ball was a huge, uncommon overstep. Aamer is renowned for bowling few no-balls. Yet, this huge overstep provides support to the argument that it was a deliberate effort. A picture has been captured of this and Salman Butt appears to be looking at Aamer. Why is Butt not looking at the batsman? Aamer has actually released the ball but, Butt seems to be looking at him, and not towards the batsman.
In the video evidence, Majeed also mentions in some detail the Sydney Test match. The NOTW, if they had doctored the video or were trying to frame the Pakistani players, they could have done this during the Australia series. Why wait until the England series? And if there is some foul play on part of NOTW, why would Mazhar mention the Australia series now, so many months down the line? Surely they must have caught Majeed in the act?
Salman Butt has been described as the ring leader in all of this. Butt’s reaction in the press conference the day after these revelations was very dubious. Not once did he remark, “I am innocent, I don’t know what the hell is going on” or something to that effect. He just said, “This is an allegation”. Innocent people normally do not behave like that.
NOTW then revealed another video of Wahab Riaz and Umar Amin.
There is absolutely no doubt these two players were talking about money with Mazhar.
Next, money in significant amounts was found from players’ rooms. Later, reports emerged that some money may have been of doubtful denominations(fake). So, it is not suspicious for players to be carrying fake notes with them in such quantities? What happened to all this money?
Kamran Akmal’s name was initially mentioned. It must be noted that Zulqernain was sent back to Pakistan under suspicious circumstances. Akmal’s videos relating to his keeping in Australia have been revealed. In the light of Mazhar’s revelations about the Sydney Test, should Akmal not have been questioned?
Veena Malik has revealed that Asif fixes matches and has links with an Indian bookie. She has also hinted that Asif introduced Aamer to match and spot fixing. A lot of people ridicule Veena for her stupid statements, but the ICC’s ACU has taken notice of her and taken a statement. It will be interesting to see what implications this has for Asif’s career.
Even though these players are likely to be let off the hook due to NOTW’s sensationalist approach and technicalities of law, there is sufficient evidence for the ICC and PCB to take stringent action against them. Butt, Asif, Aamer and Akmal must be suspended from playing international cricket until an impartial inquiry is conducted and results are produced. PCB should be fined for not implementing the Qayyum Report in its letter and spirit. Further, all the suspicious characters mentioned in this Report must be sacked.
This blog does not want to promote the idea that these players are necessary guilty, but the idea that the evidence warrants strict, unsympathetic action. The approach ICC and PCB should take, therefore, is that there should be a presumption of guilt until it is found that all avenues have been explored and that there is insufficient evidence. Adopting any other approach will only let this negativity of corruption further plague Pakistan cricket. A new team must be made immediately with Shahid Afridi as captain for all formats, and Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Fawad Alam in senior positions.