Row won’t damage political relations, says top diplomat

PAKISTAN’S high commissioner last night defended Ijaz Butt’s allegations against England’s cricketers – but insisted they would not affect political relations between the countries.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan said Paksitan Cricket Board chairman Butt made “a very innocent argument” when accusing England players of taking a bribe to lose the third one-day international at The Oval last Friday.

Pakistan’s tour of England ends with the final one-dayer at the Rose Bowl today. But tensions between the two sides have become fraught amid the row with the England and Wales Cricket Board threatening legal action and Jonathan Trott and Wahab Riaz scuffling prior to the fourth one-dayer at Lord’s on Monday.

On attempting to play down Butt’s comments and defusing the situation yesterday, Hasan said: “Mr Butt made a very innocent argument.

“He said it’s very strange that, when Pakistan loses a match, people describe it as spot-fixing or fixing of the match. When Pakistan win the match, the same allegations are levelled against it.” He added: “Our boys are innocent. I still maintain until proven guilty, they are innocent.”

But Hasan insisted that the escalating row would not have a wider political impact in relations between the countries.

“Will this row sour our relationship? My answer is certainly no,” he added. “This is a separate matter. Our relationship with the UK was not made overnight. It has its roots in the past. It is on solid ground.”

Strauss, meanwhile, was standing firm on his viewpoint, and insists England were making no idle threat when they suggested the possibility of legal action against Butt over his slur. “Absolutely, we are going to explore every avenue available to us to make sure our names aren’t sullied in this manner,” the England captain said.