Uncertainty over suspended Haider

PCB suspends wicketkeeper's contract
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The Independent Online

Zulqarnain Haider's international future was plunged into further doubt today after the Pakistan Cricket Board suspended his central contract.

The PCB took the step in response to the wicketkeeper's decision to leave their current series against South Africa early, claiming it represented a violation of his contract.

Haider left the team's hotel in the hours before the fifth one-day international in Dubai on Monday, and flew out to London.

The 24-year-old has since claimed he abandoned the team because he received death threats after hitting the winning runs in the fourth ODI on Friday.

Haider's arrival in London has preceded a number of conflicting reports about his future, with Pakistani network Geo News claiming yesterday he had retired from international cricket amid fears for his and his family's safety back in Pakistan.

Reports today also suggested he has claimed asylum in the United Kingdom, although the High Commission for Pakistan in the UK told Press Association Sport this afternoon they had not been notified of any such application.

What is certain is that the PCB have opened an investigation into the matter, and after revealing they have been unable to get in contact with their wicketkeeper, confirmed they had suspended Haider's contract until further notice.

"(The) PCB has suspended the contract of Mr Zulqarnain Haider for violating terms and conditions," the statement read.

"A fact-finding committee has been formulated to establish the facts surrounding the incident of Mr Haider's disappearance from the team hotel.

"The committee includes Mr Subhan Ahmad (PCB), Mr Intikhab Alam (Pakistan team manager) and Major Khawaja Najam (Pakistan team security manager). The committee will meet soon.

"PCB is trying to get in touch with Mr Haider but the attempts to contact him have so far remained unsuccessful.

"No further comments on this matter will be made until further information is available to PCB."

The International Cricket Council confirmed to Press Association Sport this morning, however, that Haider had made contact with their anti-corruption unit last night.

That contact came after the ICC responded to the matter for the first time in a statement last night, when they offered their support to the PCB investigation as well as Haider.

The ICC would not comment on the details of their confidential discussions with Haider, which are ongoing, but there is some speculation he will act as a whistle-blower to the alleged spot-fixing that has overshadowed Pakistan cricket over the past three months.

Upon his arrival at Heathrow on Monday, Haider reportedly told Geo News: "I received death threats to lose the fourth and fifth one-day internationals against South Africa, but I could not compromise the dignity of my country.

"I would rather flee away than sell out the dignity and respect of my motherland."

He added: "I can assure you that I am safe and sound. I'm not arrested but I cannot tell where I am hiding for the sake of protection of my life.

"Immigration officials in the UK were kind to me and proposed to me to hire the services of a counsellor but I am yet to reach a decision."

Haider's reported claim for asylum has not been well received in his homeland, with the country's sports minister, Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani, insisting the government would not support his application.

Jakhrani branded the 24-year-old as "weak" and hit out at him for damaging Pakistan's image.

"The government will not support any move from Zulqarnain to get asylum in the UK," Jakhrani told reporters.

"We don't support his actions and believe he should have come to us if he was under threat from anyone.

"He didn't have confidence in the national team management or [Pakistan Cricket Board]."

"If he is such a weak and scared person he should not have played cricket in the first place, particularly not for the national team."

Haider's revelations come less than a week after the PCB also suspended the contracts of the trio embroiled in the spot-fixing saga that overshadowed the tour to England.

Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are all provisionally suspended by the ICC for allegedly taking part in a scam to bowl no-balls to demand during the fourth Test at Lord's in August.