Pakistan seeks repatriation of disgraced cricketers

The Pakistan government on Saturday directed the country’s cricket board and its high commission in the United Kingdom to submit a detailed report on a recent spot-fixing case in order to repatriate three jailed cricketers.

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt was handed a 30-month sentence, Mohammad Asif 12, Mohammad Aamer six and their agent Mazhar Majeed 32 months respectively for their roles in fixing part of the Lord’s Test against England last year.

The government, led by President Asif Zardari, who is also a patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), is giving the case his full consideration.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters a meeting had been held with a view to seeking repatriation of the guilty players.

“During a high-level meeting, president Zardari on Friday directed the PCB to submit a report which should include recommendations on how to avoid a repeat of such incidents,” said Malik.

“The government would consider bringing the three players home. We have also requested Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, to provide necessary legal aid to them and he has been asked to submit a report.”

‘Unfortunate’
Malik, who said the players could still be innocent, termed the whole episode “unfortunate”.

“It’s unfortunate what happened, the government will form a commission to investigate the matter thoroughly and the players will not be left alone,” said Malik.

In a separate investigation, the International Cricket Council (ICC) had also banned the three cricketers for a minimum of five years.

Malik added, “Despite their guilty verdicts in both the ICC hearings and the recently concluded criminal trial in London, we cannot rule out the possibility of any of the convicted players being innocent.”

When the spot-fixing scandal surfaced the Pakistan government gave Scotland Yard assurances that the players would return to the UK in the event of criminal proceedings.

Approached by Majeed
Returning Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi claimed on Saturday that he was approached by Majeed on several occasions but refused to speak with him because of “suspicions”.

Afridi, who handed captaincy to Butt after losing the first Test to Australia on the same tour last year, said Majeed had tried to befriend him.

“He always tried to contact me personally in the hotel and wanted time to meet me but I avoided him all the time because I had my suspicions that he was not trustworthy and involved in betting,” Afridi said in an interview with Pakistan private television Express.

Majeed during his testimony revealed “it was tough to lure Afridi”.

Afridi also rejected Majeed’s claims that some players were fixing matches under his captaincy.

“I never felt that any player was doing something wrong and deliberately trying to let me down. I would have been the first man to throw them out and deal with it strongly,” said 31-year-old Afridi.

‘Trapped’
All three players have filed appeals against their bans at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Following last week’s sentencing, Afridi said he felt sorry for 19-year-old Aamer.

“Aamer is a great talent and I believe because of his age he was trapped into this scandal,” said Afridi of Aamer, who was sent to youth offender’s institution in Feltham, England.

Afridi was recalled to Pakistan’s one-day squad to face Sri Lanka later this month, coming out of self-imposed retirement.

Afridi fell out with coach Waqar Younis and also with now replaced Pakistan Cricket Board chairperson Ijaz Butt after he was replaced as one-day captain in May this year.—Sapa-AFP

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