Umar Akmal: When the going gets tough, the tough... run to 'daddy'?
I still remember how as a young child I said something rude to a cousin of mine, a typical childish remark like,
“I don’t want to play with you, you always whine” or,
“You don’t have any nice toys” or something like that.
When my parents found out, I was not only berated for my rudeness, I was even made to apologise to my cousin with a promise that I would never again be intentionally mean to anyone.
This incident not only helped me being careful of what I say or do for years to come but also made me realise that accountability for one’s actions is an important part of living in this world.
As a six-year-old, I had broken the law of good etiquettes and behaviour. And I was made aware of that and held responsible for my actions. So, today, when I read that Umar Akmal, who had been charged with violating traffic rules and then assaulting a traffic warden, had been cleared of his misdemeanours by an apology made by his father to the police, I was taken aback.
Akmal had been accused of going through a traffic light in Lahore and then, when stopped by the police, he allegedly resorted to insulting and abusing the traffic warden. He was detained at the Gulberg Circle police station for a few hours and then released on a personal surety bond of Rs100,000. He failed to appear at his court hearing on February 27 and yesterday, finally, his father decided to apologise on behalf of his son since Akmal is out of the country for the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup.
To me, all this seems like unnecessary drama. Akmal missed his first opportunity to be held accountable by not accepting his mistake of violating traffic rules. He made it worse by allegedly assaulting the traffic warden and then, adding cherry to the cake, he failed to appear before court.
Unnecessary show of bravado, don’t you think?
In a world where our youth is increasingly exposed to entertainment and social media, their role models are more often sportsmen and celebrities than their own parents and teachers. Hence, celebrities and sportsmen have an even bigger role to play at times than conventional schoolteachers in promoting the difference between right and wrong. Umar has completely failed to do that in this incident. He made his star-status and his ego bigger than his responsibility as a citizen. And unfortunately, that is what the youth of Pakistan will learn from him.
They will learn that it is not only okay to violate laws but also to assault law enforcers. They will learn that they can get away with anything as long as ‘daddy’ comes to their rescue.
Did his father break the rules?
Did he assault the warden?
Did he fail to appear before the court?
Is Umar Akmal a five-year-old child who needs to run to ‘daddy’ to get him out of trouble?
Last I checked… no.
The other day I was reading an article which said that parents, out of love and the ‘parental instinct’ to protect their offspring, often end up not teaching their children survival and stress-management behaviour. We are so inclined to doing ‘the best’ for our child that we forget that parenting also involves letting them fall a few times, taking a few risks, receiving criticism, getting a few scrapes and burns in order to make them stronger, more capable human beings. As a society I feel that we protect our children to such an extent that the minute something goes awry, they lose all control and look desperately about for ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ to swoop in and save the day.
Akmal could have easily avoided all the media hype by acting like a responsible citizen and paying the fine for violating traffic rules. After all, only a few days after this incident, Wasim Akram was fined in the same city for speeding. He paid the fine and walked away a free, and in my opinion, dignified and responsible citizen.
Actions of stars like Akmal have a trickle-down effect on society and especially, a society like ours where 35% of the population is 15-years-old or younger and where formal education and good upbringing is denied to many due to countless economic problems and struggling parents. If this is what our youth will learn from our own sportsmen and celebrities, God help our future generations.
I know critics will bombard me with criticism saying that we have much bigger problems to address in our country than Akmal’s maturity or lack thereof. And while I agree, I also think that issues such as these reflect and affect the social and moral fibre of a society.
The point is not that mistakes cannot be made as that would simply be unrealistic. The point is that mistakes have to be accounted and atoned for. Personally atoned for. Atonement by ‘daddy dear’ is not enough. Not at the age of 23. Not by a star of the nation.
Swagger and egos do not build nations, good character does. Umar Akmal made his star-status and his ego bigger than his responsibility as a citizen, which will affect the youth.