Archive for March 19th, 2011

Pakistan Snaps Australia’s 34-Match Unbeaten Run

By Shihar Aneez for The Los Angeles Times

Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in the Cricket World Cup dating back to 1999 was finally broken by Pakistan on Saturday when Ricky Ponting’s team were beaten by four wickets.

Australia, who have won the last three World Cups during the run and were unbeaten in five matches in Group A in this tournament, were skittled out for 176.

Pace bowler Brett Lee raised hopes of an Australian fightback when he got rid of opener Mohammad Hafeez in the third over but his haul of four for 28 could not prevent Pakistan from cruising to victory with 54 balls to spare.

“We certainly had a tough game today. We didn’t do ourselves any favours. I thought our batting effort was particularly ordinary,” said Ponting, who suffered his first World Cup defeat as captain.

“We stuck at it really well with the ball. I thought the guys bowled really well and gave ourselves a bit of a sniff when we got them six down but not enough runs on the board.”

Saturday’s result threw the tournament wide open as there is no undefeated team left in the competition heading into next week’s knockout stages.

Australia had already qualified for the quarter-finals but will now finish third in the group rather than top, a place now occupied by Pakistan.

“It’s a different sort of enjoyment playing against Australia. They may be World Champions but there was no pressure on us so we pulled it off today,” Umar Akmal said after finishing unbeaten on 44.

Ponting’s men struggled for momentum through out their innings after opting to bat first.

Pakistan’s pace and spin attack, backed up by sharp fielding, never allowed the Australian batting to settle down.

A 63-run second wicket stand between Brad Haddin (42) and Ponting (19), who failed once again with the bat, was the only notable partnership in the Australian innings.

Michael Clarke (34) and Steve Smith (25) were the only other batsmen to make any worthwhile contributions on a difficult surface that offered spin and some uneven bounce which the Australian batsmen failed to cope with.

Paceman Umar Gul (3-30) bowled superbly with both the new and the old ball for the 1992 champions, who were the last team to defeat Australia in a World Cup match in 1999.

Gul made the first breakthrough by bowling Shane Watson for nine and returned to clean up the tail by taking the wickets of Jason Krezja and Lee.

Shahbaz Bhatti, Modern Day Martyr in Pakistan

By Terry Mattingly for The Pocono Record

In the early days of Christianity, martyrs often gave their final testimonies of faith to Roman leaders before they were crucified, burned or fed to lions.

Times being what they are, Shahbaz Bhatti turned to Al-Jazeera and YouTube. The only Christian in Pakistan’s Cabinet knew it was only a matter of time before his work as minister for minority affairs got him killed. Threats by the Taliban and al-Qaida kept increasing.

“I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross and I follow him on the cross,” said Bhatti, in a startlingly calm video recorded several weeks before his assassination on March 2.

“When I’m leading this campaign against the sharia laws for the abolishment of blasphemy law, and speaking for the oppressed and marginalized persecuted Christian and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me. … I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles.”

The last straw was almost certainly the Catholic statesman’s defense of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death last November for the crime of blasphemy after she publicly defended her faith in a village argument. The verdict — which must be upheld by a higher court — further polarized a tense nation and sparked a global firestorm.

Then again, in 2009 Bhatti received the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s first medallion for the promotion of religious freedom. A year later, he met with Pope Benedict XVI to discuss interfaith work and religious liberty in Pakistan. Bhatti was not hiding his convictions.

The blasphemy laws in question went into effect in 1986, during the dictatorship of Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. They ban, among other actions, the use of “derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

These blasphemy laws have been used against hundreds of Muslim dissenters and Ahmadi sect members, whose approach to Islam is specifically attacked in the laws. In practice, conversion from Islam to another faith is considered blasphemy, as are attempts to advocate or defend minority faiths, such as Christianity or Hinduism.

Vigilantes often kill those formally or informally accused of blasphemy — making trials irrelevant.

This was the case with Bhatti’s death in a wave of machine-gun fire into his unarmored car. Pakistani officials had denied his request for an armored car, despite the constant threat of drive-by shootings.

Formalities were also irrelevant on Jan. 4, when Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab Province, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. This outspoken Muslim also defended Bibi and called for reform in the use of blasphemy laws.

Adoring crowds showered Taseer’s assassin with rose petals and garlands as he arrived to face a magistrate, while moderate Muslim leaders remained silent. Pakistan’s legislators observed a moment of silence for Bhatti, since it probably would have been fatal for anyone to offer a prayer in his honor.

After all, pamphlets left by those who killed Bhatti warned that they would keep fighting “all the world’s infidels, crusaders, Jews and their operatives within the Muslim brotherhood. … This is the fate of that cursed man. And now, with the grace of Allah, the warriors of Islam will pick you out one by one and send you to hell, God willing.”

Apparently, many radicals in Pakistan have concluded — a perfect Catch-22 — that it is blasphemy to oppose the blasphemy laws.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani conference of Catholic bishops is preparing to render a judgment of its own. Later this month the bishops will review a proposal to ask the Vatican to designate Bhatti as a martyr.

“Bhatti is a man who gave his life for his crystalline faith in Jesus Christ,” Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan told a Vatican news agency. “It is up to us, the bishops, to tell his story and experience to the church in Rome, to call for official recognition of his martyrdom.”

-Terry Mattingly is director of the Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

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