9 Nov 2010

Pakistani cricketer ‘does not want asylum in UK’

The family of the Pakistani cricketer who fled to Britain claiming he’d received death threats has told Channel 4 News that he is not seeking asylum in the UK.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has launched an inquiry after the team’s wicketkeeper, Zulqarnain Haider, flew to London from Dubai last night. He claimed he wanted to retire from international cricket because he was being threatened for refusing to fix matches during the ongoing one-day series against South Africa.

In an interview reportedly from a hotel near Heathrow, he told Pakistan’s 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. I have decided it is best for me to retire from international cricket since my family and I are constantly gettting threats.

“We are all very tense and worried about him.” Aqil Haider, Zulqarnain Haider’s brother

But his family has told Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thompson that Haider does not want asylum in the UK, nor does he want his family to come here, despite the fact that threats have also allegedly been made to kidnap family members.

Pakistan's wicket keeper Zulqarnain Haider playing in the one day series against South Africa in Dubai (Reuters)

Cricket career

The 24-year-old scored the winning runs in Friday’s fourth one-day international against South Africa, making 19 not out but is not a well-established figure in the side.

He made his debut in 2007, also against South Africa but has since only played four one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches.

His sole Test appearance was against England during the ill-fated series this summer during which he broke his finger and missed the rest of the series which was overshadowed by allegations of match-fixing.

Kidnap threat

Just before Monday’s decider, Haider asked the team management for his passport saying he needed it to get a SIM card for his mobile phone. He then left for London without informing them.

Before getting on his flight he updated his Facebook page to read: “leaving pakistan cricket because get bad msg fr 1 man fr lose the match in last game.”[sic].

He says he made the decision after being approached when he left the hotel for dinner and receiving threats against his family. Last night security was being provided at Haider’s family home in Lahore.

His brother Aqil Haider told Channel 4 News: ?â??”We are all very tense and worried about him, the man who approached him in Dubai seems to be of Indian origin and he threatened Zulqarnain that if he didn’t take money and play accordingly not only will his life be in danger but they will also kidnap his family.”

Inquiry launched

PJ Mir, a former spokesman for the Pakistan cricket team, told Channel 4 News of his surprise that such a low-profile member of the team should be targetted by such threats and described the turn of events as “suspicious”.

“This does not make any sense,” he added. This boy is a nonentity – a nobody – why on earth would anyone want to intimidate someone who is barely in the squad?”

It has been reported that Haider was one of three players diciplined by the team’s management on Sunday for breaking curfew rules by returning late to their Dubai hotel. In 2006 he was one of several team members arrested in Abu Dhabi on charges of possessing alcohol.

He has been replaced in the side by 25-year-old uncapped wicket-keeper, Adnan Akmal.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has launched an inquiry. Playing on without Haider, the team lost their final match against South Africa by 57 runs.