Contrary to several media reports last night, it appears that Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider has not applied for asylum in the UK.
Speaking to Reuters news agency last night, Mr Haider said:
“The UK Border Agency has taken my fingerprints and issued me a temporary stay.
“I had no intentions of applying for political asylum at this stage and, if the Pakistan government is ready to give me assurance of security for me and my family, I am ready to return to Pakistan.
“I have no issues playing for Pakistan again provided the Pakistan Cricket Board wants me to play.”
Mr Haider arrived in the UK in dramatic circumstances on Tuesday, having apparently fled Pakistan’s hotel in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where the team are preparing for a test series against South Africa.
(NB. Following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team hotel in Lahore last year, which killed eight people and left many others seriously injured, several foreign teams have refused to travel to Pakistan because of ongoing security fears. Consequently, Pakistan will play all its scheduled “home” games in the UAE for the time being.)
Upon arriving in London, Pakistan’s Geo News channel quoted Mr Haider as saying:
“I have decided it is best for me to retire from international cricket since my family and I are getting threats [from match fixers]. It is best that I leave international cricket.
“I received death threats to lose the fourth and fifth one-day internationals against South Africa. I was told to cooperate or I would face lot of problems.
“This person approached me while I had gone out of the hotel for dinner. He told me cooperate with us and you can make a lot of money. He said, ‘If you don’t cooperate you will no longer be part of the team and we can make life very difficult for you’.
“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 can assure you that I am safe and sound. I have not been arrested but I cannot tell you where I am hiding for security reasons.
“Immigration officials in the UK were kind to me and offered me the chance to use the services of a counsellor but I am yet to reach a decision. I understand there is a rule in Britain that if you are right and if you are not a criminal, then they always protect you.”
Mr Haider is of course right, but he may find it hard to establish his right to political asylum. He will need to prove not only that he has a well-founded fear of persecution, but also that his own country cannot protect him. This is often difficult and very few Pakistanis who apply for asylum are granted it. In 2009, for example, only 65 were given sanctuary.
- Cricket-Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain not seeking asylum (Reuters UK)
- Pakistan’s Zulqarnain Haider retires from international cricket (Guardian)
- Pakistan cricketer Mohammed Asif consults lawyer about applying for asylum (The Solicitor)
- Claiming asylum in the UK (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Find an immigration lawyer (Contact Law)
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