The government of Pakistan formally notified the new PCB constitution with certain amendments, toning down the powers of its own patron-in-chief. This is the fourth time in the last 12 years that the PCB constitution has been redrafted. This latest change means the patron-in-chief, who is also the country’s prime minister, has no power to dissolve the board or remove the chairman, with that clause being removed completely, effectively making the PCB an independent body.
According to the new constitution, the prime minister of the country is still a patron of the board, but his power to dictate to it has been curbed. Earlier, his general policy directions were compulsory to implement, but will now, constitutionally at least, only be up for consideration. “The Patron may, from time to time, give to the Board general policy directions for its consideration,” clause 5.3 reads.
The patron earlier had the power to dissolve the PCB, with this once igniting an embarrassing crisis for the board when former patron Nawaz Shariff dismissed the then-chairman Zaka Ashraf and dissolved the board of governors. Sharif formed a management committee to pick the new PCB chairman from among its eight members, which ultimately brought Najam Sethi to power.
Changes of government have always rung changes at the PCB because the prime minister has held absolute power with the board. This has hindered the PCB’s ability to push through a long-term vision, with the board beholden to the desires of its incoming patron every few years. But the new constitution makes a significant tweak that eradicates the ability of the patron to dissolve the board of governors altogether.
When Imran Khan won a general election in 2018, Sethi’s future became the subject of intense speculation, with the two of them having a famously poor relationship. With the prime minister allowed – according to the then PCB constitution – to change the PCB chairman if he so desired, it seemed unlikely Sethi would be able to stay on beyond Imran formally taking charge. In what was widely seen as an anticipation of his impending removal once Imran became prime minister, Sethi tendered his resignation just before Imran was due to take office, leading to Ehsan Mani being ushered in.
Until now, chairmen had the authority to act as executives of the board who tried to implement policy they had proposed themselves, which according to Mani was a conflict of interest. The new constitution tackled governance loopholes related to the administration of cricket and the functioning of its governing body, bringing it in line with the best practices of corporate governance.
The patron’s role is now more narrowly worded in Clause 32.5, giving them only oversight authority and the ability to launch an audit if they believed financial mismanagement may have taken place at the board. “Notwithstanding anything contained in this clause, the Patron in his exclusive discretion to be exercised, for reasons to be recorded in writing, after being reasonably satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of financial mismanagement within the Board, may direct conducting of a special audit of the Board’s accounts. The audit report shall only be submitted to the Patron for his consideration,” the clause reads.
To many, this change might seem a calculated political ploy by the current patron-in-chief, with Imran already having made one intervention which resulted in Mani becoming chairman of the PCB. But whether the constitution, and indeed the institution that is the PCB, is sturdy enough to withstand a future patron-in-chief looking to shake things up at the PCB once more, only time will tell.