Murray Walker, the renowned British sports commentator who had once said – you can cut the tension with a cricket stump – should be thinking to retract his verbatim. Murray had probably said this in a South Asian context knowing well that cricket, the white man’s British burden, can unburden South Asian tension especially between India and Pakistan. Till March 3, his statement was considered a witty and convincing idiom in the dictionary of cricket commentary. The Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team will change the language of cricket commentary forever.
The audacious broad daylight attack on Sri Lankan cricketers marks the beginning of cocktail terrorism in South Asia. The so-called ‘Jihad’ merged with modern day accessories popularised by Hollywood culture: sneakers, backpacks, big guns etc. The attack was the Pakistan’s Mumbai moment. The Mumbai syndrome has finally travelled to the place from where it had actually originated. The syndrome has spread like epidemic among a few home-grown bedbugs that have begun the task of eating up Pakistan; making it hollow from the inside.
Pakistan has suffered the fate of United States of America. It has been struck by the men with whom it had mushroomed and sympathised for years. The bad boys in the backyard have gone out of control. The parallel with United States is strikingly similar. The world’s lone superpower has a history of sympathising with ‘bad boys’ all across the world.
In 1970s and 80s, United States, armed and funded Muslim militants fighting against 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan; popularly known as Afghan Jihad. The American money and arms were directed and channalised through Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency ISI. Osama bin Laden is the American product of Afghan Jihad. The concept of jihad was legitimised and widely propagated as long as it suited America’s foreign policy. Afghan jihad was merely an extended exercise to contain America’s only rival: Russia. America’s love for mujahideen diminished the moment Russia withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. The point worth-noting here is this: Muslims still call this war as jihad while in American lexicon this was merely a cold-war exercise!
America’s understanding of the word ‘jihad’ improved with the 9/11. The men who allegedly flew planes into World Trade Centre followed a tradition long supported by the America. This was the first time that Americans experienced the biting of the feeding hand. Pakistan is undergoing the same phase for quite sometime now.
Cricket is a unifying game; the antithesis of the word ‘Partition’, an Afro-Asian phenomenon. Pakistan was always famous for the two things: Cricket and hospitality. These two assets were some of the positive elements that bound Pakistan to the rest of the world. A single attack has eroded the credibility of both. Jinnah (the Qaud-e-Azam) would have wept over this; Asif Ali Zardari does not even have tears. Pakistan is not a failed state; it has been paralysed by its leaders. It neither became an ideal Islamic state nor a model secular nation. Isn’t it a classical paradox of the Indian subcontinent? Pakistan has always dangled between autocratic theocracy and corrupt democracy.
Pakistan was born on the basis of a divisive idea called Partition. Partition has been the fate of this Indian blood brother separated at birth. 1947 was merely the beginning whose end is not in sight. 1971 saw the second partition of Pakistan which resulted into the birth of a new nation called Bangladesh. Pakistan has witnessed many partitions after the creation of Bangladesh. The third quite partition took place in North West Frontier Post where tribalism is the order of the day. The fourth partition began among murmur and metamorphosed into an uproar when Pakistan entered into an agreement with Taliban in Swat valley. If the first four partitions were physical, the fifth partition is ideological in nature. It is taking place inside Pakistan; implemented by the men carrying Kalashnikovs on their shoulders.
The crisis of failed leadership has plagued Pakistan for years. Pakistanis are fed up of new promises of the old faces. Corrupt leaders have provided vacuum for not only fundamentalists but also Army Generals. General Pervez Musharraf was tolerated for 8 long years because patriotism comes easily to army uniforms. The current political dispensation is not led by pious men. Pakistan is the world’s only country headed by “two former convicts.” It was the crisis of failed leadership that forced Fatima Bhutto to remark that “Pakistan remains a rich and diverse country held hostage to a government chock full of ill-equipped and unqualified carpetbaggers.”
The Lahore attack will have far-reaching consequences notably in South Asia which is witnessing a stream of violence. A cursory glance on the map of South Asia will make one’s blood freeze. Sri Lanka is engaged in a dangerous war against LTTE; an organisation dubbed as “terrorist” by United States but yet long supported by India. Bangladesh has just awakened to the horrors of an army rebellion unparalleled in the history of South Asia. Nepal has been a victim of Maoist violence. India faces a real threat to its internal security from Naxals who control at least 140 Indian districts. Pakistan – which should have become a land of the pure – has become a nightmare for men of purity. It has become “an international migraine” to borrow Madeline Albright’s words.
The body of South Asian does not merely suffer from a minor injury. It suffers from the cancer of violence which threatens to paralyse the entire body. The US and UN – famous for administering injection of reform – have done very little to restore the confidence of people in South Asia.
Coming back to cricket, one question that has baffled security experts and analysts is this: why did terrorists choose Sri Lankan cricket team which took a bold initiative of touring Pakistan amidst grave threat? Sri Lankan cricket team had gone to Pakistan perhaps to prove that law and order still reign supreme in a feudal country. They have been permanently proved wrong by a bunch of ‘bad boys’.
So why did terrorists target a cricket team?
The answer is truly European. The terrorists were perhaps inspired by the 18th century Irish poet called Oscar Wilde who breathed his last in the year 1900. Oscar Wilde didn’t like the idea of playing cricket because of the “indecent” cricket postures. He had once said,
“I never play cricket. It requires one to assume such indecent postures.”
Both Oscar Wilde and the terrorists who fired at the Sri Lankan cricket team shared the same point of view. The former employed his wit to express it while the latter believed in the weapon.
Sunday Inquilab, March 8, 2009