Monday, June 22, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The last two days have been full of optimism in Pakistan.On sunday evening, like the hundreds of millions others, i watched Pakistani Cricket team win the T20 world cup at Lords, London. I was over-joyed and reminded of the 1992 world cup. After 17 years Pakistani Cricketers won the world cup again. But more than that, it is these circamstances which make this victory very special. Recently, i have stopped being critical of the Pakistani team because these poor fellows do not get much exposure to international game. Due to war no country likes to send its team to Pakistan. Only Sri Lankans dared to show support by sending their team and almost got killed for that.International matches are few and far for these players.Hence,the Pakistani team was ill-prepared and an under-dog and yet they played beautifully to win the world cup. I was reminded of what life used to be like in days gone by.It was a hard existence in a typical third world patriarchical soceity. But nothing like the current madness, insecurity and uncertainty.Hence the world cup win brought a lot of happy memories.

However good things are in short supply in the republic of Pakistan which is at war with itself these days. Waking up this morning, i find out that the war against TTP (the Taliban Movement of Pakistan) has suffered a major set-back. As the Pakistan army has begun its offensive in South Waziristan against TTP and its commander Baitullah Mehsud, it succeeded to bring about defections of two of his close aids. These two ex-Taliban commanders were extremely critical of TTP and Baitullah in the last one week. Of the two, Qari Zain Mehsud was very important for government's strategy against TTP. He hailed from the same Mehsud tribe to which Baitullah belongs. By defecting from TTP, he was trying to weaken Baitullah's control over Mehsud tribe. His defection was a major victory for the Pakistan army who were trying to quarantine TTP anb Baitullah from all sides.

So much for dreams of an easy victory. This mroning Qari Zain was murdered in cold blood by one of his close aids. According to still breaking news, Qari Zain was offering morning prayers at his residence in DI Khan this morning when one of his body-guards opened fire on him. He was immediately killed and his second-in-command is in critical condition. The killer escapaed. This is a major set-back for the war against Baitullah and TTP. Now anyone opposing Baitullah will think long before defecting to the governemnt and army. It shows how strong Talibans are. A simple military operation in FATA will not be sufficient to defeat them. Baitullah has a huge network of foot soldiers, suicide bombers and intelligence. The Pakistan army was only beginning to break this netwrok by employing a multi-pronged strategy. And now Qari Zain is assassinated creating fear in the hearts of anyone willing to oppose Baitullah. What it means is that there is no easy victory in sight.

So i guess one day of celebrations and dreams of good old days is all that we can afford. This morning we are back to present which is pretty ugly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Small Ray of Light in the Darkest of Hours

Yesterday the Pakistani Cricket team surprised everyone by defeating South Africa in the semi-final of the T20 World cup in England. In the last 24 hours, the tv channels media have shown unprecedented scenes of joy amongst the Pakistanis at home and abroad.

I have hardly watched a single match of 20-20 format. But its not the game per say but the message that it gives that matters to me. In times of war, suicide bombings, anarchy when everything seems to be falling apart, something good can happen to us. It feels strange becuase there has not been much of good news coming out of Pakistan. Every morning i brace myself for news of someone being blown into pieces somewhere. Everytime when i find myself grieving for these people that i never knew, life seems cruel and tragic. So in times like these, when there is collective fear, paranoia and anxiety all around, a bit of good news feels great. Our cricket team reflects the rest of the society. As everything has declined in the last 2-3 decades, so has cricket. Now all of sudden there is something good to look forward to for people across the vast landscape of this country. The headline news is not about military operations in Swat, suicide attack in Islamabad or ethnic violence in Balochistan. It is about cricket.

Come on Pakistani tigers....just give your best. We all need to only put in our best effort in times like these.