The game of cricket is Pakistan’s sole lifeline at the present juncture in its troubled history. Cricket unites Pakistan as nothing else can and perhaps nothing else ever will in the future. This may be a little hard to believe for someone not well versed with the social, political and economic dynamics of Pakistan. Cricket matches are perhaps the only occasions when the Pakistani mob or herd transforms into a nation. No matter that after a cricket match the stadium may well be blown-up by a suicide bomber, but during the match the whole Pakistan is one entity; there are no Muslims, no Hindus, no Christians; no Sunni and no Shi’ite; no rich and poor, all hearts beat as one, cheering the green-shirts, wave after Mexican wave.
On these occasions, this entertainment starved nation, turned into perverts by decades of oppression, living under dictatorships breathes freely and gives vent to its oppressed inspirations and ambitions; no wonder during the 80’s, it was cricket diplomacy that averted a war between Pakistan and India. It did not come as a surprise when a couple of days back ,the interior minister of Pakistan through the national media invited the belligerent Taliban and the government to play a friendly cricket match in order to resolve the current tensions and avoid anymore bloodshed. Cricket no doubt is Pakistan’s lifeline.
These days Pakistan is defending its Asia Cup title. As the team notches victory after victory, the whole nation rejoices. In the opening match, the Pakistan cricket team suffered defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, while after an indifferent and lackluster performance in the second match against the nascent Afghanistan cricket team, the green-shirts, owing to their superior pedigree, won the match easily in the end. There were many dramatic moments during the match and at times it appeared that Afghanistan would trounce Pakistan but due to a superb batting display by Umar Akmal, who scored a century, after four years and the spin wizardry of Hafeez, Saeed and Boom Boom Afridi, Pakistan defeated Afghanistan by a margin of 128 runs in the end. On March 1, the Pakistan under-19 squad will be playing against South Africa in the final of the under-19 World Cup. The entire nation is hopeful that Pakistan will retain its Asia Cup crown and will also win the under-19 Cricket World Cup. Cricket is truly Pakistan’s lifeline.
Back home, despite Umar Akmal’s mavericks on the foreign soil, bailable arrest warrants have been issued against him by a magistrate of Model Town, Lahore, for manhandling a traffic policeman in uniform last month. Keeping with the tradition of the highly politicized milieu of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), as the government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has changed and Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz (PML-N) is now in power at the center, so Zardari’s handpicked chairman Chaudhry Zaka Ashraf has been replaced by Najam Sethi. Sethi was the interim chief minister of Punjab, whom Imran Khan– himself a former captain of Pakistan team which won the Cricket World Cup in 1992 in Australia– holds responsible for rigging the elections in the Punjab province. The legendary batsman, Javed Miandad, has also tendered his resignation while Rashid Lateef, a former wicket-keeper and captain of the Pakistan cricket team, has been nominated the new chief selector of PCB.
Barring all unsavory controversies, the game of cricket truly is Pakistan’s lifeline.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada