PCB amends its anti-corruption code

Pakistani cricketer Sharjeel Khan arrives to attend an anti-corruption tribunal meeting in Lahore on August 30, 2017. Pakistan's anti-corruption tribunal on August 30 banned opener Sharjeel Khan for five years over a spot-fixing case that has rocked the Pakistan Super League, the latest scandal to taint the sport in the cricket-crazy country. / AFP PHOTO / STR

PCB amended its anti-corruption code to refrain players from appealing their punishments in Pakistani courts, even as a tribunal was sitting on a number of spot-fixing cases.

The relevant new clause – 7.5.4 of the PCB’s anti-corruption code – reads: “An appeal against the decision of the Independent Adjudicator shall lie excessively before the CAS.” The CAS is the Court of Arbitration (Sports), based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“During the proceedings [of Sharjeel Khan’s case], the PCB edited their anti-corruption code, which is obviously not in good faith,” Shaighan Ejaz, Sharjeel’s lawyer, said. “They had made a change in their code on 18 July 2017. Just a month and two days later, a verdict was announced and neither the tribunal nor the independent adjudicator was informed about it. This is questionable behavior.”

The edited clause at the centre of the row effectively rules out Sharjeel’s ability to take his case to the Court of Appeals in Lausanne. “The parties may, if they so desire, file an appeal under Article 7, read with Article 7.4 of the PCB’s of the PCB’s Anti-Corruption Code for Participant, 2015, within 14 days of the receipt of the detailed decision, before the Court of Appeals in Lausanne, Switzerland, or an Independent Adjudicator in terms of the Constitution of the PCB.”

Given that an independent adjudicator has already heard Sharjeel’s case, this clause would appear to rule out an appeal in Switzerland. And previously the clause did not make an appeal exclusive to the CAS.

“The attempt they made is to oust the Pakistan judicial system and made sure that we will only be left with the option to go into the court of arbitration in Switzerland – which is obviously not feasible,” Ejaz said. “But I understand that you cannot rule out the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s courts and this will not happen. This is uncalled for. We will approach the high court soon; in fact, we will file a writ petition this month.”

The PCB’s legal advisor Taffazul Rizvi told reporters that the modification was a routine change, and not one specifically designed to be applied to Sharjeel’s case. “In modern-day sports, no code or regulation can remain stagnant,” he said. “Efforts to curb corrupt conduct in sports are updated regularly. Similarly, the PCB anti-corruption code also undergoes periodic reviews and amendments. Such amendments are never person-specific, and are applicable to all cricketers.”

Pakistani courts have been involved in several PCB cases over the years, and haven’t been afraid to overturn board decisions on, to take one example, player bans, and punishments.

Sharjeel appeared for the first time in front of the media since his provisional suspension on February 10, continuing to proclaim his innocence. His ban, a suspended sentence, is effective for two and a half years, meaning he cannot plot a return before the second half of 2019 at the earliest. He was representing Islamabad United at the PSL and was charged with five major breaches of the PCB’s anti-corruption code. He was found guilty on all five counts by a three-man tribunal.

“My lawyer and I have fully cooperated throughout proceedings and I was expecting justice,” Sharjeel said, reading a prepared statement in Lahore. “But regretfully, at the end all I face is injustice. The PCB anti-corruption unit forcefully inducted me into a case which is beyond my understanding. Maybe there is another story hidden behind this which may be revealed with time. I swear to my nation and my fans that I am innocent.”

If Sharjeel does not show public remorse and undergo the PCB’s rehabilitation program, he could end up serving the full five-year sentence.

“Cricket is in my blood and it’s my passion and the punishment is severely painful for me and my family,” he said. “But what is more distressing is that I am being labeled a spot-fixer. So I have decided to clear my name and I will take this matter as far as possible.”

The case against Sharjeel was centered on him playing pre-determined dot balls agreed with a bookmaker. According to Ijaz, that is merely based on assumptions, with the PCB failing to present any solid evidence.

“During the entire process, we understood that the anti-corruption officials are not accountable,” Ijaz said. “They have all the discretion to do any kind of discrimination against any player and can trap any player and make any kind of case against anyone.”

During the proceedings, PCB officials claimed Sharjeel had confessed to wrongdoing in Dubai and in Lahore on video. Sharjeel denies that is the case. “There were two interviews recorded, one in Dubai and the other in Lahore. On both occasions, I never confessed anything.”

Ijaz said: “They had claimed that there was a lot of information from the ICC, and the PCB had prior knowledge of everything which was allegedly going to happen. This is an afterthought. If they knew anything, then there should be proof of it. Then why is that not presented at all? Where are they?

“The most important thing is the statement by the PSL chairman (Najam Sethi). He said they had concrete evidence and a lot of things which a chairman should not have said. It seriously prejudiced proceedings and made the whole case a matter of ego, and Sharjeel’s exoneration would have proved personally embarrassing for Sethi.”