x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pressure rises on Pakistan

Three people were arrested in the wake of corruption allegations against members of the Pakistan cricket team, while trio face meeting.

Three people were arrested in the wake of corruption allegations against members of the Pakistan cricket team, while Salman Butt, the captain, and bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif will return to London today to meet with Pakistan officials. And the backlash in Pakistan to the spot-fixing allegations intensified yesterday when the Lahore High Court summoned the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, the federal sports minister and seven cricketers to a hearing on September 7 for a petition calling for the players to face treason charges.

The beleaguered team are currently in Taunton, England, where they held a closed training session yesterday in preparation for a warm-up game against Somerset tomorrow. Pakistan and International Cricket Council (ICC) officials are eager to reach a resolution on the situation before the team's scheduled Twenty20 match against England on Sunday in Cardiff. Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, and the country's high commissioner will attend today's meeting with the players, according to Yawar Saeed, the team manager.

Pakistani and ICC officials are expected to decide soon if the implicated players should be suspended from two Twenty20 games and five one-day internationals scheduled this month against England. British Customs officials yesterday revealed they had arrested two men and a woman, all from London, as part of an investigation into money laundering before being released on bail pending further investigation.

The investigation is separate from a police inquiry into corruption allegations involving players in the Pakistan team. But both investigations follow a newspaper report that Pakistan players had been bribed to fix incidents in the fourth Test against England which finished at Lord's on Sunday. Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, said he has been in touch with Interpol regarding the allegations, and that Pakistan would have its own inquiry team comprising two senior Federal Investigation Agency officials and one from the sports ministry.

Malik said that people of Pakistan should wait for the outcome of investigations before judging anybody who has been implicated, but promised that all necessary action would be taken against any player found guilty. "We will make an example out of him, if found guilty," Malik said. "We will take action and you will see it." Last weekend's allegations named Butt, Asif and Aamer in connection with a plot to deliberately bowl no-balls to order in the Lord's Test.

Mazhar Majeed, a London-based businessman, was subsequently arrested in connection with the matter and questioned for 24 hours before being released without charge on police bail. Pakistan sports minister Ijaz Jakhrani said there was no need for judgement. "No charges are yet framed against our cricketers so we should not become emotional," he said. A handful of college students protested in Islamabad against the accused cricketers and demanded stiff action against guilty players.

"For us, video evidence is enough to prove that they are guilty," Nabeel Ahmed, an 18-year-old student, said. The students chanted slogans against Butt, Asif and Aamer. However, a few protesters sympathised with 18-year-old Aamer, who is alleged to have bowled two of the deliberate no-balls. "He is young, but I think he was trapped by Asif and Butt to bowl those two intentional no-balls," said Wasim Afzal, another student.

Shoaib Malik, the students' teacher, led the protest and called for an inquiry in Pakistan once the team returned home. "The minimum penalty is a life ban and nothing less than this will be acceptable to us," Malik said. The players could also face a charge of treason after lawyer Ishtiaq Ahmed filed a petition in the High Court to initiate proceedings. He said he wanted to see the players banned for life and their assets seized.

"I filed this petition because the players shamed the country and their millions of followers by getting embroiled in this spot-fixing controversy." * Agencies