After having separated in 1947, Pakistan and India still act like a divorced couple unable to sit together and act with civility. If there is one place where the animosity was able to generate heated passion, it was on the cricket field. Shiv Sena’s latest antics have forced the cancellation of talks between the Pakistani and Indian cricket boards, sending out the reminder that no matter how much officials on both sides try to pursue civil ties, there will always be obstacles put up by extremists, which seem to have developed the power to dictate how bilateral ties play out. Shiv Sena activists were able to force their way inside the BCCI office where Pakistani officials were supposed to gather, indicating the ease with which they were able to enter the premises without being stopped. This raises questions for Indian authorities, which probably saw something like this coming, but were unable to stop it.
Cancellation of concerts, the marring of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch and threats to Aleem Dar indicate how the Shiv Sena has been allowed to dictate terms. While cricket fans may want sport to remain a sphere separate from politics, sadly it never is. Politics inevitably finds itself a seat in the stands. This is disappointing for millions, who want a resumption of bilateral cricket ties, and we hope that one day India and Pakistan can engage in battle on the field, without letting extremists dictate the agenda. However, the PCB needs to realise that India, being a cricketing powerhouse, doesn’t need a series with Pakistan as much as we need a series with India, and there comes a time when other options should be explored. The PCB needs to look beyond a series with India, and towards other ways of generating a financial windfall. The BCCI has displayed long-standing reluctance to resume bilateral ties, even before the Shiv Sena hooliganism took centre stage. While we should be ready to play India whenever the BCCI reviews its stance, perhaps, for now, the PCB should take a step back from actively pursuing the BCCI to resume bilateral ties.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2015.
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