The biggest question being asked in cricket circles after the reinstatement of Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman is whether a Pakistan Peoples Party supporter like him would be acceptable to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
A careful study, however, reveals that Ashraf enjoys equally strong support in both PPP and PML-N ranks. Many of Ashraf’s close relatives enjoy key positions in the ruling party.
Zaka Ashraf’s sister Begum Ishrat Ashraf is a PML-N MNA and president of the party’s Women’s Wing. Her husband Chaudhry Jafar Iqbal is the chief of PML-N’s Punjab chapter. Their daughter Zeb Jafar is a member of the Punjab Assembly and adviser to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The newly reinstated PCB chairman also has a potential ally in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood is a close relative of Zaka Ashraf.
Ashraf was a member of PPP’s Central Executive Committee. He has a history of hostile relations with the PML-N. He had also faulted the Punjab government for the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. Cases registered against some PCB officials in the past are another reason behind the antagonistic relations between the PML-N leadership and the reinstated PCB chairman.
However, in his Wednesday’s media talk Ashraf hinted at reconciliation with the PML-N. He said that he had no differences with the government.
Sources earlier said that since Ashraf had the moral upper-hand now, he would leave the position on his own. Ashraf, however, ruled this out during his media talk.
Meanwhile, the PCB cannot delay the decision on the participation of the national team in cricket events in Bangladesh. Najam Sethi had expressed ‘half’ consent, but Ashraf may have a different inclination. It was under Ashraf’s tenure that the Bangladesh Cricket Board twice withdrew its decision of allowing their national team to visit Pakistan. Exasperated by the behaviour of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, he decided that the Pakistani cricketers would not participate in any event in Bangladesh, even the Bangladesh League.
Analysts are keenly waiting his decision on the matter. Sources pointed out that those who have enjoyed ruling the PCB may try to frustrate him. They cite the example of former chairman PCB in this regard. And now that he has won on the legal front, the way ahead seems clear for him.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2014.