While the 1.2 billion cricket-crazy Indians were still celebrating the great ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 victory over Sri Lanka, back in Pakistan, Shahid Afridi, the losing captain in the semifinal match against India, hit his moment of truth.
The India-Pakistan encounter in Mohali, India was a historic one between the eternal rivals at the top level of a World Cup semifinal. It naturally had everything: media hype of the highest order, fans’ frenzy and most importantly, efforts of the Indian government to utilize this sporting event for lasting friendship between the two bitter countries. Bilateral talks began on a most cordial note two days prior to the match and on that historic day of March 30, 2011, Yousuf Raja Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, landed at Mohali to watch the match along with his Indian counterpart, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Friendship was the mantra. And, for a change the titanic clash was fought with the warmth of sincere emotions—you could see the smiles and friendly chats or pats all around the field.
That Pakistan lost was just the sporting result. There were theories, post postmortems and analysis about why one won and the other lost. In a most healthy gesture, Pakistani skipper Afridi conceded defeat to an acknowledged better team and apologized publicly to the Pakistani fans back home. Indian fans celebrated and Pakistani fans looked definitely disappointed, but accepted it in sporting spirit.
The moment Afridi went back home, all hell broke loose. He started uttering words extremely contrary to his spirit in the match. He claimed the Indian media is worsening political ties between Pakistan and India, and gave bitterly communal comments about the Indian crowds. Right-minded souls of both countries condemned Afridi for such unnecessary and irresponsible comments. The Indian government lodged an official protest.
The basic question is: Why? This has everything to do with the state of affairs Pakistan has been going through in recent years. A country ravaged by the terrorists, taken to ransom by the Taliban and witnessed by a helpless government. Almost every day, innocent people fall victim to blasts and bullets. Common people here are suffering continuously and are also undergoing the trauma of being labeled a terrorist state.
The terrorists and other militant groups there just do not want the enmity with India to end. Words like “friendship”, “ties”, “talks” and “sports” are anathema to them. From the government to the common people, they are constantly under the oppressive pressure of such violent forces. India always figures prominently in their prime hit list and they want to ensure that anti-India feelings continue to prevail down to the grassroot level. Shahid Afridi being a high profile celebrity can only be more vulnerable to it. His words are manufactured, scripted, designed and forced out of him to serve their designs.
Pakistan continues to be a tragedy of immense proportions for the world and for mankind. It is a live threat to India and other countries set to blow up anytime. Better times can only come if the country is cured of the evils that are taking ominous roots. The international community must take this into consideration for making intense efforts at all levels.
Shahid Afridi’s statements and comments must be seen, interpreted and analyzed in this devastating perspective.