That Sinking Feeling
A day after the terrible attacks on Sri Lanka cricketers in Pakistan, the emotion has perhaps settled a little, but the strange sense of hopelessness has not. As I sit today reading through the details coming in through various outlets, it feels that there is no way you can be ready for this despite 60+ years of terrorism. And while I grow weary at the renewed finger pointing across the border (haven’t we had enough of that in the last 4 months?), a couple of things don’t make sense to me at all
1) Why would the terrorists, who have unashamedly killed innocent women and children before, have any qualms about killing high profile cricketers? If their intent is to destabilize the ruling powers, anyone is fair game. So where does the confidence on cricketers being safe, come from?
2) Why is it important to stage cricket games to prove a point? When did cricketers become diplomats or statesmen for their countries? And what if the tour had gone without incident? All it proves, and has proved in the past, is that the security was tight or the terrorists didn’t think it worthy enough of their time. It doesn’t automatically make Pakistan a safer place, nor does it force other countries to reverse their decisions. This leaves the door open to just one disturbing possibility – money.
The Indian team luckily or prudently decided not to tour Pakistan. And the thought of seeing Tendulkar’s and Dhoni’s name substituted for Samaraweera and Paranavithana fuels the worst of what-if fears in us. However, the biggest losers in this are Pakistan cricket and the state of Pakistan as a whole. And somehow, I feel sad for the people living in the country; saddled with the worst of regimes, facing the worst of uncertainties, and living in fear of the worst of the backlashes from the rest of the world.
Several years back, when I was still in university, I had the pleasure of having a Pakistani as my neighbor. Now like the average Indian who viewed their country through the same blood tainted lens the politicians paint for us, I was a little vary and perhaps remained even a little distant to him. However like all guys in general we bonded one day over a glass of vodka (which I was surprised that he was willing to drink despite his religion), a guitar and a lot of good food. And while discussing various topics in general, we inevitably came to the subject of tensions between our countries. And he made a few points that touched me immensely. He said, “I am proud to be a Pakistani, yet there is no one who appreciates that”. “People here in the US have sympathy for the Iraqi, muted admiration or fascination for the Iranian and are just in plain awe of the Indians and Chinese. But when I mention that I am a Pakistani, they reserve their contempt masked by patronizing dismissal only for us”. And he continued by saying that one day, he wanted to see his own country stand tall for its achievements and not its dubious relationships. He said that the average Pakistani is yearning to be a citizen of the world and not unofficially belong to the official “Axis of Evil”. And finally I asked him if he would ever marry an American and he said he would, if she would convert to Islam. What about an Indian? He said he could never return to his country. And that saddened me because I might have given the same answer regarding marriage to a Pakistani. As much as we would like to break our shackles, we still feel incredibly burdened by our past.
That is precisely why I don’t feel the necessity to call out the hollowness of calls to visit the country. Neither do I want to succumb to the urge to wrap this situation in an incredibly funny yet disturbing way. Because the fault does not lie with the people making these calls. Because as much as we are led to believe that Pakistan’s failure lies in harboring and nurturing terrorism, that notion is fundamentally wrong. Their failure lies in its inability to give the average citizen the opportunity to flourish and prosper in this world. Its failure lies in its inability to clearly define a vision for its country. And its failure lies in ignoring the basic pillars that build a successful state of governance – education, infrastructure and economy. By allowing the military to rule the roost at the forefront or behind the scenes, they pretty much guaranteed that they would always make the wrong friends – the Taliban, or make friends for the wrong reasons – the USA.
And not all countries are completely successful at containing terrorism and unrest. India’s extreme economical progress masks a lot of its own problems with the Hindu fundamentalists and Naxalites. Even the USA with all its mighty technology and prosperity could do nothing to contain the widespread crime, rioting and looting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Eventually, when you remove hope from a person, he/she very rapidly descends down a path of destruction. Now apply that to a significant majority of a country’s population and you get one giant terrorist state.
In the wake of these attacks, it is obviously easy to want to isolate Pakistan from the rest of the world. However an isolated Pakistan is not only ripe for the taking for the likes of JeM, LeT, Harkat and the Taliban, but it also means that India would become the new Israel – having Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Sri Lanka as our neighbors.
And that possibility is a lot more disturbing than the current state of affairs.
That Sinking Feeling
- » Published on March 04, 2009
- » Type: Opinion
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