The Shoaib-Ayesha controversy turned murkier on Sunday with the Pakistan cricketer claiming he was emotionally forced into the nikahnama with the Hyderabad girl. Ruling out divorce, he said the marriage is invalid as her family had cheated him.
On a surprise visit to the city, just days before his marriage to Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik distributed a press statement and also took a few questions from a battery of mediapersons outside Sania's house in the posh Jubilee Hills.
The 28-year-old Shoaib will tie the knot with 23-year-old Sania on April 15 and a reception will be held at the Taj Krishna in Hyderabad the same day.
After days of flip-flop, Shoaib admitted to the nikahnama but said it was invalid since the intention was to cheat. He said, to this day, he hasn't met the girl whose photographs were sent to him by the Siddiqui family, purported to be that of Ayesha.
"Now they are asking for a divorce. To begin with, there was no nikah because they pressurised me into it with the intention to cheat. In Islam, there can only be a divorce if the nikah is valid," he said.
Shoaib's statement comes two days after the Siddiqui family demanded that he give an "official divorce" to 29-year-old Ayesha and appointed a lawyer to sue him in Pakistan.
"I was wrongly made to believe that the pictures Ayesha had sent me were of the girl I was marrying. I feel terrible about the mess created by a family that has caused a great grief to my own people and the family of my bride-to-be," he said.
Shoaib also said he had met Ayesha a number of times but knew her as Maha apa (elder sister) elder sister of Ayesha and never got to actually meet the girl in the photographs sent to him.
The Pakistani cricketer said it was only by accident that he got to know that Maha apa and Ayesha were the same girl.
"We accidentally ran into the truth about who Ayesha was. It was the worst moment of my life. No one enjoys being made a fool of and that was exactly how I was made to look. It happened in August 2005. My brother-in-law got a photograph of a teacher in Saudi Arabia who was telling people around her that she was married to me. His nephews were studying in that school.
"I was aghast when he showed me the photograph of the teacher. The woman in it was the person I called Maha apa. I immediately confronted Maha apa. It was she who had been making a fool of me all these years, pretending to be the person whose pictures she had been sending me. I told her I didn't even want to speak to her again. At that point I wondered if I could ever trust anyone again."
The Pakistan cricketer began the two-page statement by saying that he wanted to clarify "wrongly reported facts" in newspapers and television channels both in India and Pakistan.
"I want to make my position clear, especially because I'm to wed Sania Mirza in the near future," he said.
"Sania knows the truth and she is very happy," said Shoaib adding, "I'm here for my marriage. It's a legal thing and my lawyer will answer everything."
In Karachi, Farooq Hassan hired by Ayesha's family to fight her case, said he will decide in a few days on what grounds he would proceed against the cricketer.
Pakistani television channels reported that Ayesha's family had sent Shoaib a legal notice but Hassan said he was not aware of this.
In his statement, Shoaib said Ayesha had first started calling him when he was in Sharjah with the Pakistan cricket team in 2001.
"On the phone she introduced herself as my fan. She said she was living in Saudi Arabia. Gradually we started speaking everyday. Naturally, I wanted to meet her. Every time I brought up the topic of meeting she would send me a bunch of photographs. I was made to believe that the girl in the photograph was the one I was speaking to," he said.
Shoaib admitted that through the frequent telephonic conversations, he had become close to Ayesha. The cricketer said in 2002 he had come to Hyderabad specifically to meet Ayesha.
"Just before I left Pakistan she told me she had to rush to Saudi Arabia on urgent work and her cousin Reema and Maha apa would take me around. I waited in Hyderabad for five days hoping she would return.
"I finally asked her family where she was and they said that in the last year she had put on a lot of weight because of which she didn't want to meet me until she could shed some of that. I told them I have photographs of her and she was not fat but they told me those were older photographs," he said.
Shoaib, wearing blue jeans and T-shirt, looked flustered as the media shot one question after another. He waved a copy of his statement while giving instructions to distribute it to the waiting media.
The cricketer said that Ayesha was keen that the two get married.
"She had been talking about it for sometime, saying we would only meet at our marriage. In 2002, she told me that people in Hyderabad were talking about our relationship and it was putting her parents in an embarrassing position. She also told me she was feeling insecure. She wanted us to have a telephone nikah to stop the talk. I knew my parents would not agree to a telephone nikah. They wanted to celebrate my wedding and so did I," he said.
Shoaib said he too wanted to marry Ayesha.
"I was 20 years old then. There was a lot of pressure on me from Ayesha. I called her from a friend's shop in June 2002 and I got a nikahnama, signed it, thinking the girl I was marrying was the one in the photograph. I was not happy doing this because I had not told my parents and was emotionally forced to do it."
Shoaib said he did think about releasing the pictures he received from Ayesha but she requested her not to do so.
"I told Ayesha I was going to release the pictures to media. She apologised and told the other girl was married and it would ruin her life if I released those pictures. I thought about it. Whosoever is in that photograph probably doesn't even know about all this and it would not be fair to release those pictures," he said.
Shoaib said after his lawyer sent a notice to Ayesha's father MA Siddiqui in 2008, they stopped making allegations but resumed it once the news of his marriage with Sania became public.