COMMENT: Unity, faith, discipline and cricket —Gulmina Bilal Ahmad - Friday, March 25, 2011

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COMMENT: Unity, faith, discipline and cricket —Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
The same rejuvenation of morale is required in our nation, as was present on March 23, 1940 and perhaps which has been adopted by our cricket team unknowingly. This same fervour has to be implanted in the entire Pakistani public, where the lead will have to be taken by the leadership to set an example

The nation celebrated March 23 with jubilation and fervour this year. This is not just a statement that accompanies the very next day after every anniversary of this historical event, the passing of the Pakistan Resolution; instead this time the sentiments went beyond the usual expressions of nationalistic pride. Every year since 1940, this day has been celebrated to remember the aspirations and goals of our leaders and nation, which led to the formation of our country. The difference this time was the quarterfinal match of the much celebrated Cricket World Cup 2011, between Pakistan and the West Indies. The scheduling of this important match on this date has been termed as nothing less than a divine intervention by many. Add to this the style in which Pakistan won and the celebrations that followed, which, if not unprecedented, were quite heartwarming. From drawing rooms to tea stalls and the entire media, the only thing that was being discussed was the excellent performance and team work showed by the Pakistani cricketers during the match. Pakistani people needed to hear good news and this was just it. It was as if all our problems had been solved by one winning stroke of our players.

Seventy-one years ago on this very date and time, our leaders gathered on a single platform and decided to embark on a journey that resulted in the independence of our country seven years later. Our leaders had a vision, they concentrated on team work, gathered the whole nation behind them, set aside their differences and endeavoured towards a single goal. No matter what ethnicity, sect or religion these people belonged to, they held on together and also empowered the nation for the achievement of Pakistan. This was the same spirit that was observed after seven decades in a country which has been based on the foundations of ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’. Add cricket to this formula and voila! One has the perfect formula to cure a nation that has been plagued with terrorism, economic recession and radicalisation. Our cricket had been suffering from various ills, scandals and indiscipline while coming into this World Cup, but something happened, which can be termed as unprecedented.

The Pakistani cricket team has suddenly risen up from the ashes, as favourites for winning the tournament. Their bowling, batting and fielding has improved tenfold and most important of all they seem to have realised that they are not just playing for Pakistan but are representing it. They are finally showing their form as one team and the match-winning performances are not of a single person, but a team effort. They are not playing out of fear of repercussions and reprisals, but with a vision and zeal, which has been lacking since 1999. This invigoration of morale has made Pakistan a serious contender for the title in the eyes of every sports analyst and cricket team.

On March 23 this year, the roads were empty, as people had cancelled all their trips (planned due to a national holiday), the shops and markets, although open, were presenting a deserted look and the shopkeepers even more disinterested in attending to any customer. Families, friends, co-workers, everyone gathered around their television sets or radio and were following the match religiously. There were arrangements made to view the match on big screens and the youth especially flocked to these places, to support and cheer for their team. There was an unprecedented turnout and it was not on the call of a mullah or any other political party following their vested agendas, but it was for Pakistan. The buzzword was “Pakistan” and “cricket”, not Raymond Davis, Aafia Siddiqui, blasphemy law or khilafat (caliphate). People gathered not just for their interest in sports but to show their support for their beloved team, playing in this World Cup. The match might have been termed as one-sided by commentators and analysts but the public followed each and every ball till the very end. It was as if Pakistan had not just qualified for the semi-finals, but won the World Cup itself.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for our political parties, the leadership and the mullahs. The people are fed up of the violence and poverty engulfing the country and are looking for a saviour. Our cricket team seems to be their envisaged saviour for now, as they carry on their winning spree, creating records and accepting their well earned praise. The point to ponder is what happens next. If a young cricket team can glue the nation to the TV sets and bring them on a single platform, why have our politicians and policy makers failed to do so? Our nation has always come out united in the face of every crisis, whether it is the earthquake of 2005 or the floods of 2010; our people have always been at the forefront to assist their brethren. But these sentiments have never been channelised towards progressive development of the country; instead they have been allowed to die down in the face of rising extremism and political bashing.

Our leadership should know by now that they will have to bring their business in order if they want to gain the trust of the Pakistani people. They should stop their hypocrisy and address the genuine problems and dangers facing the country. The people will come out on their calls, only if the agenda is not to score political points and actually is an honest step towards addressing a genuine problem. The same rejuvenation of morale is required in our nation, as was present on March 23, 1940 and perhaps which has been adopted by our cricket team unknowingly. This same fervour has to be implanted in the entire Pakistani public, where the lead will have to be taken by the leadership to set an example. The country’s leadership will have to set aside their differences and learn to resolve issues through dialogue rather than inflaming sentiments and dividing our nation into ethnic, political and religious groups. They will have to gather on one platform and address the issues of poverty, terrorism, extremism, education and non-availability of infrastructure. It is guaranteed that as people flocked to support their team on this March 23, they will also flock in the very same manner to support every sincere step taken by our leadership.

The writer is an Islamabad-based development consultant. She can be reached at

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