Pakistan Sports Minister Aijaz Jakhrani slammed the ICC for the suspension of 'tainted' players and defended them saying they were innocent until proven guilty. He sent out a warning to the ICC that if charges were not proven against the Pakistani players, the government would go ahead and slap a hefty law suit against them in the UK.
Mr Jakhrani has reportedly questioned the ICC's decision to suspend the tainted trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir for alleged 'spot-fixing'.
Mr. Jakhrani, in an interview to a Pakistani channel, also threatened legal action against the News of the World tabloid if the allegations were found to be false.
Jakhrani did not use the word 'dropped' and said the trio was just 'unavailable' to play in the T20 series as well as the ODI series against England.
Jakhrani said the three players, who allegedly took money from a bookie to bowl no-balls during the Lord's Test against England last week, will stay in London to cooperate with the Scotland Yard's investigation into the 'spot-fixing' scandal.
"They are not playing because they have probably gone to answer the investigating team. They are not at the venue where the matches are being held, so they would not be playing.
Probably they will not play T20 matches but they might be back for the one-dayers," Jakhrani said.
"Pakistan is not the only country to be involved in match fixing allegations. Such allegations have plagued the South Africans, Indians, the IPL, the ICL and prominent West Indies players."
He added that anyone can make allegations and maintained that unless the allegations are proven they remain only allegations. He stated that the solution to the problem of match fixing is to decide whether to make betting legal or illegal. He pointed out that betting is legal in England, but illegal in India and Pakistan. He went on to say that is not the job of the Sports Ministry to put an end to it but it is for the ICC and others to decide.
He said, "The ICC has made a very serious allegation, and it will be an exemplary case if the charges turn out to be untrue. This is not only a matter of cricketers' pride, but it is also national pride. A cricketer when he goes to play abroad is a representative of his country. Salman Butt, Aamer are known as Pakistani players. We will sue the ICC if the charges are not proven. British laws are very strict in this regard. It will be very expensive for ICC."
He stated that action against the players would be taken only if they are proven guilty by Scotland Yard which is investigating the corruption charges. Asked whether Scotland Yard had given any evidence of the players' involvement in the scandal that has plunged the game into a crisis, Jakhrani said concrete proof was yet to be given.
"At the moment I have been told that there is no clear evidence that has been given by the Scotland Yard. They haven't shown anything. We all are waiting for the investigation report to come," he said.
"After that, we will be in a position to say whether it is spot-fixing, match-fixing or a conspiracy because there are reports that there has been a conspiracy against young talent Mohammad Aamir," he said.
In an interview to a private Indian channel, former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas slammed the ICC for failing to put a stop to match fixing, and accused the body of making Pakistanis scapegoats.
"The allegations have not been proven. The only thing the ICC does is to complain to the team management when they find a player talking on the mobile phone. They should be catching the players for spot fixing. The fact that Scotland Yard has come in proves that the ICC is doing nothing," said Abbas.
He alleged that match fixing was a regular phenomenon under the ICC's reign. He pointed out that under the umbrella of ICC, matches still continue to be fixed. Abbas said that it is wrong for the ICC to point fingers only at the Pakistani cricket team. "The people can tell you how many matches were fixed under the ICC. We know what is happening out there," he added.