Archive for the ‘ cricket ’ Category

Pak Sailors Thank India, On Way Home

Mateen Hafeez for The Times of India

Five Pakistani hostages, who were held captive by Somali pirates for five months and rescued by the Indian Navy, will finally leave for Pakistan on Monday. The hostages had been languishing at Yellow Gate police station after their ‘consular access’ process got stuck in diplomatic channels of the two countries.

TOI was the first to report about the hostages’ plight and the problems in the consular access programmme. A team from the Pakistani High Commission then landed up at the Yellow Gate police station and completed the formalities. Earlier, this was scheduled to be done at Tihar jail in Delhi as the hostages were wrongly labeled ‘prisoners’. The men are Aurangzeb Balloch, his brother Sajjad, Farhad Aalam Khan, Mohammed Umair and Lal Bakhsh.

“We are excited to go home. There were some problems in our travel to Pakistan but the Yellow Gate police took care of us properly. We have no words to thank the Indian police and those who helped make our journey to Pakistan easy,” said Aurangzeb, a resident of Karachi. The other hostages were also jubilant when asked about their return to Pakistan. “In the last three months we saw the lanes and bylanes of this city. It’s very similar to Karachi. The people, places, food and roads here are similar to Karachi. Initially, we were afraid that we may be kept in India, but now we have a positive feeling about this country and its people who loved us,” said Sajjad, another hostage. “We watched the World Cup matches between India and Pakistan in the police station. When India won the final against Sri Lanka, we were happy. We never faced any discrimination here,” added Lal Bakhsh.

The hostages were part of an Iranian fishing trawler, Al-Murtuza. The ship was hijacked by AK-47 borne Somali pirates from the Ballochistan sea in November. “We would get insufficient food after we were captured by the pirates,” added Farhad.

The five men were provided food, chai and clothes. Sometimes they managed to get cigarettes. The policemen even gave their phones to the hostages so they could speak to their families in Pakistan. To speed up the process to send them home, Ansar Burny, former human rights minister in Pakistan, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and Abraham Mathai, state minorities commission vice-chairperson, worked together. “We spoke to Gurudas Kamat, the Union minister of state for home and he arranged consular access. The process was speeded up due to his efforts,” said Bhatt.

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On the ground: For border village, peace is a beautiful dream

By Taha Siddiqui for The Express Tribune

We left behind everything when we came to this side, but not for such living conditions. Some of our family that stayed behind in India now mock us about our migration,” says Haji Shahzad.

Shahzad, in his early 70s, is a resident of Bhanoo Chak, a village located on the Indo-Pak border.
“The border force here has made our lives miserable. We live not under the threat of India but this force. Day and night, we have to live by their rules,” Shahzad says.

Bhanoo Chak, a village occupied by Sikhs who fled at the time of partition, is an hour’s drive from central Lahore and is closest in distance to the border.

“We just want peace so that there is relaxation on the border and we can have normal lives again,” adds Shahzad.
Mostly farmers, these men are not allowed to roam around freely after 6pm and need to acquire no-objection certificates before constructing anything on their property.

Many of these villagers have families that were divided in the partition in 1947 and wish to go meet them.
“We have family in Rajasthan. They want to come visit us and we want to go and visit them too. But we have to go through bureaucratic hurdles that we have stopped making the effort,” says Shahzad.

Pakistan Rangers Colonel Osman Siddiqui, who is in charge of the Wagah Border area, says that without checks and balances, he cannot trust anyone in the area. “The border is a sensitive spot, and to stop smuggling and unwanted people from crossing over, we have devised a system where we allow men to roam in these areas only between 6am and 6pm,” he says.

When asked if he will ease the policy in case the Pakistan-India dialogue is successful, he replied that national policy and local policy are different subjects. “When a change happens in the national policy, we can see. But for now, the policy will stay the same since the force needs to be vigilant,” he said.

Many villagers believe that if Pakistani and Indian leaders sincerely wanted peace, an accord could be reached today. They also do not fear another war with India.

“In 1965, Indian forces destroyed our homes. There were planes overhead and even the Pakistan Army had little idea what was going on,” says Mohammad Tayyab, who was barely seven years old at the time. “But today, we cannot expect the same as we are now a nuclear state.”
Still, the villagers are always on their toes. “Every time Pakistan Army increases its presence on the border area, I fear I may have to leave home again,” says Tayyab, who moved his family out of the village during a standoff in 2002.

For some, however, peace is just a far-fetched but beautiful dream. “Peace is not possible, even though it will be good for both our countries. We will [finally] be living with no fear,” says Azeem impatiently, during a short break from a cricket match.

Afridi Asks Zardari For Help

As Reported by The AFP

Former captain Shahid Afridi appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari for help on Wednesday after his central contract was suspended when he announced his retirement from international cricket. “I have appealed to the president to intervene urgently, also deal with other issues and save the game from getting into more crises,” Afridi told AFP by telephone from Southampton.

Afridi confirmed that the England and Wales Cricket Board stopped him from playing after the PCB revoked its permission.
“The captaincy was not an issue as I have already played under senior players, but it was a matter of self respect and honour which was hurt,” said Afridi who refused to speak about the PCB sanctions.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party has already submitted an adjournment motion in the national assembly against Afridi’s punishment.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who now heads his own opposition party, said the PCB was not run professionally.
“The board is not run like an institution,” Khan told a television channel. “Afridi feels injustice is done so he has taken a decision and you don’t change four-five captains in a year.”

“Just recently everyone was praising Afridi after he led Pakistan to the semi-final of the World Cup and then suddenly this happened,” said Khan. “The board is also run on ad-hoc basis like the country,” he added.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which belongs to the coalition government headed by Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, also objected to the sanctions on Afridi. “President Zardari should take notice of the biased attitude of the board,” said MQM leader Farooq Sattar. “You don’t treat national heroes like this.”

Sports Minister Shaukatullah Khan lashed out at PCB chairman Ijaz Butt over the “injustice” and said he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who heads the sports committee in the upper house of parliament, demanded Butt’s sacking.
“A change in the PCB is imperative,” said Qureshi. “Butt has not allowed any captain to settle so it will be better to sack him.”

The 31-year-old all-rounder, dumped as one-day captain following a row with coach Waqar Younis last month, quit international cricket in protest at his treatment by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In response, the PCB suspended his central contract and revoked all his no-objection certificates, meaning he will not be officially permitted to play overseas.

The move will stop him from playing for Hampshire in England’s Twenty20 league and in next month’s Sri Lankan Premier League.
Afridi said that he came to know about his removal from the team’s captaincy through media and the board did not bother to inform him about that decision.

Gaddafi Stadium Name Must Go

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

It has been over three months since the Arab Spring arrived on Libyan shores. The Libyan Civil War started there in February of 2011 after Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt begrudgingly relinquished power in the neighboring North African nations. At first it had appeared that Mubarak would resort to thuggery and despotic abuse of his powers. But due to the brave people in Tharir Square in Cairo, he eventually was forced out by the Egyptian army and under American pressure once the Obama administration calibrated their stance to not support a long time ally in Mubarak and instead follow the popular opinion of the people of Egypt against his autocratic rule.

Unfortunately for the people of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi is not ready to step down from over 40 years at the helm of Libyan society. His army brutally quashed a rebellion against his rule and when it appeared that many thousands more would be killed by his troops, the US and NATO forces intervened and bombed Libyan government forces. The standoff between the Libya forces of Gaddafi and the US and NATO bombings have left Libyans in the middle as their nation continues to suffer several months into the fighting.

A brutal dictator like that who cares more about holding onto power than the fate of his nation does not deserve any honors. Instead he deserves to be tried for murdering many innocent people and if found guilty he should be hanged.

Therefore it is a shame that in Pakistan, one of the country’s most important stadium continues to bare the name of the Butcher of Tripoli. Yes, Gaddafi stadium in Lahore, a venue for many Pakistan Cricket Board sanctioned domestic and international cricket matches, is named after the Libyan dictator.

The stadium was built in 1959 and was originally named Lahore Stadium. However it was renamed in 1974 to Gaddafi stadium in honor of the Libyan ruler who had given a speech in favor of Pakistan’s right to pursue nuclear weapons at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic States Conference (OIC). The stadium also houses the headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

But now, as Qaddafi continues to kill his own people in the most brutal of ways, it is time that Pakistan’s Cricket Board changes the name of the country’s premier stadium back to Lahore stadium since honoring this man responsible for indiscriminately killing his fellow citizens unnecessarily further looks negatively upon Pakistan.

A country that already has a grave public relations image problem can surely give itself a break by doing something as simple as changing the name of this stadium. Afterall, what does it say of Pakistan if it continues to honor a man like Gaddafi? Do Pakistanis not care that this man is responsible for killing thousands of his own people?

It is time to put pressure on the Pakistan Cricket Board and on the government to immediately change the name of the stadium. I know that Pakistan has many other problems inside this fractured and unstable nation to think that changing the name of Gaddafi stadium can fix all that ails the country. Nay, it is merely a drop in the bucket. There are countless other problems facing the country that are too many and too complex to list here. But one easy fix the country can do to help improve its image is to change the name of this stadium.

There is absolutely no reason that the stadium should be associated with a lunatic such as Qaddafi. The name should never have been changed to begin with no matter what support he gave to Pakistan’s nuclear aspirations. He has never been a good or stable leader. In fact, the man is thought to have been directly responsible for numerous acts of terrorism in the 1970’s and ’80’s including the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. And this was BEFORE he started killing his own people in order to quash a rebellion against his rule!

In light of the many recent embarrassments for the nation such as Osama Bin Laden’s hiding in their country, the continued imprisonment of Asia Bibi, the killings of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistanis must decide whether or not they want to join the community of nations or become a pariah state much like North Korea, Libya and Iran. Changing the name of the stadium is a small step, but it is indeed a step in the right direction.

Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

India’s World Cup Cricket Victory: The Measure of a Nation

By Gethin Chamberlain for The Guardian

It is 3pm in a small British bar in the tourist state of Goa about 550km south of Bombay – where the country’s cricketers are harrying Sri Lanka’s batsmen in the early overs of the World Cup final.

It is 28 years since India last won this most cherished of titles in a nation so crazy about the game. There are fewer than nine hours to go until it does so again. But we don’t know that yet.

Mohinder Amarnath, the man of the match in the 1983 World Cup, is certain, however, that the moment has arrived to repeat his team’s success. Every Indian can realise their dreams through the 11 men on the field today, he says.

He need not have worried. Corrin, the eponymous owner of the Goan bar, is reaching for a brush, and dipping it into the pot of orange acrylic paint on the table in front of her. She holds the arm of the little Indian girl in front of her, draws the first rectangle of the national flag, hands the brush to Sonny, the barman, and watches him draw the white and green stripes. The girl, the daughter of the beautician who runs the shop upstairs, beams, delighted, and skips away to show off her affirmation of support for the home team.

In the street outside, a truck thunders by, horn blaring, Indian flags fluttering in from the cab. The picture is repeated across the country; millions are glued to their televisions or radios, donning their replica shirts, daubing themselves in the national colours. India is partying; each successful delivery from its bowlers greeted by a round of beating drums. The country that has made cricket its national game is certain that this year, finally, it will capture the ultimate prize, the World Cup.

India is certain that this is no more than it is due. It has already celebrated what many in the country regard as the real final, victory over its most reviled opponent, the notoriously unpredictable – unless you happen to be a friendly bookmaker – Pakistan team, which on Wednesday managed to throw away a magnificent bowling performance to lose ignominiously.

And India was desperate for this victory; the humiliation of the Commonwealth Games corruption scandal was still fresh; the country’s recent diplomatic successes – not least towards a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – has been overshadowed by fresh concerns about its aspiration to be regarded as a first world nation.

This is a nation demanding international approval: buoyed by the news that projections now show it will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030, there is a sense that its time has come.

As Saturday dawned, prayers were said, puja [offerings to the gods] were made, anything to give the Indian team an edge. Across the country, people painted themselves in the blue of the national team strip or in the orange, white and green of the flag, and prepared to party.

Bars and hotels hiked prices and charged admission to the more rarefied environments. In many places, TV screens were set up and even when the big screen was not an option, the nation gathered anywhere that a television was on, peering over each other’s shoulders to catch a glimpse of the match.

In Corrins’, even Sonny was applauding as Sri Lanka upped the ante in their final overs, smashing the ball hither and thither. Then a nation of – according to the new census figures – 1.2 billion fell silent as top batsman Sehwag fell to the second ball of the Indian innings.

Yet important as the game was, some felt that there was a sense of anticlimax after the Pakistan game. “The excitement among people is lacking,” Manoj Kumar, a hotel manager, told the Times of India.

Not so among the Sri Lankans, who had sidled into the final without the fireworks of the Indian progress. Captain Kumar Sangakkara pulled no punches when he explained what it meant to a country even more desperate for international approval after the end of three decades of bloody civil war: “It means everything. We have come through a very tough period. A lot of people have laid down lives for our country. In this new future, hopefully we can take home the World Cup, and that will be even more occasion for celebration.”

Gautam Gambhir, the Indian batsman who stabilised the nation’s innings after the loss of influential opener Sehwag, was no less compelling when he told a news channel that India had to win to honour the dead of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai: “For me it will be dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the 26/11 massacre.”

For India, the desire to be taken seriously by other nations in sport is perhaps more important than diplomatic point-scoring. Like its neighbour China, it has been unable to translate a mass of bodies into international sporting success. In terms of international trade, it has come on in leaps and bounds, yet still it is unable to project that power into other fields.

Such desperation for success was reflected in the way many in the country fell back on superstition in their desire to ensure success. One fan, Ritangshu Bhattacharya, from Delhi, assured journalists that he would be attempting to tip the odds in India’s favour by defying nature: “I won’t pee in the entire match… I feel whenever I go to the loo, a wicket falls or India drops a catch.”

Even his stoicism was outdone by one politician from the state of Madhya Pradesh, who stood from 10am to 10pm during the India-Pakistan match.

In Corrins’, there is no doubt about who should have won: “You have to support the team, don’t you?,” she said. “We live here, we have to support the local team, however it goes.”

It is 10.45pm, and MS Dhoni, the Indian captain, is hammering the ball to the boundary again. Six to win, two overs. There are fireworks going off everywhere, drowning out the commentary. India knows it has won. It is the Pakistan game all over again: victory from defeat, India defiant.

Six runs, and he smacks it over the boundary. The fireworks explode. In the cities, there is madness; in the villages, too, people are hugging and screaming. The firecrackers are exploding, the night a blur of colour. India wins.

India, Pakistan back to bickering after Mohali bonhomie

As Reported by IBN Live

India and Pakistan had a brief bout of acrimony with both complaining that a staffer each posted at their diplomatic missions in Islamabad and New Delhi respectively were detained by the host country and later let off.

While Pakistan today claimed that a driver of its mission in New Delhi was “arrested” for unspecified reasons on Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs took up the matter of a ‘missing’ Indian High Commission official in Islamabad. “A driver from the High Commission was arrested. (He) has been released. We have protested,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua told PTI in Islamabad, without giving details.

However, sources in New Delhi said that on Wednesday evening a Pakistani High Commission driver was seen near the Chandigarh cantonment area and when confronted, he tried to escape. “In the process, he sustained some bruises/injury on his knee and back. He was questioned and thereafter released.Before being released, a medical check-up was conducted which showed him in good health,” sources told PTI.

Just hours after the incident, an official in Indian High Commission went ‘missing’ in Islamabad, sources said, adding there was no immediate official confirmation on his whereabouts from the Pakistan side. However, the media reported detention of the Indian official, prompting Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir. “Apart from Indian High Commission raising the issue with Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi took up the issue with Pakistan High Commission seeking the safety, security and well-being of the Indian official,” sources said.

The official was later handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, sources said. Though the sources did not divulge the name of the Indian official, some reports identified him as Anand Sharma, working in the consular section of the High Commission.

The incident involving the Pakistani driver occurred at a time when the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan were in Mohali, holding “extremely positive” conversation on the sidelines of the pulsating cricket World Cup semi-final between the two countries. The incident of the Indian official was being seen as a tit-for-tat to the Chandigarh incident.

Tendulkar leads India past Pakistan, to World Cup final

As Reported by The Japan Times

A lucky 85 from Sachin Tendulkar was followed by a disciplined bowling effort as India beat Pakistan by 29 runs in a high-stakes semifinal Wednesday to progress to the World Cup final against Sri Lanka.

Pakistan was dismissed for 231 in the last over chasing 261, sparking wild celebrations among the 28,000 people inside the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium and across the nation of more than 1 billion people.

Pakistan had done well earlier to peg India back to 260-9 after Virender Sehwag’s flying start, with left-arm pace bowler Wahab Riaz taking a career-best 5-46.

The victory continued a streak for India, which has beaten Pakistan in all five World Cup head-to-heads dating back to 1992.

The game was touted as a duel between India’s batting lineup and Pakistan’s bowling attack, but Pakistan’s shoddy fielding was eventually the difference between the two sides.

Tendulkar was let off four times, giving him the opportunity to knit together a challenging total for India and the bowlers then ensured a third World Cup final appearance for the 1983 champion.

“Going back to Mumbai, especially for this event, is a wonderful occasion,” Tendulkar said of playing a World Cup final on his home ground. “All I want to say is, we want to be calm, focus on our job and get the job done.”

India piled the pressure on a Pakistan batting lineup which failed to produce a single century in the tournament.

Pakistan’s early promise was slowed down in the middle overs as Yuvraj made early inroads and the bowlers slowly took control, marshaled well by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. All five Indian bowlers finished with two wickets each.

The only time Pakistan looked capable of the chase was when openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez were at the crease.

Kamran Akmal slashed a ball from Zaheer Khan straight to Yuvraj at point after making 19, while Hafeez went for an unnecessary scoop off Munaf Patel and was caught behind for 43.

Yuvraj then dismissed Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan and Pakistan was reduced to 106-4 by the 26th over.

Umar Akmal added some interest with a 24-ball 29 and Misbah-ul-Haq made a late charge of 56, but with the ball not coming on to the bat too well later in the day, it was always going to be difficult for them.

“I want to say sorry to my nation. We tried our level best,” Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi said. “I want to congratulate the Indian cricket and all of the Indian nation for this great victory. We wish them well in the final.”

In the first innings, Riaz exposed India’s traditional weakness against left-arm seamers, striking at crucial junctures. He accounted for a dangerous looking Sehwag (38) and an in-form Yuvraj for a first-ball duck, as the famed Indian batting struggled against his swing.

Pakistan also made Tendulkar wait for his 100th international century despite dropping the world’s best batsman four times. Tendulkar also had an lbw decision overturned on referral and survived a close stumping appeal in what has to be one of his luckiest innings ever.

Tendulkar faced 115 balls and hit 11 fours even as Riaz pegged back the Indian middle order with the dismissals of Virat Kohli (nine) and Yuvraj off successive deliveries.

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