View From The Neighbourhood: Cricket, a symptom

Aakash Joshi
Pakistan’s Sarfaraz Ahmed reacts after a chance to run centurion Rohit Sharma out was missed by Fakhar Zaman. Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Irfan Hussain, in his June 22 column in Dawn, asks the question that many in and from Pakistan have articulated since the countries seventh straight World Cup defeat to India: Why has the Indian cricket team improved while Pakistan has declined? Compared to the agile, athletic Indian team, our boys came across as unfit and lacking focus and intensity. Our captain was all paunch and no punch, writes Hussain.

But the decline of the cricket team, as central to Pakistan s public life and political imagination as it is in India, represents failures on two fronts. First, according to Hussain, is the rot in the sport s administration and structuring: The last 40 years or so have witnessed a steady fall in games played at school and college level. Street cricket has replaced the organised version. And while some talent has come through, by and large, we no longer produce world-class batsmen and bowlers as we once did And it s true that for corporations and government departments to have their own teams is an anomaly that exists nowhere else as far as I know. However, if the current setup is replaced by teams representing districts and provinces, funding would be a big concern.

The second aspect, the article highlights, is far more salient. Expecting excellence in cricket, it says, while so much else is crumbling around us is unreasonable. Cricket is a symptom of a country where constant squabbling between institutions, a tendency to centralise power, and a need to seek personal benefits at the cost of the common good have become the norm.

Hussain writes that connecting the dots, at the heart of this developing crisis is the disaster our educational system has become . Since Zia ul-Haq s administration, after the nationalisation drive in education and other state institutions, two generations of Pakistanis have been subject to Islamisation , and its effects are visible across institutions.

Deep state dreams

Moonis Ahmar, an international relations scholar, conjectures in The Express Tribune (June 21) on India s emerging deep state . He defines the idea as a state where some of the state institutions like the military and intelligence agencies run the affairs of the country and prevent any dissent or opposition to the state narrative. It can also be called as a state within a state. The article is in keeping with many of the newspapers recent contributions on India, theorising its imminent decline as a liberal democracy.
While in the past, India s persity, institutions, vibrant civil society, the possibility of a deep state emerging was remote. That, argues Ahmar, has changed in the recent past. In something of a conspiracy theory, Ahmar gives three indicators centred around a somewhat far-fetched nexus between the RSS, the Intelligence Bureau and the rise of Hindu nationalism to substantiate his point. He also argues that the role of the Indian Army today in the policymaking process is not submissive as it has several times vetoed the decision of its prime ministers, particularly related to Pakistan.

With the weightage given to the Indian military and the security establishment, India is fast moving towards becoming a deep state at the expense of its democratic institutions, concludes the article.

Refugee day kudos

The editorial in The Dhaka Tribune on June 20 is rather self-congratulatory, perhaps understandably so. Since Bangladesh began to bear the brunt of the Rohingya crisis in terms of fleeing refugees, the newspaper s editorial line has consistently made two points: One, that the Bangladesh government must not be alone in handling the crisis; the international community must chip in. And two, that pressure must be put on the Myanmar government to normalise the situation in Rakhine state, ending the ethnic violence so that those that have had to flee with their lives are able to return.

The editorial says: The prominence with which such crises take place all over the world is saddening, and is nothing short of an insult to the humanity we owe our fellow human beings. But there are instances where humanity did come first. Nowhere is this more evident than in Bangladesh, where over a million Rohingya have taken shelter, having fled the brutality of the Myanmar army, which has used every deplorable act possible against them to ethnically cleanse the region of the Rohingya population. No doubt, Bangladesh has emerged as an example of generosity and humanity in this regard, tackling what is by any means among the greatest refugee crisis of contemporary times.