Mixing politics and cricket

There is a cricket series scheduled between India and Pakistan in December 2015 but due to the tense political relations between the two neighbours, nobody is certain whether it will take place or not. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials — Chairman Shaharyar Khan and PCB executive committee chief, Najam Sethi — were recently invited to Mumbai by BCCI President Shashank Manohar for talks to chart the way forward. Shiv Sena members stormed the BCCI headquarters on the day the meeting was scheduled to be held, which compelled the BCCI to postpone the talks until after next Sunday’s match with South Africa. The Pakistani media is now speculating whether the series has been cancelled or not.

India and Pakistan cricket fans pose with their flags outside Adelaide Oval ground in Australia during a 2015 World Cup match on February 15, 2015.  Cricket lovers on both sides of the border would miss an exciting series due to politics, which should be kept away from sports in principle. Pic/Getty ImagesIndia and Pakistan  cricket fans pose with their flags outside Adelaide Oval ground in Australia during a 2015 World Cup match on February 15, 2015.  Cricket lovers on both sides of the border would miss an exciting series due to politics, which should be kept away from sports in principle. Pic/Getty Images
India and Pakistan cricket fans pose with their flags outside Adelaide Oval ground in Australia during a 2015 World Cup match on February 15, 2015.  Cricket lovers on both sides of the border would miss an exciting series due to politics, which should be kept away from sports in principle. Pic/Getty Images

According to Mr Najam Sethi, if the BCCI had wanted to cancel the series it would have simply made the announcement and not called PCB officials for talks. “The BCCI preferred to dissipate the Sena protest by letting them into their office to meet Mr Manohar and then disperse rather than ask the police to resist the demonstrators,” says Sethi, adding that they have not ruled out the series as yet.

It would be extremely unfortunate if the bilateral series were to be cancelled. Cricket matches between India and Pakistan evoke strong emotions due to the history of these two nations and are thus the most-watched matches in the cricketing world. Cricket lovers on both sides of the border would miss an exciting series due to politics, which should be kept away from sports in principle. It is hoped that India and Pakistan will play the series with the aim of finding a solution in the interests of cricket.

The recent anti-Pakistan events in Mumbai are quite alarming and disappointing at the same time. Singer Ghulam Ali’s concert was cancelled due to threats, former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri’s book promoter was attacked, the scheduled meeting between PCB and BCCI officials was disrupted, ICC umpire Aleem Dar was withdrawn from the ongoing India-South Africa series after threats and Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar are not going to commentate in the ongoing series. Apart from these incidents, the rising level of intolerance across Modi’s India is giving the country a bad name internationally. It is also undermining the resilience of India’s secular democracy, which is based on the theme of unity in diversity and pluralism.

Pakistan has its fair share of extremists due to its official policy of appeasing militant organisations. We face the consequences of our flawed policies every day. Each terror attack reminds us how our ruling elite — both military and civilian — have failed us. India is going down the same path gradually. It reminds one of an old poem written by Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz, ‘Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle’ (You turned out just like us).

Here are a few couplets from her poem:

Tum bilkul hum jaisey nikley
Ab tak kahan chhupe the bhai
Woh moorkhta, woh ghaamarpan
Jis mein hum ne sadi ganwai
Aakhir pahunchi dwaar tumhaarey
Arre badhai, bohot badhai

(Translation via Urduwallahs):
So it turned out you were just like us!
Where were you hiding all this time, buddy?
That stupidity, that ignorance
we wallowed in for a century —
look, it arrived at your shores too!
Many congratulations to you!

As a Pakistani who has always looked up to India’s secularism, it is sad to see it go down this path.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at mehmal.s@gmail.com

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