Like any die hard cricket fan, either home or abroad, I was glued to my laptop screen at 4 in the morning in Australia when Pakistan created history and won its third major ICC trophy at Oval in England against arch-rivals India.
I don’t think I have missed many Pakistani cricket matches – be it T20s, ODIs or Tests — irrespective of time zones and broadcast times; and this victory seemed to make all those years of never missing a game worth it.
Also, like any fan, the victory was followed by me tuning into various local new channels and checking my twitter feed – solely for the purpose of basking in the glory of celebration and pro-Pakistan tweets.
As expected, Twitter had already erupted with everyone – from common Pakistanis to cricketers, celebrities and politicians – expressing joy over Pakistan’s victory.
Yet, in all this glory, pride and excitement, there were a few ‘buzz-kill’ moments as well, mostly down to politics and political affiliations.
First and foremost was Imran Khan; cricketer turned hero turned politician. Khan, though congratulated the team on its win, ruined his felicitations by mentioning ‘corruption’ in the same tweet, making the whole affair political.
Similarly, PML-N was not far behind. Abid Sher Ali, a prominent member of the party, wrote that “everyone in the country is happy that Pakistan has won except Imran Khan. He thought only he was good enough to get a trophy for Pakistan. Sad 4 him.”
Both Khan and Ali, yet again, proved that politics takes precedence over public joy.
It was not only politicians who tried taking brownie points in the whole affair as journalists and media personnel also joined it. Interestingly, some media personnel were more focused on Najam Sethi, Kashmir, and Balochistan.
Where Sethi has been the target of PTI and cricket fans whenever Pakistan loses, he also gets strong support from certain sections of the media when Pakistan wins.
This is where, even after the win, cricket is the loser. Why are individuals more important than the game, or even the system?
Where the focus of the win should solely be on this historic achievement of the cricket team, it has diverted to politics, politicians, and people in charge of public and cricket affairs.
But highlight of the day, unfortunately for me as a cricket fan, was how Kashmir – and to some extent Balochistan – was used by both Pakistan and India after the win.
A number of Pakistani Twitter handles, especially those from the media, shared how Kashmiris celebrated Pakistan’s win. To no surprise, India reciprocated. It seemed as if it was Indian media’s perfect diversion and excuse in wake of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Pakistan.
The India media, laden with jingoism and ultranationalism, had predicted that the final in Oval was a mere formality for the Indian cricket team. But after India’s defeat and scenes of celebration in Kashmir, Indian channels diverted their focus towards Kashmir and indulged in shouting matches, seemingly venting as a reaction of defeat.
I don’t think it would be fair on my part to talk for or against Kashmir. Yet, it seems unfair that media in both the countries is using the disputed territory for its own media and political mileage.
I have had the privilege of meeting many Kashmiris (from the Indian side) during my time abroad. A significant number of them were either neutral, asking for an independent homeland, or wished to stay with India. I don’t think this can be claimed as a representative sample, yet, even if it is, Indian media’s actions and narrative would nothing but disenfranchise such sections in the Kashmiri society.
Kashmir wasn’t alone in the twitter limelight. There were also barrages of tweets on how “Balochistan celebrated Pakistan’s victory”. For me, such tweets and their focus was strange as it only goes to show our insecurities towards the province. Special attention on Balochistan was somewhat mindboggling. If, as claimed, everything is under control in the province, why was there a need to send ‘a certain message to a certain someone soon after the victory’?
Also, the Indian state was not far behind in politicising the whole affair. There were dozens of arrests of individuals and groups celebrating Pakistan’s win in the country. With Modi’s current wave of ultranationalist politics, instances such as these were hardly a surprise.
So the question arises for Pakistan and Pakistanis; Why not just enjoy the victory, take pride in the achievement, and focus on development of the game in the country?
Sport has no boundaries; if a fan from either country supports a player or even the whole opposition team, it is their right to do so. And thus, politics should never mix with sport.