Sports Fixing Scandal Rocks Pakistan

More bad news at an unwelcome time

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As flooding submerges one third of Pakistan, those not among the millions made homeless are facing a very different kind of national disaster. Pakistan's national cricket team, deeply cherished in a place where cricket rivals Islam as a national religion, has become embroiled in allegations of fixing matches. It began when the team traveled for a high-profile match in England, where Scotland Yard detectives investigated and found evidence that some players had deliberately played poorly in exchange for bribes. The scandal has rocked Pakistan, a country with few remaining heroes.

  • Pakistan Feels National Shame  Time's Omar Waraich writes, "It may be a long time before the national team can excite passions at home again. 'This comes at the worst time,' says Mohammad Malick, editor of the News, an influential English-language daily in Pakistan. 'We've been suffering terrorism. We are suffering floods. And now they've just made us look like a nation of callous crooks.' Desperate to lure much-needed foreign aid to ease the country's recovery from the floods, many Pakistanis are now worried that their long-suffering image abroad will be further ruined. 'Everybody is not a cheater in Pakistan,' says Aitzaz Ahsan, the country's leading lawyer and a politician. 'The overwhelming majority are honest and hardworking, believe in the values of the civilized world, are resisting terrorism and are against corruption. It's a minuscule minority — often celebrities — that brings shame to honorable Pakistanis.'"
  • Pakistanis Register Anger at Team  Reuters' Ed Osmond reports, "Protesters led a procession of donkeys with the names of players accused of taking bribes to fix incidents during the fourth test against England stuck on the foreheads of the animals. ... Protesters in the eastern city of Lahore slapped donkeys with shoes and pelted them with rotten tomatoes on Monday to vent their anger at the latest Pakistani cricket fixing scandal."
  • Will This Hurt Flood Response?  Omar Waraich warns in the UK Independent, "In a country where cricket serves as a rare source of cohesion, the allegations are a major blow to national pride. The timing has also sparked local fears that global sympathy for the flood victims will be diluted by yet another sorry episode implicating some of Pakistan's most prominent names in corruption."
  • Pakistan's Similarly Corrupt Government Responds  The New York Times' John Burns reports, "Pakistan’s embattled government lost no time in reacting, and not to offer any defense. President Asif Ali Zardari, who spent years in Pakistani prisons over the past decade over allegations that he embezzled millions while his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister in the 1990s, said through a spokesman that he had 'directed that he be kept posted' on the police inquiry in London. He ordered the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, a government appointee, to submit a personal report. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was more direct. Visiting his hometown, Multan, he told reporters that the allegations against the cricketers had made Pakistan’s 170 million people 'hang their heads in shame.'"
  • India Playing a Role?  The Wall Street Journal's Tom Wright asks, "The question now is what is India’s link to the scandal? ... Delivering no-balls is a subtler way of cheating, and benefits betting syndicates – many based in India – involved in 'spot fixing' scandals. ... The exact details of the [accused] 'Indian party' are unclear but may come to light in coming days. Scotland Yard on Sunday arrested 'a 35-year-old man' on suspicion of fraud."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.