From former team-mates to hockey players to leading television and film actors, the who's who of Pakistan are getting behind cricketer Shoaib Malik [ Images ] as he gears up for a legal battle with an Indian woman who claims to be his wife.
Shoaib, who is in Hyderabad to marry Indian tennis star Sania Mirza [ Images ], is in a legal soup owing to a past affair with another Hyderabad girl Ayesha Siddiqui.
Ayesha claims Shoaib married her over the phone before dumping her due to her weight problems without a divorce.
But Shoaib maintains that the Ayesha who is making these allegations is not the one he committed himself to during an internet affair that grew over telephone conversations.
And the all-rounder, who is serving a one-year ban for indiscipline, has found support from not just fellow cricketers but also from leading hockey players like Rehan Butt, Sohail Abbas, Shakeel Abbasi, Ahmed Alam who feel Shoaib is being victimised in India [ Images ].
"This is another instance of where the Indian media is holding a media trial of Malik without knowing the truth. He has gone there to marry an Indian girl and that is something they can't digest," Butt said.
Abbasi said Shoaib appeared to be in the right and if Ayesha had any evidence against him, she should come out herself and show it to the public.
Leading filmstars and television artists also felt that it was time the media left Shoaib and Sania alone.
"It is a personal matter involving Malik, Mirza and even Ayesha. It is something they have to resolve among themselves. Why spoil their happiness?" asked actor Saud.
Actress Meera feels given the media coverage even the Indian people were now supporting Shoaib.
"The way he is being portrayed in the Indian media, there is a lot of sympathy for him now," she said.
Earlier, Pakistani cricketers who attended a dinner party at the Siddiqui household during a 2005 tour of India had also backed Shoaib, saying that they were never introduced to Ayesha during the function.
Meanwhile, Shoaib's brother-in-law Imran Zafar said he and other family members would be leaving for India on Wednesday and had no apprehensions about going there for the marriage.
"Inshallah the marriage will take place on Aril 15 and by then this issue of Ayesha would also be sorted out and the truth would come out clearly," Imran said.
Meanwhile, a leading women's rights activist in Pakistan also jumped to Shoaib's defence on the matter.
"First of all I don't understand how can the Indian police can process a case against him in India under Indian laws when the bone of contention between him and Ayesha is the Nikah, which is registered in Pakistan," a noted women's right lawyer Hina Rabbani said.
She pointed out that since the Nikahnama produced by Ayesha was registered in Sialkot, the case could only be processed in Pakistan under Pakistani laws.
"Ayesha has no doubt weakened her case by not appearing in person to tell her side of the story," Rabbani pointed out.