The Haider Chronicles
I normally leave the big stories to the proper writers but I didn’t feel I could write about anything else. This is singularly the biggest cricket story about. (yes even bigger than Michael Carberry being ruled out of joining the performance squad due to blood clots and shortness of breathe which in itself sounds bloody serious)
Unless you’ve been stuck in a Chilean mine you won’t have missed the news of (former) Pakistani wicket keeper Zulquernain Haider fleeing to the UK. There’s a lot of confusion about the facts of this story and the PCB and ICC have been particularly conspicuous in terms of the ridiculously bland statements they have issued.
On the face of it this story is much much bigger than the Summer’s spot fixing stories. It’s deeply deeply chilling.
As things stand, Haider is in the UK.
When he first arrived he was detained by immigration officials at Heathrow – he arrived with no visa and no return ticket. Contrary to what you read in the shitrags, we don’t just let anyone turn up and stay here.
After hours of being interviewed (and reportedly having been helped by an ICC official flown in from dubai) he was fingerprinted and granted a month’s leave to remain and advised to get a lawyer and consider his options. At first, he stated he wasn’t going to seek asylum, then he announced his retirement from international cricket, then decided he was going to claim asylum, then decided he wasn’t and was prepared to go home if there were guarantees of protection for him and his family. (in Pakistan this can never be guaranteed)
Now (at time of writing) it is believed he is going to seek Political asylum although UKBA have received no formal application.
What is clear is:
1) He couldn’t stay in this country indefinitely unless he is granted asylum. He has no immediate family here (that I am aware of in the brief bit of digging I did)
2) IF, he was given a county contract he could be granted a working visa but that would only be for the duration of his contract. Now, it is highly highly unlikely any county would want to use up their overseas allocation on him and it is almost impossible to imagine that the ECB would grant him non-overseas status. So it would seem unlikely he would get a cricket related job.
3) The immigation rules are being tightened up and he wouldn’t in anyway qualify as a skilled or highly skilled (tier 1 or 2) migrant so could not apply for residency on economic grounds.
4) His only option therefore is asylum. Any asylum application would be dependant on him being able to fully demonstrate that his life was in danger and tell the whole sordid truth which would in turn, of course, make him a more wanted man than he already is and put his family in even more danger. (there’s a full explanation of this on cricinfo here http://www.cricinfo.com/pakistan/content/story/486282.html )
5) He has now been interviewed by Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption unit but it seems likely that he doesn’t want to tell the whole truth at the moment for fear of even worse retribution. Remember, his family are still exposed and vulnerable in Pakistan despite having “Police protection”.
It seems he is panicing and doesn’t really know what to do, if he stays here he will have to tell the whole full truth and blow the whole thing wide open (which from my point of view would be a bloody good thing) but in doing that he has an enormous price put on his head and his family’s. Not just his immediate family (who may well be able to join him here) but his wider family back in Pakistan. If he decides not to whistleblow and goes back to Pakistan, he will be facing the same sorts of threats that made him come here in the first place.
I’ve said it before, the corruption runs right through the whole system in Pakistan, the Police and law enforcement agencies cannot necessarily be trusted to provide the protection that we would get from our Police force.
What the whole sorry sinister mess does highlight is the utter utter impotency of the ICC. It is a pretty damning indictment of them that Haider chose to fly all the way to the UK for protection rather than walk round the corner from his hotel in Dubai to the ICC Headquarters.
But as Steve James rightly pointed out to me, Cricket cannot sort out deep seated institutional corruption such as this – they can’t even get agreement on the bloody UDRS never mind stamp out corruption that runs from the President downwards.
The more I read about all this, the more chilled I am and at the same time given faith that some people will stand up for what they believe is right even with death threats, intimidation and harrassment.
And to add insult to injury, the 3rd Akmal brother has now been called up to the Test squad. I don’t think it’s a massive leap of faith to think this is because he will tow the line on fixing.
More dark dark days for cricket.
Further reading – there are some good pieces on this story floating about
Andy Bull in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/nov/09/the-spin-zulqarnain-haider
Lawrence Booth in The Daily (spit) Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-1327892/Pakistans-keeper-arrives-UK-Zulqarnain-Haider-announces-retirement.html
The BBC (Oliver Brett) http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/other_international/pakistan/9170707.stm