Like everyone, the devil inside me pushes the mind to cheat, be it in an exam or cutting a long queue at an immigration desk. Why I refuse to fall prey to the devil has little to do with my sense of righteousness, it is an overwhelming fear of being caught. Remove that fear, and I might end up cheating. The twist to this logic is that if I get away with it the first time, I’ll be bolder the second time; it’s human nature.
This is why in Pakistan the influential elite fearlessly waltz through every sense of order, blatantly challenging authority, knowing their elevated status in society prohibits them from getting caught. Lest they accidentally fall through the cracks, a few bribes are enough to get them back in action. Discipline is kept in check with the imminent fear of being caught, remove that fear and chaos will overwhelm the community.
What happened to Zulqarnain Haider on the morning of that crucial decider in Dubai remains shrouded in mystery — he flew to London seeking protection from an army of bookies in the UAE and Pakistan. What most agree upon is that the perceived threat to him was severe enough that he abandoned the game without reporting to the team management, the governing cricketing body or even the Dubai police, all of whom he did not trust.
Step into his shoes for a moment — an all-powerful betting mafia asks him to underperform, with over 13 cameras focused on his every move, transmitting live to millions of viewers across the world. It requires a poker face and b**ls of steel to cheat in such circumstances. A difficult task for an inexperienced cheater to pull off, as guilt would be plastered all over his face. This request came hot in the footsteps of a serious investigation already underway where three fellow cricketers were caught underperforming on camera.
It was probably in London while talking to authorities that Haider may have first learnt about the term whistleblower, a person whose consciousness refuses to be part of a corrupt system and compels him to report to authorities. Many a times, the whistleblower carefully plans his exit strategy, collecting a detailed breadcrumb trail of evidence, leveraging it for his protection after shit hits the fan. Zulqarnain planned nothing as such, he came under pressure and ran purely on emotion, a phone log and a panicked series of stories — it’s his word against theirs. Did he expect to be awarded asylum on that basis? I believe his mind barely thought through this plan with such intricate detail, he merely went searching for someone to trust and some authority who would not feed him back to the hawks.
Zulqarnain refused to sell his motherland to the highest bidder — was this an act of patriotism or for the fear of being caught? Either way, we must support such people. By disgracing Zulqarnain we have set a precedence to say that Pakistanis will ridicule anyone who tries to be honest and patriotic, while showering accolades to those who are corrupt, even electing them to the highest office of the state. We must cleanse those involved in the betting menace. If that is difficult, then turn up the heat enough so that it needs b**ls of steel to cheat the system. But please don’t disgrace attempts by people at being honest.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2010.