‘Panic-stricken’ Pak wicketkeeper seeks asylum in UK after death threat from bookies

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

LONDON - Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider has sought asylum in England after resurfacing at Heathrow Airport following his mysterious disappearance hours before the fifth and final one-day international against South Africa in Dubai.

“Cricket’s match-fixing scandal took an astonishing twist last night after Pakistan’s wicketkeeper deserted his team to fly to Britain begging for asylum,” The Sun reported.

Panic-stricken Haider told Heathrow officials that he feared for his life after bent bookies vowed to murder him unless he agreed to rig international matches, it added.

Earlier, Pakistan cricket officials had launched a frantic hunt when Haider vanished from the team hotel- Dubai’s Grand Hyatt- early yesterday. He had asked them the night before to let him have his passport, saying that he needed it to buy a phone SIM card.

But a friend revealed that Haider had received a chilling ultimatum, warning him “Match haar jao” - meaning “Lose match” in Urdu, the paper said, adding that the cricketer told chum Sohail Imran about it in a text, and pleaded: “Pray to Allah for me.”

Haider had privately voiced his anger over the scandal and alleged corruption within the Pakistan Cricket Board, and is believed to have clashed with team-mates and officials after being sent home with what was claimed to be a hand injury ahead of the third test against England in August.

“Zulqarnain has hinted the real reason he was sent home is because he refused to go along with match-fixing plans. His injury was so minor he could have continued to play, but he was not allowed, the paper quoted a source, as saying.

“He would never deliberately lose a match or drop a ball but he is also very aware that it leaves him in a difficult and dangerous position,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Haider has said that he has arrived in England on a one-month visa.

“I have come here on my own expenses on a one month visa. I will be staying at a hotel on my own expenses,” the Dawn quoted Haider, as saying to a private news channel after spending nearly four hours with immigration authorities at Heathrow Airport.

“I will speak in detail on the reasons for my decision to leave Dubai and come to London later on,” the wicketkeeper added.

Lahore police official Rana Faisal said they were investigating Haider’s disappearance. “We have received no official complaint but taking note of the media reports we have sent some officers to his house (in Lahore) to find out details,” he said. (ANI)

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