Unfair terms?
Does PCB’s central contract give it too much bargaining power against our cricketers?
By Khalid Hussain
In the end there were no real winners. The dispute between Shahid Afridi and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was settled out of court after influential quarters interfered and managed to make the two parties work out a deal. The PCB did some face-saving by slapping Afridi with a Rs4.5 million fine for breaching discipline. In return, the former Pakistan captain was given a No Objection Certificate to play for Hampshire in the ongoing English Twenty20 league.

Image problem
We have become the incorrigibly naughty bad boy of world cricket
By Saad Shafqat
Imagine for a moment what would have happened had the Matt Prior incident been caused not by an English wicketkeeper but by a Pakistani one. I am referring to the situation where a frustrated Prior returned to the dressing room during the recent second Test between England and Sri Lanka at Lord’s and smashed one of the front-facing windows, in the process showering the members’ stand with broken glass and injuring a female spectator.
Prior claimed it to be a ‘freak accident’. Along with his captain Andrew Strauss, he later appeared in front of the MCC members and tendered an unconditional apology. It briefly made sporting headlines, but there was no media firestorm. Prior’s explanation was accepted at face value; nobody accused him of being ill-mannered or boorish, and certainly there was no denigration of the English cricket team. The matter died quickly.

Mohammad Amir: Naive or stupid?
By Dr Nauman Niaz
A left-arm fast bowler of enormous ability, a cricketer who virtually subjugated most of the international batsmen, and a career that was spiraling to greatest heights was first interrupted because of indiscipline and then exterminated due to revelations of his corrupted soul; it was tragic.
I still believe, instead of being remorseful or showing contempt to corruptibility, another lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit or sense has virtually swamped Mohammad Amir, if there could be any hope of his revival. His activities were devious, the outcome equally deleterious but to add to it, he has come close to being a moron, and his subliminal rebelliousness wasn’t accidental, it seems his disdain for the sanctions imposed on him by the ICC was a pejorative appellation for his misdeeds, and it seems he lacks penitence and repentance. Is it a question of lack of compunction or low self-esteem?

Dreams of an Olympian
By Aamir Bilal
“You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of manhood in your own native soil with faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.” This is a quote of our great leader and father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, written in bold letters on a giant partition between the studio and the desks of the Pakistan Television News room.
Johann Olav Koss is perhaps one of the greatest winter athletes to date. A winner of four Olympic gold medals, eleven world records and President and CEO of ‘Right to Play’, which is a unique sport for development organisation, read the statement of the Quaid very carefully and could not resist commenting on the greatness, vision and leadership of our great leader.

Indo-Pak Express on a high
By Ilmana Fasih
The victory of Indo-Pak Express, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bhopanna, at the Gerry Weber Open Tournament in  Halle (Germany) brings a cool breeze amidst the summer heat, to all of us from India and Pakistan. After winning the match they reach to their seats adjacent to each other where their white jackets hang, embellished with the four magical words: ‘Stop War Start Tennis’.
The message is simple and brief, yet has far-reaching implications. The message holds the key to the prosperity of one fifth of the Earth’s population.
They are best friends, both on and off the court, and say that they complement each other’s style of play. Ever since they paired up in 2007, their careers have been marching uphill.

 

Unfair terms?

In the end there were no real winners. The dispute between Shahid Afridi and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was settled out of court after influential quarters interfered and managed to make the two parties work out a deal. The PCB did some face-saving by slapping Afridi with a Rs4.5 million fine for breaching discipline. In return, the former Pakistan captain was given a No Objection Certificate to play for Hampshire in the ongoing English Twenty20 league.

It wasn’t a happy ending for either party.

The Afridi-PCB dispute has triggered a new debate on whether its fine for the authorities to abuse their powers to curb the so-called player-power?

It’s pretty evident that the PCB did abuse its powers by revoking all the No Objection Certificates granted to Afridi following the former captain’s outburst against the Board.

A PCB official confided in ‘The News on Sunday’ that revoking Afridi’s NOCs was a calculated move aimed at assuring the player’s presence at a disciplinary hearing in Lahore. “He (Afridi) would never have appeared before our disciplinary committee,” said the official. “We revoked his NOCs to make it sure that he returns from England to face disciplinary actions. He did just that,” he said.

But is it fair to use such a tactic?

“I don’t think so,” says Mehmood Mandviwalla, who represented Afridi in his brief court case against the PCB. “I’m sorry to say but our national cricketers are in shackles. They are chained by a central contract that gives the Board unequal bargaining power,” he adds.

Mandviwalla is of the view that if the players will properly comprehend the terms and conditions of the PCB central contract, most of them would rebel against it.

“The players have rights. They should understand their rights. They should agitate against the central contract.”

The seasoned lawyer also believes that it’s the PCB’s duty to properly explain the contract’s terms and conditions to the players.

According to Mandviwalla, the contract allows the PCB to even block a player’s right to earn his living.

“And the Board exploited that power in Afridi’s case. He was stopped from playing professional cricket which is one of his basic rights,” he says.

Ask Tafazzul Rizvi, the Board’s legal advisor, and he will laugh off Mandviwalla’s claim that the contract gives PCB unfair bargaining power against its players.

“We are not a bank so there is no issue of who has more bargaining power,” he tells TNS.

“What we have is a proper employment contract which is in written form. The players are not forced to sign it. It is offered to the country’s best cricketers and they are given a week to sign it.

“They are free to take advice from all quarters. They are even provided an Urdu translation in case they not understand English,” he says.

Tafazzul claims that the PCB central contract which has evolved over a period of around eight years is quite ‘airtight’.

He is of the view that without the contract, it would become impossible for the Board to discipline the players.

“Without this contract, the players will run amok,” he stresses. But Mandviwalla is not convinced.

“They (PCB) will have to make their process more transparent,” he says referring to the Board’s dispute with Afridi.

“By going to court (against the PCB), Afridi has proved that it can be challenged. I personally believe that the PCB will be more careful in the future. All they should do is improve the contract’s terms and conditions. They should give the players more rights.”

 

Khalidhraj@gmail.com

 

Image problem

Imagine for a moment what would have happened had the Matt Prior incident been caused not by an English wicketkeeper but by a Pakistani one. I am referring to the situation where a frustrated Prior returned to the dressing room during the recent second Test between England and Sri Lanka at Lord’s and smashed one of the front-facing windows, in the process showering the members’ stand with broken glass and injuring a female spectator.

Prior claimed it to be a ‘freak accident’. Along with his captain Andrew Strauss, he later appeared in front of the MCC members and tendered an unconditional apology. It briefly made sporting headlines, but there was no media firestorm. Prior’s explanation was accepted at face value; nobody accused him of being ill-mannered or boorish, and certainly there was no denigration of the English cricket team. The matter died quickly.

We are fooling ourselves if we believe that a Pakistani player would have been accorded the same respectful treatment. More likely, there would have been hell to pay. A media frenzy would have ensued in the British press heaping scorn on the Pakistani target, and probably an even worse reaction would have been triggered within Pakistan.

This thought experiment illustrates what you might call Pakistan cricket’s image problem. We have become the incorrigibly naughty bad boy of world cricket.

Some would say we deserve it. We get annoyed with a heavy-handed umpire and refuse to come out after tea, forfeiting a Test match; we stumble in front of the moving ball to lose to an unknown side and the next morning our coach is found dead in his hotel room; our seamers consume contraband steroids to bowl faster; our ODI captain chews on the ball to try and alter its condition; when teams visit us, they get shot at by terrorists; and some of our players take massive bribes in spot-fixing scams.

On the surface, this list of serial misfortunes provides more than enough reason to demonise Pakistan cricket. But there is a more subtle point to be made. Other teams have been also been guilty of misdeeds, but they don’t get portrayed with the same intense negativity.

Australian icons Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh once bet against their own team at 500-to-1 odds, went on to lose the match (the famous Headingely Test of the 1981 Ashes series), and pocketed huge wads of cash. Shane Warne, another Australian icon, was found using a banned steroid, and also got into trouble sending unwanted text messages with lewd content. And let us not forget that Hansie Cronje -- the only player so far to have confessed to match-fixing in cricket -- was not a Pakistani but a South African.

Yet you don’t see Australia or South Africa derided as thieves or cheats, and the idea of suspending these teams from the ICC does not even remotely cross the mind. Cronje even died in mysterious circumstances when a chartered plane in which he was a passenger crashed inexplicably, but the matter was glossed over. Clearly, Pakistan is not the only international team to which bad things happen. But the stigma sits heavier on Pakistan.

One possible explanation is that we have faltered more often than others, and the mounting missteps had a snowball effect which has reached a tipping point. We have become that troublesome character in the classroom who gets blamed for anything that goes wrong, whether he is guilty or not; even for the crimes he does commit, he is censured more heavily than others would be for the same faults.

Certainly, Pakistan’s larger national context doesn’t help either. We are seen as a hotbed of terrorism, extremist thinking, and religious militancy; our army and intelligence agencies are in bed with NATO forces and the CIA; our economy is in tatters, our cities are unsafe, our people are demoralised. These circumstances are fertile ground for negativism and paranoia to seep in, for stigma and self-loathing to multiply.

On top of all this, we are also terrible at handling a crisis. Our cricket board is direction-less and incompetent. Our players lack leadership and wise counsel. We never have a proactive media strategy. And we are our own worst critics, remorselessly picking at our own wounds.

Regardless of what may be behind it and how fair or unfair it might be, Pakistan’s bad boy image is a reality that cannot be escaped. International teams have already stopped visiting Pakistan, and worse could follow. The situation is crying out for a heroic rescue, but there appears to be no strategy or savior in sight. While the country goes up in flames, our politicians outdo each other in corrupt behaviors, and our cricket board chief remains pre-occupied with massaging his brittle ego, what are Pakistan’s cricket supporters to do?

Taking the long view helps. Sri Lanka had a longstanding terrorism problem, South Africa were suspended for two decades because of racist policies, and international cricket overall came to a standstill during the destructive years of World War II. With the passage of time, on each crisis the clouds parted and the sun shone through.

Obviously, there is no quick-fix recipe. Reputations can be destroyed overnight, but they take years, even decades, of painstaking effort to build. Quality leadership is crucial. There is no limit to what an honest, competent, and well-intentioned cricket board chief could achieve for Pakistan cricket, which is fortunate to have a rich talent pool and a mass following as key assets. Even in the darkest periods, there is always hope. At the moment, it is about all we have.

 

saad.shafqat@aku.edu

 

Mohammad Amir: Naive or stupid?

A left-arm fast bowler of enormous ability, a cricketer who virtually subjugated most of the international batsmen, and a career that was spiraling to greatest heights was first interrupted because of indiscipline and then exterminated due to revelations of his corrupted soul; it was tragic.

I still believe, instead of being remorseful or showing contempt to corruptibility, another lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit or sense has virtually swamped Mohammad Amir, if there could be any hope of his revival. His activities were devious, the outcome equally deleterious but to add to it, he has come close to being a moron, and his subliminal rebelliousness wasn’t accidental, it seems his disdain for the sanctions imposed on him by the ICC was a pejorative appellation for his misdeeds, and it seems he lacks penitence and repentance. Is it a question of lack of compunction or low self-esteem?

I must acknowledge, not being able to control his rudders, Amir has an evident incapacity for reasoning, and somewhat an incessant state of daze; his representing a local Surrey club in London defines stupidity thusly, designating a mentality which is maladaptive. I must also differentiate stupidity from ignorance; and he must have known, he was acting in his worst interests. The mental schemas, which could help him to adapt to his visibly constricted space and instead of processing new ideas, his was a clear cut case of a schema inherently biased about maintaining both ICC decision’s integrity and existence. 

The moment the England and Wales Cricket Board launched an inquiry into the appearance of Amir in a Surrey League match, between Addington 1743 Cricket Club and St Luke’s, fell under its regulatory jurisdiction. Breaching ICC’s sanctions, Surrey Cricket Committee’s embarrassment aside, Amir could have inflicted his future prospects of an early return to the international game. His was a flimsy excuse that he had played the match understanding that it didn’t contravene the terms of the ban; how could a league match being termed as ‘friendly’ and how could Amir be so naÔve, and furthermore he had the temerity to admit that it was being played on a privately owned ground, though he denied having signed any registration documents and ended picking 4-9 in 7 overs besides scoring a hurricane 60 spurring Addington to an 81 run win.

I ponder whether Amir is innocently naÔve or is he dangerously on the cusp of falling in the whirl of extermination. While I intended the question to be simply rhetorical, I believe despite being banned Amir carried the responsibility to continuously renew himself, and he had to meet that responsibility until the sanctions were marginalised; it seems he has accentuated the ire of the ICC? I think now he teeters on the edge of an incessant decline.

I reflect back to Amir’s surge to international cricket’s top-tier, the star cast, the most powerful bowler, the most successful product, the best player on the Pakistan team, and as I see it, his very power and success was covering up the fact that he was already renewing destruction by succumbing to greed and the negative peer pressure. On one level, this fact didn’t cause much angst; just because Amir was barely eighteen and falling didn’t invalidate what he could learn in the period of isolation? Punishment could be reflective of character building, if there was an institutional support to him but more morons were there running cricket in the country? I find myself becoming increasingly curious. How did he fall? If some of the greatest players like Mohammad Azharuddin, Salim Malik, Hansie Cronje could collapse from iconic to irrelevant, what might Amir learn by being told their stories? And how could others avoid their fate? I was inspired to turn idle curiosity into an active quest, might it be possible to detect devastation early in careers of great players like Amir and reverse course, or even better, might such cricketers be able to practice preventive methods? I began to think of Amir’s decline as analogous to a disease, perhaps like a cancer, that can grow on the inside while exteriorly such people look strong and healthy. It’s not a perfect analogy; his devastation depicted PCB’s decline as an organisation; what he did was his own decision, the factors like failed management, inability of cricket’s parent body in the country not being able to attend to young players with an early promise of character building, I still believe was self-inflicted. Still, the disease analogy might be helpful.

I still believe, that Aamir’s sequence of stupidities reflect an institutional decline like a staged disease: harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages, easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of a precipitous fall; and PCB is just on the brink of complete ruination. Let Mr Ijaz Butt continue for a couple of more months in office, Pakistan cricket will be delving into a terrifying case, the fall of one of the most storied teams in history.

I feel what happened to Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir, even Shoaib Malik, Rana Naved and Shahid Afridi, it could be correlated as a sequel to the choices made to run Pakistan cricket. In October 2008, the Patron of the Board surprised the stakeholders by picking Butt as the new PCB chief. It could be described as ‘rather like choosing a new pope’, sycophants huddling and clustering behind closed doors like cardinals in conclave. The PCB and Pakistan team ultimately fell because they ended up crowning incapable people, a more bureaucratic manager, a financial advisor from the family of in-laws, a COO who couldn’t change with the times, couldn’t lead with vision, couldn’t make bold moves, couldn’t seen new plans and tap new markets.

Ijaz Butt as chairman of the PCB didn’t rip apart outmoded traditions, closed loose links and didn’t end nepotism. He didn’t institute more incentive compensation for the top players. He didn’t try driving a wedge between the top performers and non-performers. Under him, PCB changed a lot, from mediocrity to an organisation of complete chaos, and nearly killing itself in the process. We need a more nuanced understanding of how decline happens, and it is only possible if Mr Butt quits? It will never happen.

 

naumanniaz@hotmail.com

In an exclusive interview with ‘The News on Sunday’, former women’s world No 1 Ana Ivanovic speaks of her experience at the most prestigious Grand Slam of the year.

The Serbian glamour girl talks about her love of grass, shopping sprees in London and spending quality time with her family. The 24-year-old recounts the trials and tribulations she underwent after reaching the summit of the sport. Armed with a renewed belief in her ability, the once darling of centre court is all set to take Wimbledon by storm.

The News on Sunday: How, in your opinion, is Wimbledon different from the rest of the Grand Slams?

Ana Ivanovic: The tradition is what appeals the most. The atmosphere is really special -- you can feel the history of the tournament as soon as you arrive in London. I think most of the players feel that. For many players it is the one they watched most of all when they were kids, and the one we dreamed of winning even more than the others.

TNS: How much are you looking forward to the grass court season, especially playing at Wimbledon?

AI: I’m enjoying it so far. I didn’t have very high expectations going into Birmingham, considering how few matches I had played recently, and my disappointing performance at the French Open. But I had some good victories that boosted my confidence. Wimbledon is always a lot of fun and I look forward to it from the moment I arrive in England. It’s a special tournament for so many reasons. Off the court, it’s great because I can live in a house with my whole family for a week or two -- this is the only tournament where I do that.

TNS: Share with us some special memory or an incident which you most cherish from the SW19 event?

AI: It’s got to be my match against Vaidisova in 2007. I saved three match points in the quarter-finals. I remember there was a delay for rain and it was a very tough, even match. She was playing very well and actually I just had to hang in there. I won the last four games and it is a great memory for me.

TNS: What does Ana Ivanovic do in London during Wimbledon when she is not playing on court or having practice sessions?

AI: I mostly relax at home with my family. Our house is near the club. That may sound boring, but I don’t see them very often so we enjoy doing regular family stuff like eating dinner together. We also go out to restaurants and if there is time I enjoy going shopping in central London, especially at Old Bond Street. But that never happens during the tournament, because there is no time -- I do that before or afterwards only.

TNS: You lost in the opening round of the French Open where you were champion back in 2008. Besides training, what does it take for a champion to rise again from a defeat and prepare for the next big task ahead?

AI: It requires quite a bit of mental strength. It is tough to ‘forget’ that you were once the champion and No 1, but you have to try not to think about that and instead focus on the exact things that got you there in the first place. In general, I can say that some defeats hurt more than others, and take more time to get over. But the great thing about tennis is that there is always a tournament in the next week or so, so there is always an opportunity to put things right.

TNS: Every time you have stepped on to the court since not being number one, have you played to prove to yourself that you can regain that spot? Or have you played to prove yourself to people especially your critics. Either way how much pressure does that put on you?

AI: I haven’t thought too much about critics -- I prefer to stay positive and I don’t take an interest in that stuff. No one puts more pressure on themselves than me, and that’s enough pressure without taking it from others! But I have to try and improve in this area by relaxing more and trying to have fun on the court, instead of thinking too much about results.

TNS: In your post match press conferences you have talked about losing confidence during matches despite being in comfortable winning positions. Why does such a situation occur? What are you doing to ensure that such lapses do not occur in the future?

AI: I think I’ve lost focus a few times, which was probably a result of not really being ‘match tough’, as they say. I’ve not been consistent enough, and I’ve struggled with a few injuries, so I’ve not been in my best rhythm -- when I was at the top I was playing a lot more matches every week so I was kind of in the zone.

TNS: You are one of the few players who has seen it all... from being at the top of your game in 2008 and then crashing out of the top fifty in world rankings. Share with us your journey so far and the advice you would give your fans and to people in general who think of quitting when things are not going their way?

AI: Yes, I’ve already experienced a lot and I am still quite young! In order to come to the top you have to really believe in yourself. I don’t want to complain about things because I had a very happy childhood, but if you look at the facilities we had in Serbia, it wasn’t easy for us -- me, Novak, Jelena and the others. So we all were very strong and determined and through that we reached our goals. This same level of determination is very important in professional tennis too, because you will always experiences ups and downs in your career.

 

The writer works for Geo TV

majorjiwa@gmail.com

Dreams of an Olympian

“You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of manhood in your own native soil with faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.” This is a quote of our great leader and father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, written in bold letters on a giant partition between the studio and the desks of the Pakistan Television News room.

Johann Olav Koss is perhaps one of the greatest winter athletes to date. A winner of four Olympic gold medals, eleven world records and President and CEO of ‘Right to Play’, which is a unique sport for development organisation, read the statement of the Quaid very carefully and could not resist commenting on the greatness, vision and leadership of our great leader.

Being present on the occasion, I felt very proud by the rich tributes paid to Quaid by the Olympian whose cherished leader is Nelson Mandela and who himself is included in the list of hundred future leaders of the world by the ‘TIME’ magazine and one of the thousand Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum.

It was June 9 and President Asif Zardari was on air at 0530 PM in a popular PTV programme, Date Line Pakistan. One could make out that nothing was coming from his heart and the President was trying to read a script simply out of sheer compulsion, about the inclusion of marginalised children in the main stream of society, a ciliate often used by development sector in Pakistan with great discretion and diplomacy.

Johann had to go on air; live on same programme just after the President. Our gracious host in PTV requested us to wait for five minutes. Those five minutes were indeed most embarrassing for me, as a report on the killing of a young man by the Rangers in Karachi was being aired. I could easily see the agony and anguish on the face of Johann, as the Olympian who champions the cause of peace and tolerance in the world through sport was busy spreading his message amongst the youth of Pakistan by physically visiting them in far flung and remote areas of Mardan and Mansehra.

‘Equality of the manhood’ was the phrase from the above mentioned quote, of Quaid echoing in my ears time and again. I was contemplating about the impression that incident had cast on Johann’s mind as he had to go live in couple of minutes in more than eighty countries of the world.

We all should be indebted to the champion for showing extreme maturity and thoughtfulness by giving highly encouraging and positive remarks in the favour of Pakistan and its society and potential of its youth, who are subjected to a continuous wave of terrorism and extremism. His message was clear, “Pakistan is absolutely safe for the international athletes and foreign teams. There is no reason why they can’t come to Pakistan where people are extremely friendly and sport loving. If I can come here, why can’t they?”

Johann has a sensitive soul and a passionate heart that moved him to visit Eritrea in 1993 as part of Olympic Aid, where he decided to commit himself to help the marginalised children of the world through sport and play. His dream came true when he made World headlines in the 1994 Lillehammer Games where he won three gold medals in 1500, 5000, and 10,000 metre events and donated his earnings to raise a sport for development and humanitarian organisation known as ‘Right to Play’.

The Norwegian champion had materialised his dream. A dream which was not only about his personal glory, but about the glory of so many poor children in the world, including the children of Mardan and Mansehra who never had the opportunity to express their abilities through sport and play.

He urged them to work hard and look after one another as students and community leaders. He inspired faith in them and assured them about Right to play’s commitment to every child for providing them an opportunity to participate in healthy activities and making education a joyful experience for them through sports.

Addressing the local elders and leaders in a large gathering at Mardan, where a number of young cadets were martyred in a military training establishment by the terrorists a couple of months ago, Johann spelled out his vision that allows children the opportunity to build critical life skills through sport and play, ultimately creating the leadership needed for social change in communities affected by conflict, war, poverty and disease.

With the help of more than 400 Athlete Ambassadors including world renowned football player Zinedine Zidane, it trains local community leaders to deliver their programme to most marginalised children in countries affected by war, poverty, conflict and disease.

The international programme that started with 15 projects and 37,000 children in poorest countries like Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania has now 49 projects and more than 1,177,000 children as its beneficiaries including China, Pakistan, Sudan, Thailand and UAE.

Johann’s brief visit to Pakistan was a unique opportunity for me to travel with him, witness the projects of ‘Right to Play’ in the field and learn from the experience of this great athlete and a wonderful human being.

One of the best things about ‘Right to Play’ that I observed in was their ability to introduce customised games and fun activities for children that don’t require large play fields. Though They have constructed and repaired over one hundred play fields and provided 60,000 pieces of sport equipment in the project areas but there real essence is training of young leaders and teachers, which is very much required in our educational set up that offers nothing except rote-learning.

‘Right to Play’ is a great value addition in our education system that has lost its contact with sports due to our poor policy making and inability to understand the value of sport for education and achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

When Johann was asked about the future of Sport for Development initiative in a resource constraint country like Pakistan, he disagreed that Pakistan lacks in resources.

He said that it’s all about right mindset, priority of allocation, understanding of the subject and resolve of the government and leadership that can take sport for development on right course.

Johann, who is a medical doctor an MBA and recipient of two Doctor of Laws degrees from Brock University and University of Calgary, departed for Toronto after a hectic week in Pakistan.

The message that he gave at his departure was heartening yet challenging. He gave an extension of five years to his project in Pakistan and advised the government functionaries, the philanthropists, the corporate sector and the civil society to put in their bit and take ownership of this great initiative which has the potential to change the leadership landscape of Pakistan through sports and games. This is indeed a daunting challenge, and for most it looks beyond comprehension. They have yet to understand that no citadel can be built without strong foundations.

Pakistan not only needs world champions but also able-minded youth with a world view and acceptability. We need good leaders at all levels. They should understand the value of dreams, and to know that human bodies have limitations and one cannot continue enjoying and performing international sports forever. Their records will be broken and new names will be endorsed in the annals of history. However their legacy can last for ever, provided they have the capacity to dream and the will to transform their dream into reality like Johann Koss.

 

sdfsports@gmail.com

 

Indo-Pak Express on a high

The victory of Indo-Pak Express, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bhopanna, at the Gerry Weber Open Tournament in  Halle (Germany) brings a cool breeze amidst the summer heat, to all of us from India and Pakistan. After winning the match they reach to their seats adjacent to each other where their white jackets hang, embellished with the four magical words: ‘Stop War Start Tennis’.

The message is simple and brief, yet has far-reaching implications. The message holds the key to the prosperity of one fifth of the Earth’s population.

They are best friends, both on and off the court, and say that they complement each other’s style of play. Ever since they paired up in 2007, their careers have been marching uphill.

It is not just their game but their spirit to rise above religious and political differences that makes us all proud. They may have yet to fulfill their dream of Wimbledon doubles title, but they have already lifted the biggest trophy of Peace and Sanity.

After one of the tournaments, Aisam had remarked: “There were a lot of Pakistanis and Indians in the crowd cheering for us. And you couldn’t tell the difference, who was Pakistani and who was Indian, they were all mixed together and supporting the same team.”

And indeed this is the truth, no matter what skeptics may say. We have more in common than in differences, whether it be our appearances, our histories or our geographical location.

These talented young men are a living example to the 1.4 billion Indians and Pakistanis that ‘United, we shall stand’.

The duo echo the feelings of millions of hearts that throb in the chests of the people, who aspire for peace and prosperity for themselves, as well as for their neighbours. Like Aisam and Rohan, these millions too could become the real ambassadors of peace in their own right. Together they could reckon to be a Peace Force large enough to defeat any force of hateful extremists or other vested interests that leave no stone unturned to sow hatred and differences between the two neighbours.

History, with three wars and years of tensions, cannot be changed and borders cannot be erased. But these young men have shown us that by ‘being friends’, we can avoid the waste of energies in hatred and blame games, and instead, harness the same energy towards progress and prosperity for the entire region. Let the borders be just on the land, not in our hearts is what the pair teaches.

It does not need rocket science, but just a flicker of change in one’s thinking to turn this hatred into love. It does not even need too many bureaucratic visits, MOUs or anti-war treaties if one and a half billion people of this subcontinent decide to make Aman ki Asha into a real everlasting peace.

Indians and Pakistanis are 1.4 billion people together, sitting beneath the noose of nuclear weapons in the region. True, that the possibility of these being used is negligible, but then why such a hefty expenditure in developing, maintaining and improving their ‘killing’ capabilities in the name of big meaningless words like ‘nuclear deterrence’?

We do not deny that there aren’t serious differences and contentious issues, but three wars and numerous tensions have failed to solve them. Nor will the missiles and nuclear weapons resolve them in future. There is no issue which cannot be settled through peaceful negotiations. So for the sake of the well being of the huge numbers of people at stake, it is time we give lasting peace a real chance. Tensions and wars benefit few, but peace shall benefit each one of us across the subcontinent.

The political tensions provide an excuse to the vested interests (outside the region) to continue getting both sides to buying arms and building arsenal for ‘safety’, amidst poverty, hunger, ignorance, illiteracy for millions on both sides. What if this money was used for development and not arms build up?

Let us ask for our ‘safety’ not through arms and ammunition, but through regional cooperation in education, health, alleviation of poverty and economic activity. This is only possible if both sides are at peace with each other.

Is this asking for ‘lasting peace not tensions’ that farfetched a dream? Maybe the idea looks a dream, but then dreams do come true too.

And Aisam and Rohan have shown us just that. Congratulations Indo-Pak Express. You make us proud.

 

ilmana_fasih@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 



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