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Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Good Day for Pakistan

Photo: Cricket returns to National Stadium and i am a going!!! Cmon Karachietes lets support cricket's return

It seems like just yesterday that I last visited the National cricket stadium in Karachi to see a cricket match that involved foreign players. The last such incident was way back in the winter of 2007, which would make it a good 5 years in the past. The last time this stadium in the city by the sea hosted foreign players was during the ill fated 2009 Sri Lankan tour of Pakistan, that match was when Younis Khan scored his triple ton and that very tour was one that sent Pakistan into cricketing isolation. Hailed by the media as the first step towards the return of international cricket in Pakistan, it was definitely something that tens of thousands of people in Karachi, as well as Pakistan were looking forward to.

It wasn't the most impressive line up of foreign stars that descended on to the National Stadium, most of them were retired international cricketers from the West Indies and South Africa, led by the Sri Lankan legend Sanath Jaysuria. The only current international players in the International playing XI line up were two Afghan players.Pakistan's all Star XI was led by none other than Boom Boom Afridi, along with other well known names in Pakistani cricket such as Imran Nazir, Wahab Riaz and Umar Akmal. Some noticeable absences included current T20 Pakistani captain Muhammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal and test captain Misbah Ul Haq, though i highly doubt Misbah was really missed. He after all carries the burden of being nick named 'Tuk Tuk', which I think is a brand of Auto Rickshaw i think, I am not sure so do not take my word on that.

Getting into the stadium was probably the hardest part of the evening. I had forgotten how disorganized match day outings were in Pakistan, particular at the National Stadium in Karachi. Very different from a match day experience at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia or the Oval in London, where you have the concept of assigned seating, logistically well coordinated entry into the ground enabling one to even show up seconds before the toss and claim their rightful seat. Since the concept of assigned seating is non existent here, would be spectators have to reach the stadium hours before the toss. Even upon reaching the stadium, there is no guarantee of entry regardless of holding tickets with all the chaos, it almost feels like all hell is about to break loose. Thousands of fans also had to bear the brutal brunt of the Sindh police deployed at the venue who were definitely not reluctant to use their clubs at ticket holders. I am so fortunate I just marginally missed out on getting clubbed.

Our entry into the ground was made possible by a kind family who assisted us on entering the venue alongside them, as it was relatively simpler for families to walk in, as opposed to groups of men. The stadium was packed beyond capacity, as the normal capacity of the stadium is around 40,000, yet they were 70,000 spectators in the ground. The sheer volume of the spectators reflects, how eagerly this city of 20 million awaited the return of international cricketing action to their fair city. It was a sea of green as far as the eye could see, though one did occasionally witness the odd spectacle such as spectators climbing the very long metallic fence like they have been bitten by a radio active spider. These fences are usually designed for the purpose of security and for ensuring spectators stay within their respective enclosure. From time to time one days feel as if they are cooped up in a cage.

The match was pretty much a one sided affair, Pakistan's all star XI racked up 222 runs for the loss of 7 wickets in a span of 20 overs courtesy of some power hitting by Shazaib and Umar Akmal. It was beyond the reach of the veteran stars of the International XI who fell short by a huge margin of 84 runs. There was good news in the making even some 1000 miles up north. In Pakistan's second largest city of Lahore, tens of thousands of spectators had gathered at the national hockey stadium on the opening ceremony of the Youth festival to break the Guinness World Record for the largest audience participation in singing of the national anthem and that they did. All in all, a good day for Pakistan, here is hoping some foreign cricket boards make some gusty decisions and make the initiative of sending their teams for a proper cricketing tour of Pakistan. To the foreign players who showed courage and made the journey here, we thank you, we hope to see you and others from your country again in the future.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Start closer to home

There is often talk, especially by the liberal ultra left circles of urban Pakistan of the need to empower and  educate young women in rural and remote areas. The recent attack by the Taliban on Malala Yousufai has once again brought a magnified focus on the issue of women's right for education and empower, especially with regards to the risks they have to face in order to seek out knowledge. It is indeed a noble cause to fight for the education and empowerment of what is generally seen as the weaker of the two genders and such efforts are indeed commendable, however one interesting observation needs to be brought to attention, especially to the same pro women's rights groups who are making these efforts. That being that their efforts are focused too much on women in rural and far off communities, while women closer to home, i.e. in the urban centers that they hail from are also at a severe disadvantage. One doesn't need to wander out to the country side of Sindh and Punjab or the remote regions of KPK to find young women that are not just deprived off education, but also deprived off the idea of 'choice'.

The idea of choice is essentially knowledge or the presence of knowledge that many human beings have with respect to choices in life and the fact that they have a choice in life. A choice for a better life, a choice to have an education, a choice to live their life how they deem fit and so on. The absence of the idea of choice plays a big role as an obstacle in the empowerment and education of not just young girls, but our youth in general.

Coming back to the issue of female education and empowerment, since these rights activities are usually based in urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, it would be fair to the citizens of their fair cities that they begin their efforts with the women and the young girls that are closer to home, for many do not realize that disadvantaged young girls live closer to home, or they are just simply conveniently overlooked. These women's rights group might argue that socioeconomic disparity would hinder their efforts in reaching the masses and creating awareness of education and female empowerment among the lower socioeconomic groups. However at the same time, they do not act, when many young girls even from privileged back grounds, their own socioeconomic group are deprived off the opportunity for an education.

A lot of people fail to realize that even among Pakistan's urban upper middle class and affluent circles, there are countless young girls that fail to receive a proper education and this practice is found among many many communities in cities like Karachi and Lahore. There are many reasons given by such families or such communities as to why they do not educate their daughters. The most commonly given excuse is that pious girls do not engage in such worldly non sense, they stay at home and learn the skills necessary for managing a home. Building on that some argue, that what is the purpose of educating our daughters when their purpose is to get married, have children and take care of their homes and in laws. You even hear arguments such as girls should be married off young or that few families want an educated daughter in law who can think and speak for herself, a big lot of them want submissive obedient domestic daughter in laws for their sons. While some communities and families even among Karachi's elite circles treat their daughters as commodities in building relationships with other relatives or within their own communities, they give away their daughters hands in marriage to demanding prospects as if they are exchanging a commodity and in return they will benefit through an improved network. It is not uncommon even for educated mothers out of social and community pressures to give away their daughters hands in marriage in order to build ties with others or to consolidate existing ones. Many will give the excuse that this is how things work in our community so it is all justified, etc etc etc.

This completely removes the question of whether the family can or can not afford to educate their daughters due to resource constraint, but other factors are coming into play making them deny their daughters of not just fundamental rights, but also off the knowledge that they have certain rights which includes a right for an education, the right for making a choice and so forth. The Question that comes to one's mind is there a deeply held rigid belief that women are inferior, or is there a deep down terrifying earth shattering fear among  families especially men with regards to female empowerment through education. To those fighting for women's education and empowerment in distant areas, my sincere request to them is kindly also help those that are closer to home, those more accessible to them. Just take a trip down memory lane, and go back to your school days, go back to the time you were between the ages of 16 and 18, think of those girls who were married off straight after high school and think of those whose parents made them drop out of school even before they could finish to marry them off. Think of those 16 year old's who should be spending their teenage years studying for exams and enjoying hobbies similar to their friends instead they have mehndi on their hands and a new life in a new house. Think of those 18 year old's who some how manage to finish their high schooling, but the yeas that they should be spending seeking out knowledge, wisdom and developing skills are spent learning and managing domestic responsibilities sometimes in the back drop of over bearing in laws. Many of them do not even know deep down that they have a right to live like other girls, girls they went to school with, girls they made life long friends with and so on. Let's not forget these young girls also, their education, their empowerment, struggle for their rights also deserve our attention. Just spare a quick thought for them, it is so much simpler to reach out to them,