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|March 13, 1999||
The Rediff Profile/ Wasim Akram
Scandal and condemnation
Huma tells the story from the inside as she knows it. One of the main allegations against Akram, she points out, was the affidavit filed by then teammate Ata-ur-Rahman, who claimed that Wasim had offered him money to bowl badly in a game in New Zealand.
According to Huma Akram, the hand behind the scenes was that of Aamir Sohail, who convinced Ata-ur-Rahman that his place in the side would be in doubt as long as Akram stayed at the helm of affairs. As it happened, the bowler was dropped by the selectors around the same time, so this added to his faith in Sohail, and he filed the affidavit in question, says Huma.
Akram and Ata ur Rehman met in England, and the subject came up. At that point, the latter told Akram of what had happened behind the scenes and how Sohail, his colleague at Habib Bank, had asked him to file the affidavit.
Akram managed to convince Ata ur Rehman that there would be no legal repercussions if he decided to set the record straight, since the latter was worried that if he said his affidavit, filed under oath, was false, he would find himself on the wrong end of legal action.
Akram told Ata ur Rehman that he could take legal advice before setting the record straight. This, Rehman refused to do, saying Akram's word was good enough. (Sports Editor's note: In our possession is a fax, handwritten and signed by Rehman, saying that though he had been advised to seek legal advice before filing the second affidavit, he had chosen not to do so and was interested only in setting the record straight).
Ata-ur-Rahman was slated to return to Pakistan after a while. Since it was in Akram's interests to have the cloud hanging over his head dispelled, he offered to pay for his ticket, and ended up financing the bowler's trip from Manchester to London, to meet his lawyer Nanesh Desai.
Interestingly, Nanesh, who is also Ian Botham's lawyer, was introduced to Akram earlier by Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin.
It was, Huma points out, all open and above board. "If, as they claim, Akram threatened Ata ur Rehman, and forced him to meet his lawyers, would he have bought him a ticket with his own credit card, leaving 'proof' for others to find? Wouldn't he have done it with cash, and made sure it couldn't be traced?", Akram's wife, arguing the case for her husband, points out.
Eventually Ata-ur-Rahman filed a second affidavit, clearing Akram of the earlier charges. (The full text of the affidavit is given at the end of this article)
The Justice Qayyum commission of enquiry has, since then, sent several summons to Ata ur Rehman, asking him to appear in person. The bowler, who has married a Kenyan girl of Asian origin, has refused to do so, saying his wife is ill and his presence is required at her bedside.
"The tour to India was a godsend," says Huma Akram. "It gave Wasim a chance to clear his name, he was very eager to lead the side to India and return victorious, and by God's grace he has managed to do just that."
Things meanwhile appear to be looking up for the Pakistan skipper. Now in Dhaka for the final of the Asian Test Championships, Akram has signed up with Smethwick, and will appear in the Birmingham Premier League. More interestingly, he has been signed up by Channel Four for commentating duties, and will shortly rub shoulders with the likes of Richie Benaud and Mark Nicholas.
"For now, Wasim has done all he can to clear his name, the rest is up to the courts, all he can do is concentrate on playing as best as he can, and leading Pakistan to more victories," says Huma, at the fag end of our conversation on long distance telephone.
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