DUBAI //Mystery continues to surround the circumstances which led to Zulqarnain Haider, Pakistan's embattled wicketkeeper, fleeing Dubai after he allegedly received death threats from gangs involved in fixing cricket matches.
Zulqarnain, who went absent without leave from Pakistan's series in the UAE on Monday then flew immediately to London, announced his retirement from international cricket yesterday.
He is now seeking protection in the UK, "since my family and I are constantly getting threats," he told a Pakistani television news channel.
His passage to London was surprisingly uninhibited. The team management usually look after the passports of all the players while on tour. The fact Zulqarnain was given his after saying he wanted it so he could purchase a UAE SIM card for his telephone, smacks of naivety, said an independent security official involved with the series in the UAE.
"The Pakistan team completely disregarded their own instructions. Naively, they let the players have space," the security official said. "Zulqarnain asked for his passport so that he could get a local SIM card. They have people on the team who do that sort of admin work for them.
"Secondly, to get a SIM card you don't actually need your passport, you just need a passport copy."
Haider said he had been approached and "told to cooperate or I would face lot of problems", after going out of the team hotel, the Grand Hyatt, for dinner one night before Friday's fourth one-dayer.
But his Dubai-based agent, Umran Khan, admitted he was unaware of the approach, even though he had been to dinner with his client on many occasions during the tour.
"I have seen the quotes attributed to him, but I have no recollection of that and don't know what meal that was," said Umran, speaking from his office in Dubai last night.
"Whilst they have been in Dubai we have all been out to dinner together, and he was open when he was amongst the other boys. [But] Zulqarnain is a quiet man who keeps to himself. He is a team player when he is with the team."
Umran says he has tried to impress on the variety of clients he has within the Pakistan side that they should report any suspicious approaches to the team management and then to the ICC's anti-corruption and security unity officials. However, Zulqarnain fled without confiding in anyone.
"We understand his plight if reports are indeed true, but we can only help if he is willing to engage with us," Haroon Lorgat, the International Cricket Council's chief executive, said.
Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, also questioned why Zulqarnain would have been threatened. "I have absolutely no idea why this has happened but the whole thing seems deeply suspicious to me," Imran said, in an interview at the Celebration of Entrepreneurship Conference at the Madinat Jumeirah.
"I don't know what is the reason behind this but I cannot believe it's simply some threats from the mafia. In my 21-year cricketing career why did no-one ever threaten me?"
* additional reporting from Philippa Kennedy