When it comes to Pakistan, it wouldn’t be correct to claim that I’m entirely a dove. This is not because I’m so on top of affairs in that country that I can rattle off good reasons for this wariness—I barely know what’s going on in my own head, let alone theirs—but because I have, through a combination of scanning the headlines and osmosis, developed the general impression that one should trust, but verify. Which is another way of saying that on no account should one believe a word spoken by those double-crossing so-and-sos.
These days, though, my stony little heart goes out to the place. Pakistan is having what you might call a bad hair day, if you were to think of ‘hair’ as ‘everything’ and ‘day’ as many long years, and especially if you were given to epic understatement. You know all those people in the Bible who wander the world being blighted beyond belief? That’s what Pakistan reminds me of these days. Dawn columnist Kamran Shafi put it best in a piece with the self-explanatory title ‘Disaster after ignominy after disaster’. That sort of sums it up nicely. Let me stress that I’m talking here about my stony little heart going out to Pakistan the people, not Pakistan the state.
As if it weren’t enough that the country is generally reviled around the world for nurturing and exporting terrorism, and for diverting war-on-terror money into nefarious alternative projects, and for double-crossing their own allies, and for Kargil, and for stonewalling India on the 26/11 attacks, and for political screwiness that makes us look good, they have now been dealt this monstrous flood, in which vast numbers of people who have nothing to do with the shenanigans of their lousy leaders have suffered death, destruction, and general all-out calamity. That, while one of their preeminent lousy leaders sips champagne in Europe.
And in a situation like that, when your world is falling apart, and your faith in the world is worn a little thin, might you not look to the Pakistani cricket team’s matches in England for a little pick-me-up, since cricket is the other religion you care about? Actually, when you’re burying your children and trying not to drown, you probably couldn’t care less about cricket. But assuming you and your family are on dry ground, saved by luck or circumstance, cricket might be one of the saving graces about being Pakistani.
Did someone say Pakistani cricket? Oh. Er.
It’s not the walloping that the team got in England that we’re talking about, of course, but the marrow-curdling shame of being caught spot-fixing (as opposed to just the fact of spot-fixing, which in this part of the world is perfectly acceptable if you don’t get caught).
If ever there was a country that didn’t need more bad press, this is it, this is it, this is it. If I were a Pakistani, I’d be thinking about last straws. In fact, I’m thinking about last straws even though I’m not a Pakistani. It’s not a case of schadenfreude. I really do think they deserve better than what they’re dealing with. When a country is on its knees, you figure it can’t get any worse, and then it does. It ends up prone on the floor, and you figure that now it can’t get any worse. And then it does. It’s tragic.
Maybe Pakistan’s stars are just temporarily out of whack. Maybe one can have a bad hair day that lasts a decade, and come out sunny side up. Whatever it is, I wish them the best of luck. They need it.