ISLAMABAD: TV anchor and former Pakistan Television host Dr Nauman Niaz has tendered an “unconditional apology” for his misconduct with Shoaib Akhtar in a live TV show a week ago, prompting the resignation of the former star pacer from the channel.
The two were part of a panel for PTV Sports programme “Game On Hai” on Oct 27 along with guests the likes of West Indies batting legend Sir Vivian Richards, former England captain David Gower, former Pakistan women’s captain Sana Mir and former fast bowler Umar Gul. The panel was discussing the Pakistan-New Zealand T20 World Cup match which Pakistan won by five wickets.
During a discussion on the Pakistan squad, Akhtar had credited the Pakistan Super League’s Lahore Qalandars franchise for discovering Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf.
Niaz took issue with Akhtar’s comments and said: “You are being a little rude so I don’t want to say this but if you’re being over-smart then you can go. I am saying this on air.”
Once the show resumed after a break, Akhtar apologised to the guests on the panel and announced his resignation from PTV, saying that he could not continue with the programme because of “how I was treated on national television”.
The incident soon became viral on social media with the two individuals becoming top trends on Twitter and videos of the confrontation circulating, which prompted Akhtar to issue a video message to “clarify” the situation.
Later, the PTV launched an inquiry into the spat and took Dr Niaz and Akhtar off-air until completion of the probe.
In his tell-all interview a day ago with journalist Rauf Klasra on his YouTube channel, Dr Niaz candidly confessed to his “mistake” and said he rued whatever happened that day.
The former host said the reaction to his outburst was justified, adding “I had no right. To err is human and for that, I apologise. Not only once, but a million times. Shoaib has been a rock star. Whatever happened on camera was unbecoming.”
Dr Niaz said his father also told him to take responsibility because of the “mistake you have done”.
Klasra recalled that Shoaib, in a recent interview, had said that an understanding had been reached during a break in the transmission that Dr Niaz will apologise but it didn’t happen.
The former PTV host responded: “Shoaib was contracted with us on the basis of exclusivity. People thought I was just a host but they don’t know that I also sign salaries of all employees including Shoaib. It was an overlapping [on my part] and again there is no justification for it.”
He reiterated that Shoaib was a star at the show and “I was a host and the incident shouldn’t have happened in presence of international stars”.
Contractual violations from Shoaib
Elucidating more about Akhtar’s behaviour with the management and his alleged violations of the contract with the PTV days before the unfortunate episode, Dr Niaz narrated that Akhtar had recently sought a pay raise which was eventually settled in a meeting with the channel’s managing director.
“Later on Oct 17, Shoaib was supposed to take part in the transmission, but he left for Dubai and participated in a show there with Harbhajan Singh. He then committed to come back for the PTV transmission a couple of days later but didn’t turn up.”
Admitting that Akhtar is a “saleable brand” on screen, he clarified that Clause-5 of the former bowler’s contract outright barred him from taking part in any other talk show. “However, he participated in other shows during this period”.
‘PTV was being taken for granted’
Asked whether there was resentment deep down about Shoaib’s contractual violations, Dr Niaz said it was not about a personal grudge but a question of the channel’s reputation. “PTV was being taken for granted, which was bad,” he added.
“These things were building up in my mind. Let me honestly say that a minor abrasion erupted in my cognitive mind that led to the incident which we all saw and it should not have happened.”
He insisted he was offering an unconditional apology for the episode. “It was an inexcusable act.”
He also underlined that Akhtar was not happy with the seating arrangement on the day and “then he did something which was irking but I will not divulge it”.
He said he was also hurt by remarks of a satirist who labelled him as someone who looked like a “tasteless melon”.
Earlier during the interview, Dr Niaz revealed that he knew Akhtar “since the time when nobody knew him,” saying that the star pacer was a man of many virtues and had a very good heart.