Religious row, not cricket, ousted chief

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 12:00am
 

A religious dispute, not cricket, forced Hong Kong Cricket Association president Shahzada Saleem to step down as president of the Pakistan Association, he said.

'I stepped down on principle. There were some people, not members of the club I must stress, who forced their way into our AGM [annual general meeting] last Sunday, demanding I resign over a religious issue,' Saleem said yesterday from Italy, where he is on a business trip.

Saleem confirmed he would run for re-election as HKCA president at its annual meeting next month and stressed that the issues that forced his resignation from the Pakistan club would have no bearing on the poll.

'I have served the Pakistan club as president for the past six years, but some people didn't want me to continue and I decided if that was the case, I would step down. I resigned from my position. This has nothing to do with cricket,' he said.

Alex Mohammad, secretary and chairman of cricket at the club, said yesterday the Pakistan Association was '100 per cent' behind Saleem and would back him for another term as HKCA president when elections took place at the governing body's annual meeting next month. 'His resignation had nothing to do with cricket or with the Pakistan club. It was over another matter, a religious matter,' Mohammad said.

'Those people who hijacked our AGM last Sunday were asylum seekers demanding he approve plans to build a mosque.'

Saleem disputed speculation that his ousting was a power grab by disgruntled elements of the cricketing community and a bid to remove him as HKCA president before the June 26-30 International Cricket Council annual conference in Hong Kong.

Saleem, who succeeded Terry Smith as HKCA president two years ago, is an Islamic trustee of the Kowloon mosque. In this position, he has faced demands for a mosque to be built in Tung Chung.

'Some of the trustees, me included, didn't support these demands to get land from the Home Affairs Bureau. The protest was over this matter,' Saleem said. 'During my term as president of the club, my committee has taken the club to new heights. But if people were unhappy with me, I decided to step down on principle.'

More than 300 protesters disrupted the Pakistan club annual meeting last Sunday. Two who took part said yesterday there were a number of issues that prompted the action.

Tauseef Bukhari said it was not just a religious matter but also controversy over the conduct of the AGM. 'Nominations were called for only among his [Saleem's] people,' Bukhari said.

Mohammed Iqbal said they had not seen any 'development at the club or on the Islamic front'. He said they had called on others to resign as well as Saleem.

Bukhari and Iqbal said neither they nor the other protesters were asylum seekers and they would hold a meeting to decide what further action to take.

A Pakistan Association member said earlier that renovations being done at the club without tenders had caused a lot of friction.

Vice-president Qamar Zaman Minhas was appointed caretaker president and would steer the committee until a new AGM was held within 90 days, Mohammad said.

The Pakistan Association, formed in 1963, provides and promotes various cultural and recreational activities for the Pakistani community.

Saleem said: 'I'm proud of the work the HKCA executive committee has achieved... We have ensured the future of the Hong Kong Sixes and the game is in a healthy state.

'We lobbied hard for the ICC annual conference and were successful. I believe all the clubs in Hong Kong have recognised what we have done so far. I have done this for the love and passion I have for the game. If people don't want me to continue, I will move away... But I know we have achieved a great deal in the past couple of years and I think I have the support of the cricket community.'

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