Sunday blues (or greens?)

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain recently used the choicest of derogatory words to describe the women who were part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) dharna (sit-in). His comments regarding PTI leader Shireen Mazari were exceptionally crude. Hussain later apologised to Dr Mazari; his apology was accepted by the latter.

We often say that the South Asian culture is very respectful towards women but that is not necessarily the case. In fact, mostly it is women politicians or women belonging to a politician’s family who are at the receiving end of offensive remarks. Mr Hussain’s is just a recent example but we have seen countless times in the past how leaders have discredited other politicians by attacking women. It is sad to see that usually when there is a fight between political parties and/or leaders, we see character assassination campaigns are launched instead of objective criticism of their politics or policies. If our political leaders cannot learn to respect women, how can we expect their followers to treat women with respect? It is vital for each and every one of us to hold these political leaders answerable for spreading misogyny and reaffirming patriarchal values in a society where gender discrimination is rampant.

In other news, India and Pakistan will play against each other for the sixth time in the World Cup this Sunday (February 15); India has won all five matches (1992, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2011) in the past World Cup tournaments. Millions around the world will be glued to their television screens to watch a contest expected to be the most watched match in cricket history. I have always wondered why it is that when it comes to an Indo-Pak cricket match, even an avowed peacenik like me treats the game as a matter of life and death (figuratively speaking of course).

My friend and journalist Aniket Alam once wrote an interesting piece on spectator sports (‘The Discipline of Spectator Sports’, The Post, March 21, 2007). Alam writes, “It’s not that there is politics in sports, but that spectator sports simulate an important feature of democratic politics — public competition — and thereby become a replacement for real political engagement… Class divided nations, both democracies and tyrannies, by their very structure, need spectator sports for survival since they divert the energy of the people from real political contests into the simulacra of public contests.” Alam says his critique of spectator sports is influenced by Umberto Eco’s writings on the same topic. The case he makes against spectator sports is quite strong and logical but despite that, I know for a fact that I will be cheering for my cricket team on Sunday.

I cannot speak for Indians, but for many of us Pakistanis, cricket is a form of escapism. We are a divided nation when it comes to our political ideologies, religious beliefs, ethnicities, languages and much more, but cricket unites us in a way that nothing else does. Maybe it is this sense of unity that leads to a collective heartbreak when our cricket team loses and a collective celebration when it wins a game. We dismiss the amount of pressure we put on our cricketers — they, too, are human beings after all and are bound to make mistakes. The match on Sunday will surely be a nail-biter and I am not ashamed to say that whatever the outcome of the match, I will be crying — either tears of joy or sorrow. Wishing both teams the best of luck but hoping that Pakistan wins against all odds. Good luck!

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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