Posts Tagged ‘ London ’

The Unsolicited Symbolism of Amir Khan

By Shahan Mufti for Grantland

British, Pakistani, Muslim — how fans from Islamabad to London to New York process the champion boxer.

Since the very beginning of his career, Amir Khan has been more than just a boxer. He has been a symbol — well, more like symbols. One fighter, whose ethnic background, birthplace, and blinding hand speed mean very different things to different groups of fans. Khan himself has little control over how the people watching him choose to interpret his success.

It started early, when Khan was 17 years old and won a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. He became not only the “pride of Bolton,” his hometown, but also “the great young hope of British Boxing.” Khan decided to turn professional soon after, but days before his debut, the mood around Khan’s celebrity changed. The coordinated bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005 were the largest terrorist attack in British history. Three of the four bombers were, like Khan, of Pakistani origin, and all of them hailed from within a hundred miles of Khan’s home in Northern England. Khan, whose Olympic run established him as the country’s most prominent homegrown Muslim athlete, had no choice but to speak up. “I hope, by stepping into a ring, I can show all young kids in Britain, whether they are white, Muslims, or whatever, that there are better things to do than sitting around on street corners getting into trouble and mixing with bad people.” Ten days after the attacks, Khan proudly held the Union Flag when he walked to the ring. It was embroidered with the word “London” in black ribbons to mourn the victims. Moments after Khan wrapped up a first-round TKO victory, the police issued a red alert for a bomb scare and evacuated the arena.

At the ripe age of 18, Khan was not only a professional fighter, but also an unofficial spokesperson for Muslims and Asians in the U.K. Like it or not, he was a role model for underprivileged children caught at the crossroads of drugs, poverty, and now international terrorism. He also became “the best thing to happen for race relations in Britain.” All this translated into tremendous box office appeal. Before his London debut, for example, Khan visited Brick Lane, a large South Asian neighborhood on London’s East End, to promote the fight. “We brought him to the heart of the Asian community and we hope they will turn out and support him,” promoter Frank Warren said. They did. His next fight, against Belarussian Vitali Martynov, sold 10,000 tickets. It was Khan’s fifth professional fight.

Seven years later, it’s more of the same. Wherever Khan goes, he seems to carry the aspirations and insecurities of fans from all over the world. At the time of his last fight, on December 10, 2011, I was in Pakistan, a few miles away from Khan’s ancestral home, near Rawalpindi. Pakistanis aren’t die-hard boxing fans, but the sport isn’t completely unknown on the national scene. Of the two Olympic medals Pakistan has won in individual events, one is in boxing. Before every Khan fight, highlights from his previous bouts and flashy promos amped with heavy metal soundtracks start running on a loop on Pakistani television. Local governments set up big screens in public markets, and dense crowds arrive to cheer for Khan. Everything from his ring entrance to his punches to his post-match interviews are parsed and analyzed for how they reflect on Pakistan and its people.

In Pakistan, the buildup to Khan’s December bout with Lamont Peterson was feverish even by the local media’s distorted standards. Exactly two Saturdays before the fight, a swarm of American jet fighters and attack helicopters swooped into Pakistani territory from bases in neighboring Afghanistan and let loose a barrage of missiles targeting two Pakistani military posts. When the smoke cleared, 24 Pakistani soldiers were dead. The reaction was something like what it might have been if a Pakistani helicopter had flown into American territory and killed two dozen American soldiers: People cried bloody murder. America refused to apologize for the attack and instead blamed Pakistan for provoking it. In response, Pakistan cut off the American military supply routes that run through its territory to deprive U.S. forces in Afghanistan of equipment and food. The resulting standoff was the closest the two countries had come to all-out war after a decade of complex military rivalry.

While the world watched the diplomatic stare-down between two nuclear states, Pakistanis looked to Khan’s fight for a taste of vengeance. Khan’s opponent wasn’t just a real-life American — he was a real-life American from Washington, D.C. And in Pakistan, Washington is not just the name of another American city (never mind that the Washington from which Peterson hails bears little resemblance to the government monoliths that most Pakistanis associate with the city). Vashing-tone is the dark lair from which Obama orders the drone strikes that hit Pakistani villages every week. Vashing-tone is the Pentagon that drops American Special Forces into Pakistan in the dark of night to take out Osama. It’s akin to what the Kremlin meant to Americans during the Cold War. Actually, it’s not unlike what the word “PACK-istan” conjures up in many Americans’ minds today.

The Peterson fight would be Khan’s fourth in the United States, and this time he would enter the ring accompanied not only by the Union Jack, but also by the green flag of Pakistan with its white crescent. Unlike the battlefield, the American was the underdog in this fight, which ended up being one of 2011’s best. At the end, two questionable point deductions by the referee cost Khan the bout, and he lost on the scorecards. Khan let the alarm bells ring before he’d even left the ring. “It was like I was against two people in there, Lamont and the ref himself,” he said. Golden Boy Promotions appealed the decision a week later and the IBF began an investigation into the scoring of the fight.

Two weeks later, Khan flew to Pakistan. He travels there every so often to visit his parents’ homeland, but this time he visited to lend some star power to a Pakistani boxing tournament. When Khan arrived in the country, this is what you might have found while flipping through the dozen-odd local news channels: a steaming-mad middle-aged man calling for war against America; a montage from the Khan-Peterson fight showing Khan’s best combinations and Peterson hitting the mat again and again and again; an elaborate computer-generated graphic re-creating the American attack on the border posts; a field of caskets draped in Pakistani flags; Khan at a press conference calling the judges’ decision “disgusting” or saying something like “let’s take the fight somewhere neutral and I’ll see if he’s the same man.” The TV channels almost didn’t need different talking heads to discuss the two conflicts. The narrative was essentially the same: Americans play dirty, and when they feel like they’re losing, they cheat.

It was in the middle of such channel flipping that I found Amir Khan on my screen, being interviewed on Khyber News, a regional outfit that telecasts in the Pashto language to the Pashtuns, most of whom live along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan, including in the troubled tribal areas. Khan was seated on a plush, bright orange-and-yellow sofa, watching the tournament at ringside. The interviewer threw questions at him in Urdu and Khan answered in English, but that was no problem — Khan demonstrated a solid understanding of the questions in Urdu. It was the substance of the questions, which were less interested in Khan’s boxing career than in exploring the prospects of an interviewer, a TV channel, an ethnic group, and a nation’s hopes for itself on the global stage. Here are excerpts:

[“Khyber” is what Pakistanis call the northwest Afghan border regions. Inshallah means, “If Allah wills it.”]

INTERVIEWER: Does Amir Khan like the international popularity more or the love he gets from Pakistanis?
KHAN: Ummmm … it’s the same, you know. It’s the same in England. And in Pakistan, very same. You know? I’d say it’s the same everywhere we go. The two places where we get a lot of love is in England and also in Pakistan …

INTERVIEWER: Khyber News wants to show your fights live. I just talked to your father about this as well, but in the future do you think you will have a relationship with Khyber News?
KHAN: Yeah, definitely, I think it’s a good idea. We’re happy to work with anybody. To work with Khyber News will be, maybe good, you know. Let me speak to my team and inshallah the next fight for me will be in April or May against Lamont Peterson — I want a rematch — so maybe it can be on Khyber News. Let’s see what happens. I will try and speak to my team also …
INTERVIEWER: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a ‘Khyber’ logo next to the ‘Khan’?
KHAN: Khyber Khan? Yeah, you know, maybe … [Laughs uncomfortably.]

INTERVIEWER: One more question, we’ve heard you have found your life partner and she lives in USA, I think. Is she Pakistani or is she from there?
KHAN: No, no. She’s Pakistani.
INTERVIEWER: Where from in Pakistan?
KHAN: Her father’s from Multan and her mother’s from Lahore.
INTERVIEWER: So she’s Punjabi?
KHAN: Yeah, I think so.
INTERVIEWER: When are you going to get married?
KHAN: Oh, not for a long time. I’m getting engaged next month so inshallah I’ll let the engagement happen first. Step at a time, brother.
INTERVIEWER: Will you keep fighting after the marriage?
KHAN: Yeah, yeah, it’s my job. It’s my job. I love boxing.
Any final thoughts? “To everybody in Pakistan, I want to say I hope they watch my next fight. Inshallah I’ll win for them. I’ll do it for my people in Pakistan.”

Khan seems to have understood what’s expected of him.

Where is Amir Khan from? The question follows Khan wherever he goes. Without a doubt that same question was asked when he arrived in New York to defend his WBA light welterweight title against Paulie Malignaggi in 2010. At the weigh-in, a group of 40 or so Pakistani-British fans who call themselves “Khan’s Army” caused pandemonium. Their fervent support for Khan was reminiscent of British football supporters, but with a Muslim twist. “If anyone can, Khan can,” they bellowed. “Amir, Amir, Amir.” This was punctuated several times with the loudest call of all: “Allah-o-Akbar.” While Khan and Malignaggi engaged in a stare-down for the flashing cameras, their supporters were in the throes of a full-fledged brawl.

Khan’s Army is no jihadi outfit. This is just how they show love for their fighter. But America was understandably tone-deaf to Khan’s Army when the latter first arrived in the country. How many times in the previous decade had a large group of brown men chanted “Allah-o-Akbar” with such confrontational zeal in New York City? You could probably ask any Pakistani immigrant — a taxi driver in New York or a heart surgeon in Chicago — or even a Pakistani in Pakistan and they would all tell you with equal certainty: It is not a good idea to gather in large groups with other men who look like you and scream “Allah-o-Akbar” for any reason whatsoever, especially in New York. But then, Khan’s Army is not Pakistani; nor is it Pakistani American. They are British Pakistanis and they are part of a different culture, one in which “Allah-o-Akbar” often has more to do with ethnic pride than with Allah.

Khan was born in a town called Bolton, on the outskirts of Manchester in northern England, a fact he demonstrates by failing to pronounce the letter t when it comes in the middle of a word. Long before Manchester became famous for its football clubs, the city was an engine of the industrial revolution. The region’s textile mills attracted thousands of immigrants from the former British colonies in South Asia. Khan’s family arrived in the 1970s from the northern Punjab region of Pakistan.

Today, “Asians” — that’s what the British call South Asian immigrants from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh — make up about 5 percent of the population of England, and together they are the country’s largest minority group. A large majority of British Asians are Muslim, and a vast majority of Muslims are Pakistani immigrants. Khan’s father did well as a scrap metal merchant, and although Khan grew up in a comfortable home, his family still lived in a depressed part of Bolton. In general, Pakistani immigrants are some of the poorest people in Britain, living in some of the more violent and drug-ridden neighborhoods in London and the big cities of the North.

Amir “King” Khan was arguably the best thing that ever happened to this community. So when Khan left his English promoter to join Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions in 2010, some in Britain saw the move as more than just a desire for big money. Maybe Amir was trying to get away, to base his career in a country where every business decision he makes and every punch he throws is not fraught with ethnic, religious, and class symbolism. And how did that reflect on Britain itself? Kevin Mitchell, the Guardian’s boxing correspondent, blamed “the small crew of British bigots who have taken against Khan” and driven him out of the country. “Over there, living quietly and comfortably in the Californian sunshine,” Mitchell lamented, “he is accepted without question by the fans — black and white Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans, all of them.”

Khan’s other British fans didn’t seem to mind the move as much. They just started traveling en masse to the United States for his fights. Khan’s Army remains as die-hard as ever, but it seems that they’ve toned down the “Allah-o-Akbar” — at least in America.

Amir Khan will step into the ring Saturday night with undefeated light welterweight champion Danny Garcia. The bout has been a long time coming for Khan — the seven-month layoff since his December loss to Peterson is as long an inactive period as he has had in his career. He was scheduled to fight Peterson in a May rematch that was canceled after Peterson tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Peterson also admitted to having the banned substance in his system before the first Khan fight, and that led the WBA to reinstate Khan as its 140-pound champion earlier this week. The Pakistani press had a ball with the news about Peterson’s failed drug test, but it sent Khan scrambling to find a new opponent. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan was coming up in mid-July, and Khan, as always, planned to fast. After that, he probably wouldn’t be in fighting shape until winter. Khan has already fought almost every credible opponent in the 140-pound weight class and so Garcia, the current WBC champion, seemed like the best option, even if Khan would be a heavy favorite in the fight.

Ever since the match was set up, Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer, has been calling Khan an “overrated” fighter. But that’s not all he’s saying. He proclaimed that he has “never, ever, ever in my lifetime, that I’ve been living 49 years, I ain’t never met a Pakistani that could fight.” Then, somewhat nonsensically, he dismissed Khan as a “European fighter from Europe.” Finally, for good measure, he went after Khan’s religion: “I know Khan’s god already. His god is a punishing god. And my god is a loving god.” At the press conference in Los Angeles to announce the fight, Garcia senior cut off everyone from team Khan and began ranting about “magic carpets” and a “genie.” Boxers and their camps always play up their mutual dislike to promote fights, but Angel Garcia seems genuinely perturbed by Khan. It was at the end of the presser, when Angel was practically spitting with rage, that the elder Garcia yelled what he was really getting at this whole time: “Where you from, man? Europe? America? Where you from?”

California has been good to Khan. Since relocating to Los Angeles to train at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym, he’s been spotted sitting courtside at Laker games, he’s been featured in a GQ fashion spread, and he’s been photographed on the red carpet for the L.A. Spider-Man premiere. He even got to throw the first pitch at a Dodgers game this month, and it reportedly zipped right over home plate. With the exception of Angel Garcia, America and Amir Khan seem to be getting along just fine.

Islam, Pakistani, Muslim, European — none of those are necessarily flattering descriptions in America these days, but Khan continues to hold together the various strands of his identity and carry the dreams of people halfway across the world, and perhaps that’s what’s most appealing about him. Which flag is he going to carry into the ring this weekend? Will he someday add the Stars and Stripes to his collection? At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that there will be people spread across a dozen time zones, all of whom will root for Khan, all for their very own personal and selfish reasons. And as long as he keeps delivering, Khan’s Army will be there, too, in ever-growing numbers. Khan said once about his fans that “they might not be boxing fans, but they might be Amir Khan fans, y’ge’ me?” It’s a figure like this who can transcend boxing’s current status as a niche sport and grow from a prizefighter to a global sports figure.

Shahan Mufti is a freelance journalist whose work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Wired, The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Atlantic, among other places. He is at work on a book about Muslim identity in Pakistan that comes out next year. This is his first piece in Grantland.

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Players Get Prison Terms in Fixing Case

By John F Burns for The New York Times

The judge in London’s monthlong cricket corruption trial imposed prison sentences Thursday on the four men involved, including a 30-month jail term for Salman Butt, the captain of Pakistan’s national team.

The longest term, 32 months, went to Mazhar Majeed, the agent for the three players sentenced. Butt’s teammate Mohammad Asif drew a one-year sentence, and another teammate, Mohammad Amir, received six months. Amir, 19, is to serve his time in a institution for young offenders.

The judge, Jeremy Cooke, who admonished the men for “the insidious effect of your actions on the international game,” said that if they behaved they would be released under supervision halfway through their sentences. He ordered the players to pay compensation toward the cost of their prosecution, with the highest sum, about $49,600, imposed on Butt.

The scene in Southwark Crown Court, close to the Thames in South London, was tense. Butt, 27, and Asif, 28, appeared stunned as the judge read out the sentences. Afterward, security guards led the men to their cells. The lawyer for Amir said his client planned to appeal.

The trial, which rocked the cricket world, centered on a sting operation conducted by the now-defunct News of the World newspaper during Pakistan’s tour of England in summer 2010. It followed years of suspicions that powerful gambling syndicates based on the Indian subcontinent were bribing players to fix parts of high-profile matches, or even to throw them entirely.

The case hinged on a secretly recorded meeting at a London hotel at which Majeed took £150,000 in marked notes, or about $240,000, from a reporter posing as an agent for the syndicates. The three players were found guilty of a scam that involved bowling three so-called no balls — foul deliveries — at predetermined points in a test match between Pakistan and England at Lord’s, the London ground that is the spiritual home of cricket.

Majeed also boasted at the meeting that he could fix matches involving Pakistan outright in return for about $1.6 million.

Much of the concern has focused on Pakistan’s national team, but a special corruption unit of the International Cricket Council, the Dubai-based governing body of the world game, has been investigating the possibility that other teams have been involved in similar scandals.

Cricket experts have said corruption has the capacity to destroy the game unless policing is expanded, perhaps to the extent of posting officials from the unit, which includes former police officers, at all top international matches.

Amir, 18 at the time of the match, entered a guilty plea to the corruption charges early in the trial, a fact that was sealed on Cooke’s orders until the trial’s resolution. At sentencing, Cooke, addressing Amir through an Urdu interpreter, said that in determining his punishment he had taken into account Amir’s age, his vulnerability to pressure from the older players and his plea. “It took courage,” he said, to plead guilty, according to a BBC account. “You come from a village background where life is hard.”

Earlier this year, the players were barred from all forms of cricket for five years by the International Cricket Council, which had conducted its own inquiry. Cooke said he took that into account in passing sentence, but some powerful figures in the game have said publicly that the punishment, especially in Butt’s case, should be reviewed in light of the evidence at the trial and extended to expulsion for life.

Cooke scolded Butt at the hearing, saying he deserved the heaviest sentence of the three players because the evidence showed that he was “the orchestrator of this thing.” Cooke also said Butt had done “a terrible thing” in corrupting Amir, who was regarded by many as a natural successor to the legendary fast bowlers in Pakistan’s past.

In 1992, Pakistan won the sport’s World Cup, and it has continued to be an international power. For many of the nation’s 170 million people, cricket has been a source of pride in a society plagued by a history of military coups and political corruption. Pakistan has also been accused by the United States of conniving with the Taliban in mounting suicide bombings.

Inevitably, cricket fans will compare the penalties imposed on Butt with the fate of Hanse Cronje, the former South African captain who until now had been the most prominent player caught in a corruption scandal.

In 2001, after a lengthy inquiry in South Africa into match-fixing between South Africa and India, Cronje was barred from the sport for life. He died the next year, at 32, in a plane crash in Johannesburg. Two other South African players were suspended for six months but later resumed their international careers.

Why Noor Inayat Khan, the Indian Princess and Decorated British Spy Who Was Shot By The Nazis, Deserves A Statue

by Gurinder Chadha and Shrabani Basu, Daily Mirror

On September 13, 1944, a beautiful Indian princess lay dead on the floor at Dachau concentration camp. She had been brutally tortured by the Nazis then shot in the head. Her name was Noor Inayat Khan. The Germans knew her only as Nora Baker, a British spy.

The first female radio operator to infiltrate occupied Paris, she was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and the George Cross – one of only three women from the Special Operations Executive to receive the latter medal.

But while Odette Hallowes and Violette Szabo have had Hollywood films made of their lives and blue plaques put up in their honour, Noor has been largely overlooked.

The gentle Indian woman who sacrificed her life for Britain, has become a footnote in history. A memorial to her has long been overdue.

And when a bust of Noor goes up in London’s Gordon Square in 2012, it will be the first statue to an Indian woman in Britain – and the first to any Muslim.

Given the contribution of Asian women in this country to arts, music, literature, law, human rights and education, it is a gap that is crying to out be filled.

Noor’s journey from her birthplace in Moscow to London was in many ways part of her exotic upbringing.

A descendant of Tipu Sultan – the famous 18th century ruler of South India, known as the Tiger of Mysore – she was brought up a fierce nationalist by her father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi preacher and musician.

Inayat Khan left his hometown of Baroda in western India to take Sufism to the West. Deeply spiritual, he gave concerts and lecture tours in America where he met Noor’s mother, Ora Ray Baker. Soon the two moved to London where they were married, Ora taking the name of Ameena Begum.

In 1914, Inayat Khan was invited to Moscow and it was there that Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan was born. She had the title of Pirzadi, daughter of the Pir.

Moscow at the time was rife with political discontent and Inayat Khan soon moved back to London. The family spent the next six years in a house on Gordon Square.

But the British government was suspicious of Inayat Khan, who was a friend of Nehru and Gandhi and a strong nationalist, so the family went to France. They began life again on the outskirts of Paris in a house called Fazal Manzil or House of Blessing. It was here Noor spent most of her life.

Educated and genteel, she went to the Sorbonne to study child psychology.

She started writing stories for children and in 1939 her first book, Twenty Jataka Tales, was published. But war clouds were gathering. And as England declared war on Germany, Noor and her brother Vilayat decided it was a crime to stand by and watch, even though as Sufis they believed in non-violence.

They went to London to be a part of the war effort. In November 1940, Noor volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Officers of the Special Operations Executive, Churchill’s secret army, were looking for people with language skills. Noor – fluent in French and now a trained wireless operator – fitted the bill. At an interview, she was told she would be sent as an agent to Paris – and shot if she was caught. She took the job.

Over the next few months, the gentle harp-playing Noor was trained as a secret agent, given arms training, taught to shoot and kill, and finally flown to Paris under the code name of Madeleine, carrying only a false passport, a clutch of French francs and a pistol. Despite her spy network collapsing around her, Noor stayed in France for three months, until she was betrayed. What followed in October 1943 was arrest, imprisonment in chains, torture and interrogation.

Noor bore it all. She revealed nothing to her captors, not even her real name. When the end came on September 13, 1944, it was not swift or painless.

All night long an SS officer kicked and tortured Noor. Defiant till the last, she shouted “Liberte” as she went down to a bullet fired at the back of her head. Then Britain gradually forgot about her brave sacrifice. Bringing Noor back to Gordon Square, near the house from where she left on her last mission, will be a worthy gesture by her adopted country.

Gurinder Chadha has directed Bend It Like Beckham, and Bhaji on the Beach. Shrabani Basu, author of Spy Princess, The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, is founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust. Contribute at www.noormemorial.org, or email noor.memorial@gmail.com.

Pakistan Police Officers to be Arrested Over Death of Benazir Bhutto

By Delacn Walsh for The Guardian

A Pakistani court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers in connection with Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, reviving hopes for a breakthrough in Pakistan’s most pressing political mystery.

An anti-terrorism court ordered the arrest of Rawalpindi’s former police chief, Saud Aziz, and his deputy Khurram Shahzad, who ordered the crime scene to be washed down less than two hours after the killing, destroying critical evidence.

“They were responsible for Bhutto’s security,” said special investigator Chaudhry Zulfiqar. “They ordered the crime scene to be hosed down despite resistance from other officials.”

A strongly-worded UN report into Bhutto’s death last April said the decision to wash the crime scene did “irreparable damage” to the subsequent investigation. Investigators speculated that Aziz had been influenced by powerful military intelligence agencies.

Aziz and Khurram, who are now retired from the police, could not be contacted today. They are due to be formally charged on 11 December along with five men already in custody.

The warrants are the latest twist in a torturously slow police investigation. Three years after Bhutto was killed in a suicide blast as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007, Pakistanis have little idea of who was behind her death.

Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, initially blamed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but officials from Bhutto’s party, the PPP, have said that other forces, possibly including elements of Pakistan’s powerful military, played a role in her death.

Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Zardari, has vowed to unveil her killers, but made little progress in an investigation bogged down by controversy, recrimination and conspiracy theories – one popular rumour in Pakistan has it that Zardari himself was responsible.

The three-man UN investigation into the killing, headed by Chilean diplomat Heraldo Muñoz, published its report last April in an effort to bring some clarity. It dismissed the allegations against Zardari and blamed Musharraf for failing to protect Bhutto, while accusing police and intelligence officials of hampering the investigation into her death.

The UN team said that Aziz stalled the investigation for two days after Bhutto’s death, deliberately prevented a postmortem on her body, and gave the order to sanitise the crime scene just 100 minutes after Bhutto’s death. As a result crucial DNA evidence was lost and investigators gathered just 23 pieces of evidence instead of the “thousands” that would be expected, Muñoz’s team noted.

The UN focused on the actions of Aziz, who witnesses said was “constantly talking on his mobile phone” as doctors scrambled to save Bhutto’s life in a Rawalpindi hospital.

The UN received “credible information” that the Pakistani intelligence agencies had intervened. But Aziz refused to say who he spoke with, and tried to blame the failure to carry out an autopsy on Zardari – something that was “highly improper”, the UN said. “It suggests a preconceived effort to prevent a thorough examination of Ms Bhutto’s remains.”

The strongly-worded report represented a watershed in moribund efforts to solve the mystery of Bhutto’s death – Pakistan’s greatest political trauma since the dictator General Zia-ul-Haq died in mysterious circumstances in 1988. But it fell short of identifying those behind her death, and government efforts to advance the probe has since floundered.

Bhutto’s own party has been split by divisions. Last week Zardari suspended the membership of Naheed Khan, Bhutto’s confidante, following simmering tensions that included criticism of his failure to find Bhutto’s killers. Critics have also raised questions about the role of Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s security chief and now Pakistan’s interior minister.

The main suspect in custody remains a teenager from the tribal belt accused of helping the Bhutto assassins. His case, and those of the police officers, will be heard in camera at Adiala jail outside Rawalpindi.

But the government has not probed the role of the other parties mentioned in the UN report – former president Pervez Musharraf, currently in exile in London, and the intelligence services that are considered beyond the control of the civilian authorities.

Wave of Joy Sweeps the Nation

As Reported by Dawn

A wave of joy swept across Pakistan as it overcame a lackluster Malaysia in the final of the 16th Asian Games hockey. The win secured for Pakistan its first gold at the Games in 20 years and in the process an automatic berth at the 2012 Olympics in London.

The historic moment was witnessed by a large group of supporters that had thronged the various hockey centers across Pakistan to watch the final on the large screens that had been set up for the day. And the fans weren’t disappointed as their team put up a clinical performance to record a 2-0 win over Malaysia.

“It’s really a huge success for us and it’s extremely good news for the entire nation,” said Nawaz Ali as he waved national flag at a busy intersection of the capital Islamabad with scores of other Green Shirts supporters.

“It is good to see our team winning. We are happy because this is our national game,” said another man waving hockey sticks in joy. He said the victory would boost players’ morale and help them get more victories in future.

In Peshawar, people came out from their homes after the win and performed traditional dance moves to celebrate the moment.

“Hats off to Pakistan hockey players for their memorable win by giving joy and pleasure to 170million people,” a young hockey fan and resident of Qisakhwani, Abdur Rahim said. “The moment when our national anthem was played in China was historic and it would be remembered for a long time.

There were similar scenes in Lahore and Karachi where people even crowded the small TV screens at the international airports to catch a glimpse of the final.

There were also reports that many people at various workplaces extended their lunch to fit in the game that ended around 15:30 pst. The people in question, however, chose to remain anonymous.

Also brimming with delight was the Sports Minister of Pakistan Mir Ejaz Hussain Jakhrani who announced a cash award of Rs 5 million for the gold medal winning hockey team. He also paid glowing tributes to the squash team which also won gold in the team event beating their highly touted Malaysian opponents.

‘Pak Must Acknowledge Terrorism is “Home Grown”, Not Indian, Jewish or US conspiracy’

As Reported by ANI

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack on Karachi’s Crime Investigation Department compound should serve as an ultimate wake up call for Pakistan to swiftly act against home grown terrorism rather than blaming some Indian or US conspiracy for terror strikes on its soil.

“The assault on the CID centre must be seen for truly what it tells us in plain words: that home grown terrorism is no Indian, Jewish or American conspiracy against Pakistan or Islam,” Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn said.

“It also tells us that there are many misguided Pakistanis in our midst, who may even have sympathy for these zealots targeting largely Muslims that would not endorse their narrow minded view of the faith under whose banner they kill and maim innocent citizens,” it noted.

“How else does one explain the transportation of a van full of explosives along with a firing squad armed with latest weapons that came to attack the CID building during the evening rush hour no less?” the paper questioned.

It is high time that Pakistan woke up to the increasing threat posed by terror organisations and took stringent steps to tackle it.

“Much of Islam as we know it in this country today, isn’t exactly in very safe hands; it’s time we woke up to the threat and did something about it instead of issuing token mere condemnations that follow such ghastly acts of sheer murder and mayhem, from Islamabad to the provincial capitals and the other Pakistani capital of sorts, in exile, the faraway London,” the paper said.

It argued over a possibility that Thursday’s bombing took place “because no concrete action was taken after last month’s bombing at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine; nor indeed the ghastly attacks before that on two Muharram processions in December and February.”

Ruing the state of Pakistan’s preparedness in combating terrorism, it expressed the hope that the latest bombing incident- at CID building in Karachi- “given its precision and intensity as well as the target hit, should serve as a final wake up call to law enforcement agencies and the authorities concerned in Karachi.”

What if Zulqarnain Haider Was Right About Corruption in Pakistan?

By Paul Hayward for The Guardian

The curse of the whistleblower is to be denounced as a fraud, a fantasist or a weirdo. In America, where they have an organisation for everything, the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington helps people wanting to expose iniquity, much like our own Public Concern at Work. Either may hear soon from a 24-year-old Pakistani wicketkeeper.

Let’s imagine this as a short movie, a study in motivation. Zulqarnain Haider approaches passport control at Heathrow one day and asks for sanctuary. Behind him he has left a wife and two daughters in Pakistan and the national team in Dubai, who learn of his disappearance when they find his hotel room empty.

The immediate cause of Haider’s flight is a conversation he says he had near the team hotel. An unknown man approaches him to say: “If you work with us, we will give you a lot of money. If not, we will not select you again in cricket and, if you go back home, we will kill you and your family.”

Notice the “we” in “we will not select you again in cricket”. One largely ignored facet of this drama is that if Haider’s interlocutor existed he boasted of his power to pick the Pakistan XI. All three layers are present: potential reward, intermediary punishment, and death, not just for him but his family. If Haider is for real, the offer he was made and the warning he was given imply a connection between match- and spot-fixing, team selection and serious organised crime.

In other words they suggest corruption runs through many tiers of Pakistan cricket. In a recent editorial, the country’s Daily Times speculated: “The elephant in the room is the link between people wielding power and the bookmakers. It is alleged that a top bookmaker and mafia don have connections with a powerful intelligence agency in Pakistan.”

This is as far as conjecture can be pushed in the strange tale of Haider’s dash to Britain, which featured a chaotic press conference in the backroom of a curry house in Southall. To summarise, he claims he was approached before the fourth one-day international against South Africa, in which he hit 19 winning runs, and then fled before the fifth, the second target for the alleged match-fixers.

Here in England he has said players’ phones should be tapped to assist evidence gathering and that “a lot of people” are involved in the scam. He has said, too, that he does not want any aid from the British government beyond temporary asylum and has promised to co-operate with the International Cricket Council’s Anti‑Corruption and Security Unit.

To gain a sense of Haider’s motivation it is tempting to imagine him on that flight to London, knowing what was ahead of him and what lay behind: most poignantly, grave danger for his wife and daughters. No conclusion can be drawn from such a filmic and intuitive form of analysis, but most of us would think something fairly big must have spooked him in Dubai to cause him to run away from his family and his livelihood.

We would suspect also that a professional cricketer had to break in the end, and that Haider simply looks like the first to buckle. Heroic status eludes him, so far. No senior Pakistan cricketer, either serving or retired, has praised his actions. Some asked why he waited at least four days after the threat to his life to board a flight to London.

Denunciations fly in from those who say he ought to have “reported his concerns” to the Pakistan team management and the ICC’s detectives, which protocol required him to do.

And from Pakistan’s sports minister, Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani, came the most brutal condemnation: “If he is such a weak and scared person he should not have played cricket in the first place, particularly not for the national team.” Asif Iqbal weighed in: “He has let the motherland down. There wasn’t even a reserve wicketkeeper to replace him. He just flew off.”

This censorious tone obscures the dark realities of the past year. The current cycle of trouble began with the dubious tour of Australia, with its suspicious Sydney Test and nine straight defeats for Pakistan in all formats. After the News of the World’s spot-fixing exposé, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt are under an ICC provisional suspension and have had their central contracts cancelled by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

As pressure builds in India, the hub of cricket betting, to legalise and therefore regulate the wild east of gambling on the country’s national sport, you wonder why more punters are not put off by all the evidence suggesting choreography on the field of play. It’s an odd kink of human nature that people will go on betting in an apparently bent casino, as if to beat a crooked system confers more pleasure than winning against an honest house.

At the centre of this vast global issue is one man who stepped off a flight in London and told the BBC on Friday: “I want to be a good citizen.”

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