EDITORIAL: Cricket mania and borderline hysteria - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\29\story_29-3-2011_pg3_1

Pakistan will face India in the Cricket World Cup 2011 semi-final on Indian soil tomorrow (March 30). In a welcome move, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to come and watch the match with him at Mohali. Prime Minister Gilani has accepted his counterpart’s invitation and will be going to India to watch the semi-final. This is cricket diplomacy at its very best. At a time when the relationship between India and Pakistan is at a low after the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, Dr Singh’s hand of friendship must be appreciated. This is not to say that cricket diplomacy will lead to some big breakthrough but at least it will create a good environment for both countries. Indo-Pak interior secretaries met yesterday for the first round of talks in Delhi. The talks went relatively well as can be seen by the positive statements made by both Indian and Pakistani interior secretaries. Indian Home Secretary G K Pillai termed the talks as “extremely positive” and said that progress was made “in the right direction”. Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman’s comments were no different from Mr Pillai. Mr Zaman said the talks went well and “a very positive attitude displayed on both sides”. This is a good development. It is hoped that the dialogue process between India and Pakistan will not derail again as it has only strengthened the hardliners and not helped the two neighbouring countries at all.

The semi-final on Wednesday will be an exciting one for sure. On both sides of Wagah, emotions are high, passions are rising and the people of subcontinent want their respective side to win. The pressure on both teams is immensely high. Now Interior Minister Rehman Malik has added his two cents to this pressure, which quite frankly our cricket team could have done without. “I had given a warning [on Sunday] that there should be no match fixing. This time I am watching it very closely. If any such thing happens we will take action,” said Mr Malik. He further added, “I should not have revealed but we have put them under strict surveillance, like who are the people meeting our players, with whom they are talking by telephone. It was necessary after what had happened in London. We cannot take any chance.” Just two days before the match, Mr Malik ‘revealed’ that his own team is under suspicion and the state is keeping tabs on them. The media is now grilling our cricketers with regards to Mr Malik’s statement. Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi did not sound too happy with this statement and said, “I do not think he should have said such a thing at such a time.” Mr Afridi is right on the mark here. Did our interior minister not realise what sort of pressure this can put on the team and how demoralising it can be, that too before such an important match? Mr Malik claims that his statement was taken in the wrong context and was actually meant to ‘dent’ the betting mafia. Whatever his reasons, he should not only apologise to the team but should avoid making such provocative statements in the future.

Tomorrow’s match will surely give an adrenaline rush to millions of cricket fans around the globe. The team that plays better on the day will win the game. Cricket cannot get better than this. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Strained relations

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanked the Pakistan government for its cooperation in the release of CIA operative Raymond Davis. The Davis episode had further strained the relations between the US and Pakistan. Ms Clinton admitted in an interview that the US had “a very difficult relationship” with Pakistan “because there have been some problems”. She was obviously referring to the war in Afghanistan where the US-led NATO troops are fighting the Taliban. Pakistan, despite being a frontline ally of the US in the war on terror, is known for supporting the Afghan Taliban. This has ruffled the feathers of our western allies who want Pakistan to end this double game. In our quest for ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, we continue to outwit our own allies by our contradictory posture on the Afghan Taliban.

On the other hand, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman has expressed regret over the death of civilians after a drone strike in North Waziristan this month. It was for the first time that Pakistan’s army chief, General Kayani, publicly condemned the drone attack, calling it “unjustified and intolerable”. While there may have been some civilian casualties, the way every drone strike is made into an issue of ‘sovereignty’ is a bit bizarre. Drone strikes are fairly accurate and are carried out after Pakistani intelligence agencies point out a militant target. So this claim that every drone strike leads to civilian deaths does not stand up to scrutiny. The reason for our recent rage, especially the military’s, in the case of this month’s North Waziristan strike could be that this time around, the US used its own intelligence to carry out the attack. It is quite possible that members of the Haqqani network were targeted and subsequently killed. Since Pakistan’s military is providing a safe haven to the Haqqanis, the reason for our ‘outrage’ is clear. US drone strikes in Afghanistan have been criticised by President Karzai who says that every time an innocent is killed, the resentment against foreign occupation increases.

Mr Grossman also said that the purpose of US’s relationship with Pakistan is to “make Pakistanis more secure and to make Pakistanis more prosperous”. Well, it is good to see that the US has finally remembered the Pakistani nation. In the past, the US has only been concerned with supporting military dictators in our country. After Mr Obama came to power, things changed to a certain extent but even now the US government is reluctant to give aid money directly to our civilian government and has not been able to find reliable NGOs either to disburse the money under the Kerry-Lugar Act. In the light of the tensions that arose over Davis and drone attacks, perhaps that is a programme that needs to be speeded up so development takes place in Pakistan and our people get some relief. *

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