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Pakistan prime minister removes Ashraf as PCB chairman

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ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday removed Zaka Ashraf as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board just less than a month after he was restored by a court in Islamabad.

"There are serious issues in the management of the PCB ... and there is an immediate and emergent need to take necessary measures to improve management of PCB as well as to streamline the game of cricket at all levels," a notification issued by the government of Pakistan said.

Ashraf told reporters, "the decision clearly shows that there's government interference (in the PCB). It's an undemocratic decision by a democratic government."

Islamabad Cricket Association president Shakil Shaikh, who is one of the eight-member management committee constituted by Sharif to run the board, said Ashraf was removed because of "mishandling Pakistan's case in the recent changes brought in the ICC."

Pakistan abstained from the voting in the ICC Board meeting last week in which the big three cricket nations — India, Australia and England — got a majority of the powers in the sport's governing body, securing the required eight votes from the 10 full members.

Sri Lanka also abstained from the voting on the grounds that it needed more time to look into the changes of the ICC setup.

Sharif is the patron of the PCB. He appointed former interim PCB chief Najam Sethi, PCB ex-chairman Shaharyar Khan and former test cricketers Iqbal Qasim and Zaheer Abbas among the management committee members.

The management committee later elected Sethi as its chairman. It will hold its first meeting on Tuesday at the PCB headquarters in Lahore.

The committee will work for a period of four months, but its tenure could be extended.

Sethi said among his priorities will be how to enhance Pakistan's image.

"Pakistan has been isolated in international cricket especially after the recent mishap in which we are left in minority of two," Sethi said.

Sethi also said that Sharif has given him the task to form a new constitution for the PCB in which the chairman of the cricket board should be elected.

Ashraf was restored last month by a divisional bench of the Islamabad High Court after he was suspended last year on the grounds of not holding transparent elections for PCB chairman.

Shaikh said Ashraf's removal will "bode well" for the PCB.

"It's a good decision by the prime minister and now every decision will be made on merit," Shaikh told The Associated Press.

Shaikh also alleged that Ashraf was involved in bungling the finances of the PCB and failed to handle its administrative, management and international affairs. He also said that further allegations against Ashraf will soon be made public.

Ashraf returned home early on Monday from Singapore after attending the ICC Board meeting. He made several attempts to seek the prime minister's views on the changes in the ICC before going to Singapore, including writing a letter. However, he didn't succeed in meeting with Sharif.

Ashraf said his removal will send the wrong signals to the ICC, which discourages government interference in the running of cricket boards. He said he will consult with his lawyers on options to challenge his removal.

In some of the major changes since he was restored, Ashraf appointed former test opening batsman Aamir Sohail as chief selector and was due to finalize Pakistan's batting coach, fielding coach and the head coach.

The coach-finding committee comprising Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Intikhab Alam had shortlisted six candidates for the three vacant posts.

Shaikh said the management committee will look into all the appointments made by Ashraf and could also remove Sohail as chief selector.

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