VIEW: Of religion and national pride —Yasser Latif Hamdani - Monday, February 28, 2011

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The world does not trust us anymore to hold international sporting events because our ‘free’ media and ‘independent’ judiciary have inadvertently laid bare the ugliness has that runs deep in our souls as a nation

As the cricket World Cup continues in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, one cannot but lament having missed the opportunity to watch a third World Cup in Pakistan. Those like me who watched the 1987 semi-final and 1996 final in Lahore and later an extraordinary India-Pakistan series in 2004 now watch with a heavy heart as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh display their beautiful cultures and countries while all the world knows about Pakistan is that it is an extremist haven where differences of opinion are settled through bullets, usually 27 or so, aimed at silencing all differing points of view.

Just as well though. After all, our main cricket stadium — which is home to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) headquarters — is not named after our founding fathers or national leaders (unlike in India and Bangladesh). Nor is it named after cricket stars like Imran Khan or Fazal Mahmood. No sir, thanks to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the much-touted ‘Islamic Summit Conference’, our main cricket stadium is named after Colonel Gaddafi, who, whatever his contributions to his country might have been ages ago, is today a tyrant and who has unleashed hell on his own people. Imagine our embarrassment if a World Cup game was to be played at Gaddafi Stadium, while Gaddafi ordered use of mercenary forces to crush the people of Benghazi.

The truth is that while Pakistan is as much culturally diverse and colourful as any of the other countries of the subcontinent, we would have never gotten the opportunity to display such diversity. The picture more likely to be transmitted as Pakistan’s culture would be that of Sunni Tehreek calling for death to Shias and non-Muslims. Already, the conservative government of Punjab, backed by a retrogressive right-wing judiciary, has cracked down on Basant and discontinued the Lahore Marathon — events that were poised to become a permanent feature on international calendars. The excuse for banning Basant is that it causes deaths since the government is incapable of ensuring that the dangerous use of metal wire is curbed. Fair enough, but I propose here and now to the geniuses in the Punjab government and our judiciary to kindly also ban inter alia cars, planes and high-rises. Cars ought to be banned because some drivers overspeed and that causes fatal accidents. Planes ought to be banned because, well, you never know when someone might fall off from behind the landing gear. High-rises ought to be banned because contractors often use substandard building materials and designs and these might collapse in the event of an earthquake. Brilliant logic Messrs Sharifs and company! And then people wonder why the world does not think much of us? There is, of course, never a dull moment in Pakistan, but I am not sure if people visiting Pakistan can always appreciate our indigenous forms of extreme entertainment.

Our very free media has perfected the art of national masochism. Case in point: a certain female TV anchor whose favourite pastime is reading out inciting fatwas on air. Having been fired from one channel for the high-pitched hogwash that she is known for, she now hosts the ‘flagship’ show for another channel. This was to be expected as her new employer is trying to bolster its reputation with the conspiracy theorists by promoting as a political analyst another conspiracy monger who thinks himself an Islamic Che Guevara gearing up for Ghazwa-e-Hind (war against India). Delusions of grandeur and a high pitched squeaky voice is all one needs to be taken seriously in our free media. Anyway, in a recent show, the aforesaid anchor insisted that singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was mistreated and even incarcerated by the Indians after he was found to be carrying foreign exchange in excess of what the Indian laws allow. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan — the alleged victim of Indian nationalist bigotry — corrected her at least four times on the issue by saying that the Indians never arrested him nor did they mistreat him. Coming on the heels of the Veena Malik episode, the way our media has stoked this fire is indicative of a malaise that runs deep.

The short version is that the world does not trust us anymore to hold international sporting events because our ‘free’ media and ‘independent’ judiciary have inadvertently laid bare the ugliness has that runs deep in our souls as a nation. We are increasingly presented as a nation of extremists who are easily riled up in the name of false religious frenzy and national pride. What is more is that we have become victims of our own sick and perverted voyeurism that fuels our media and eggs on our judiciary.

Therefore, for many decades to come, the only tourists Pakistan is likely to receive are either those extremists looking for terrorist training in our Wild, Wild West or CIA contractors in hot pursuit. It is a shame because as a country we have a lot of positives to offer to the world. Instead, we are proud to live in the la-la land where the number of nukes not universities or schools determines our self worth. That too is to be expected because we declared to the world long ago that we would eat grass and make nuclear weapons. Of course it is always the poor and hapless masses that eat grass, never the ruling elite that proclaims such brave lies. In our country, the opium of religion and national pride is never in short supply.

The writer is a lawyer. He also blogs at and can be reached at

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