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Pakistan cricket's PIL man

Faisal Shariff in Lahore | April 08, 2004 16:11 IST

We have all heard about the legal wrangles that have troubled Pakistani stars Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar over the last two years.

When Akram promoted a liquor advertisement in India he was slapped with a legal notice; then when rumours floated about him applying for the post of India's bowling coach another case was filed against him.

Advocate Ansar Mehmood Bajwa from the Lahore Bar Association is the man responsible for all the legal bouncers bowled at Pakistani cricketers.

"Liquor is banned in an Islamic country. Children follow him [Akram] since he is a role model. He has to behave or else I will make sure he does," he says.

Last year a Public Interest Litigation was filed against Pakistan Cricket Board CEO Rameez Raja, former chief selector Aamir Sohail and Akhtar for attending a fashion show in Lahore on Shabe-Baarat (a Muslim festival).

"Pakistan was to play a final the next day against South Africa. We lost that game and I was very upset," says the 35-year-old lawyer, who loves the sport but finds filing cases against Pakistan's cricketers a tad more pleasant.

"I am the watchdog of these cricketers. If they go wrong I make sure cases are filed against them. Clients find me anyhow, and I fight the case for them to the best of my ability."

But Akram and Akhtar are not his only prized scalps; he also caught former PCB chairman Gen Tauqir Zia on the wrong foot and filed a case against him. "When we lost the World Cup in 2003, I was convinced that the PCB was responsible for it, because the team morale was not right. The selection was flawed."

Of the six cricket-related cases that he has filed for various clients, not one has been argued or debated in court.

"I win the case before it can go ahead. Public mein baat aati hai aur ye public figures peeche hat jaate hai [the news comes out in public and then these public figures take the back seat]. When we filed the case against Akram he withdrew from the advertisement. We had two cases against Akhtar but decided that he would be under pressure to perform for this important series against India and withdrew the cases."

Bajwa says because he filed the case against Zia most of Pakistan's senior players were dropped.

Indeed, the reasons for filing cases have swung from the bizarre to the absurd.

Akhtar had once given an interview to British newspaper The Guardian, accusing Akram and Younis of not being match-winning bowlers and putting pressure on him to pick wickets. He also said had he played for Australia with Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie he would have done much better.

That invited the wrath of Bajwa.

"How can you disown your senior cricketers? They have played for the country for so many years. How can you disown your own country?" asks Bajwa, who is married and has a son.

It seems Pakistani cricketers are far from getting any respite from this fiery lawyer.

"I am waiting for this series to end. If they don't perform well or if Shoaib Akhtar does not get wickets then I will file a case against him. If he was not fit why did he play. Some other young bowler should have been played, I will argue."

Bajwa's fees and reasons for filing these cases are as mysterious and intriguing as Akhtar's loss of form on this crucial series against India.

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