La’ affaire Sania-Shoaib-Ayesha ended abruptly Wednesday with the Pakistani cricketer sending divorce papers to Ayesha Siddiqui, who in turn agreed to withdraw her criminal complaint of cheating against him.

In a complete volte-face, Shoaib Malik, who had refused to give Hyderabad girl Ayesha a divorce saying he had not married her in the first place, signed the divorce papers following a compromise hammered out with the intervention of Muslim leaders, including Minority Welfare Minister Mohammed Ahmedullah, and representatives from the three families.

Shoaib, who is set to wed Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza April 15, had denied Ayesha’s claims of marriage. He had admitted to a telephone wedding but said he had been shown the photograph of another woman.

“Shoaib Malik has sent divorce papers to Ayesha Siddiqui,” Shams Babar, a family friend of the Siddiquis, told IANS, signalling an end to the days of mudslinging.

“My daughter is relieved and she is very happy. Justice has been done,” Ayesha’s mother Farisa Siddiqui told reporters, adding that her daughter would now withdraw the case.

Addressing a joint press conference with some community elders and a relative of Sania, she said the compromise was reached without any compensation. Shoaib paid Rs.15,000 as monthly maintenance for three months as per Islamic law.

“Talaq (divorce) was the only thing my daughter wanted. She got it after so long. This chapter is closed for us,” she said while refusing to take further queries.

The surprising development comes two days after Hyderabad police booked a criminal case against Shoaib on the basis of a complaint filed by Ayesha, who accused Shoaib of cheating, harassment and criminal intimidation.

On Tuesday, sleuths of the Central Crime Station (CCS) recorded Ayesha’s statement that she had solid proof to nail the former Pakistani skipper.

Shoaib, who married Ayesha over phone in 2002, was questioned by police Monday and his passport seized for investigations.

Abid Rasool Khan, general secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Congress, told reporters that Shoaib sent the divorce papers after advice by community elders. He said efforts for a compromise were being made for the last few days as the community was getting a bad name due to allegations between the two sides.

“We were worried about the impact of this controversy on the community. After holding talks with all three parties, the elders, including ulemas, decided that Shoaib should divorce Ayesha,” Khan said.

Efforts to resolve the ugly tangle had intensified since Tuesday. “There was inconsistency in statements from both sides and it was going from bad to worse,” said Imran Qadri, another community elder.

The former Pakistani skipper claimed he knew the girl being shown on television channels as Maha Apa or the elder sister of the girl who was claiming to be his wife.

Sania had advised the media to leave the issue to the courts and said Shoaib would face the law of the land if charges against him were proved.

The row had taken a dirty turn when Ayesha’s family friends claimed that Shoaib and she had a physical relationship and that she had had a miscarriage.

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