Akhtar's 5-year ban to be reduced: Sources

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/shoaib-debut.jpg' class='caption'> After getting a one month suspension of his five-year ban, Shoaib Akhtar may be handed a lesser punishment by the appellate tribunal.

Updated: May 23, 2008 12:07 IST
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After getting a one month suspension of his five-year ban through political intervention, maverick pacer Shoaib Akhtar may be handed a lesser punishment by the appellate tribunal which would resume hearing on his appeal on June 4, according to highly-placed sources.

Sources said that Akhtar had very intelligently used his contacts in the political circles to first get the PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf withdraw his 220 million rupees defamation suit against him and was now also working to get the five-year ban reduced to much lesser one.

"The fact that one of the tribunal members, Salman Taseer, has been appointed to the powerful position of Governor of Punjab is a clear indication that lady luck is now smiling on Shoaib," a source said.

"Taseer is known to be very close to Shoaib who is a regular at his parties and functions and obviously his elevation to a powerful position will help the fast bowler even if he remains on the tribunal or decides to step down because of his new responsibilities," the source claimed.

Akhtar, who helped Kolkata Knight Riders win against Delhi Daredevils with a dream spell of four wickets in the IPL, will have to face regular hearings of the appellate tribunal when he returns home but sources say it would be a mere formality before awarding a softer penalty by the tribunal.

"What is going to happen is that when the appellate tribunal resumes hearing on June 4, Shoaib will appear before it again and make another apology which would be repeated in front of the media which would then lead to the dropping of the long term ban on him and award softer penalties," the source said.

The source said that Justice (retd) Aftab Farrukh, who heads the appellate tribunal, was uncomfortable with the way the Akhtar ban issue was being politicized and direction it was heading.

"Shoaib has managed to get time with leading figures in both the PPP and Muslim League Nawaz group. The fact that Rehman Malik, the advisor to the prime minister and an influential figure, presided over a meeting between Shoaib and PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf and break the ice between them shows how political figures are playing a role in Shoaib's issue," the source stated.

Meanwhile, media reports here say that Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan, a big name in Pakistan, has played a leading role behind the scenes to get Akhtar's ban suspended for a month to allow the fast bowler play in the IPL.

'Express' newspaper on Friday carried a story that Khan, his wife Gauri and actress Juhi Chawla told Akhtar to repent, change his ways and do not get into trouble again.

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