Shahid Afridi is the new poster boy for Pakistan bashing if there can be such a thing. The media is out to crucify him over his contradictory views on India and Indians. After the semi final loss to India, the captain of the Pakistan team graciously conceded defeat after the match and spoke like a harbinger of peace. But once he went back to Pakistan he called Indians petty and small hearted. Apparently he was riled by Gautam Gambhir’s comment that he wanted to dedicate the world cup victory to the victims of 26/11. Afridi interpreted Gambhir’s comment to be political and attempting to show Pakistan in a bad light. The small detail that the world cup final was played in Bombay completely escaped him.
All Indians were hurt and angered by what happened on that fateful day in November in India’s largest metropolis and if one member of the Indian cricket team was moved enough to dedicate the cup to the victims, it does not mean he was being political. Afridi, on the other hand, has emulated a wily politician by changing his stance like a chameleon. But I don’t think we should be hasty in condemning him.
Firstly, there is the man himself. I remember there was a huge controversy about his age when he started to play for Pakistan. Afridi claimed he was 15 and the rest of the world took it with a pinch of salt. I don’t know whether he was as young as that when he started out, but the cricketing establishment in Pakistan was very keen to prove that he was younger than Sachin Tendulkar when the master blaster made his test debut. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and we know where the two cricketers stand today with regard to each other not just where the game is concerned but as human beings too. One has stood up to Bal Thackeray and went on record to say Mumbai is for all Indians. The kindest conclusion we can draw about Afridi’s comments is that he has buckled under pressure exerted by the clergy in Pakistan.
In one of his Initial tours to India after he started playing for his country, Afridi was linked to an upcoming starlet of that time Sonali Bendre. Those days Star TV had a program on Pakistan that was aired on Sundays. Afridi was interviewed in the show and when he was quizzed about the link up, he preened “ Mujhe lagta hai Sonali ne hi mere bare mein yeh afwah faila di.” He sounded juvenile then. He hasn’t grown up much now.
And yet it’s not just about Afridi. It’s about Pakistan. About how an entire nation has just refused to grow up. I love Muslims. I love Urdu. I have huge regard for Islam, the first religion to foster equality. I love their food and I dare say if I ever visited Pakistan I will fall in love with the country too. That’s one country I really want to visit. Despite 26/11. Despite Kargil.
Because we have done a lot of unsavoury things to them as well. It’s like a family feud. If the younger sibling has displayed the occasional delinquent behaviour, we as the older sibling have been too quick to condemn them without getting to the root of the problem. We were hasty in labelling Pakistanis as enemies when the truth is we are family. I guess they carry that hurt and occasionally that leaks out in subversive acts. But how different are we to them? Once upon a time they sucked up to the US. Now we do the same. And the truth is the US took them for a ride and dumped them when it suited their purpose. We don’t need the Wikileaks to tell us Uncle Sam will do the same to us if we let him.
Pakistan has always needed our compassion not our condemnation. We know what one Bal Thackeray can do to the liberal ethos of Bombay. Forget the common man, how even the rich and powerful in the city are forced to play ball with him. Or for that matter what lies behind the progressive facade of Narendra Modi . Pakistan has many such Thackerays and Modis. And the state backs them. We know what’s been happening to liberal politicians in Pakistan opposing the blasphemy laws. They are shot down in cold blood. Even if Afridi wants to he can’t stand up to the bullying.
After all, he is no Tendulkar.