CWG: Aisam, or the flag tussle?

We are collectively less focused on the players themselves and more preoccupied with issues of national embarrassment and how to deal with them.

Sarah Elahi October 07, 2010
Now that the Commonwealth Games have finally begun, we are collectively less focused on the players themselves and more preoccupied with the issues of national embarrassment and how to deal with it.

Although the internationally-televised tussle between the Sindh Sports Minister and nominated flag-bearer Shujajuddin Malik was indeed mortifying on some levels, does it really deserve the time and energy we have spent discussing it?

Sports have the potential to unite the country in the worst of times. While civil wars and political divides threaten to tear the country apart, a cricket victory or thoughtful speech by a tennis star can provide us with rare moments of national pride. Since the spot-fixing cricket scandal, we are rightly hopeful that Pakistani athletes will do us proud in other sports arenas. We are rightly indignant that an accomplished athlete was denied a chance to carry the flag. However, I believe our indignation stems less from the fact of his being accomplished than from the fact that his spotlight was stolen by a politician.

Pakistan has seen difficult times before in its short history, but in my lifetime, national morale has never seemed so low. Mistrust of politicians is running high and there is a palpable frustration with the current administration. Perhaps if this incident had happened at a different time, a time when our patience with the government was not at breaking point, it would not have received half as much attention in the media. Perhaps if the person who had stolen the flag from Malik was not a politician, we would have played it down a bit more. As it stands, however, it has become yet another symbol of politicians who want to steal everything from us.

However justified our embarrassment may be, however, I believe in another context it might have been something we could be capable of moving past. For the sake of our athletes who are out there representing us right now, let’s try and embrace that context, one in which we simply roll our eyes at ministers’ antics and cheer for what is important. The minister in this case should be punished, but so should many ministers for far more serious infractions. Let’s not confuse sports and politics, at least for the few days of the Commonwealth Games.  Our athletes rightly deserve media attention for what they have achieved, rather than what was taken from them.
Sarah Elahi A graduate of Mount Holyoke College who works with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


critic | 13 years ago | Reply I don't think 'pay(ing) greater attention to our embarrassment', as you put it, takes away from doing the same for our pride. I think this nation was, is and always will be fairly good at taking pride in things as and when it's deserved (and even when it isn't). In any case, pride shouldn't be considered some sort of national virtue.
kamran Ashraf | 13 years ago | Reply Dear Ms Elahi i understand what you're saying but i submit that the particular incident deserved to be outlined every bit as much as it has been. And why? because of all the reasons you've already put forth. The mistrust of office holders among the people and the shameless sense of entitlement these office holders display in our politics and other facets of life. As far as how little we might have cared about this incident, if the social and political climate was better, that implies that the office holders of our nation would not have such over blown sense of entitlement and something like this will perhaps not happen anyway. And as for the embarrassment you feel ( or we may feel), i submit that it is not you who should be embarrassed. We could only be embarrassed if we start confusing forgoing our rightful anger at such episodes with forgiveness. Mr Shah has apologized and we should move on but begrudgingly.
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