Can Pakistan fight the Taliban with cricket?

June 24th, 2009 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, June 24 (IANS) Pakistan’s victory in the world Twenty20 championship is “the best news” for the trouble-torn country since former president Pervez Musharraf’s exit and gives Pakistanis a new weapon to fight the Taliban, according to a noted Forbes columnist.
“As Pakistan fights for its survival against the barbarian Taliban–who would turn that fragile quasi-democracy into an Islamist state so extreme as to obliterate all girls’ schools from the face of the land–its people find themselves possessed of a weapon with which to vanquish the forces of darkness. I speak here not of drones or tanks or helicopter gunships, but of the glorious game of cricket,” writes Tunku Varadarajan.

Terming Sunday’s cricket victory as “the best news that Pakistanis have had since the departure from power of their military dictator, Pervez Musharraf”, he adds that event only ushered in a long period of uncertainty and violence, while “the former offers clarity, light and a shot at redemption from evil”.

Varadarajan, executive editor for opinions at Forbes, says the cricket win is obviously a monumental boost to a nation drained of all morale. “Besides, my broader point is about much more than morale. Cricket offers an alternative vision of civilisation with which Pakistanis can contrast the viciously bleak program of the Taliban.”

Contrasting cricketing values with those professed by the Taliban, the column asks, “How could cricket survive in a society where boys are not so much immersed as ‘waterboarded’ in the Koran from a tender age; where pleasure is taboo unless it is derived from prayer (and even then one dare not call it pleasure); where music is banned, beards compulsory, cinema anathema, women caged away–where even the flying of kites is a punishable offense.”

Cricket is a potent secular force in Pakistan, says Varadarajan, also a professor at New York University’s Stern Business School and a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Cricket “teaches people that man-made rules can be just, and give satisfaction. It teaches an honour unconnected to religiosity and modesty, tribal slights and vengeance. It teaches that exuberance can be constructive, and that individualism and innovation can be blessings (and, equally, that conservatism can often be dangerous).

“Cricket allows Pakistanis to play against men from other faiths and lands, and to belong with pride to a sporting commonwealth of cricket-playing nations that is a world away from the aridity of the ummah.”

That is why the Islamists in Pakistan “fear cricket, or else they would not have attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year– as a result of which all cricket tours to Pakistan have stopped”.

Varadarajan then goes on to make a “modest proposal”.

“Of the billions of dollars in aid that the US sends Pakistan’s way to fight the Taliban, why not earmark a decent amount to furnish children in all corners of Pakistan with cricket grounds and academies. The war against the Taliban will be won on the playing fields of Lahore… and Peshawar… and Swat.”

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