An open letter: An Indian laments in the garb of a Pakistani
Various images from the terrorist attack at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. Photo courtesy: Twitter
Following the twin blasts on June 8, gunshots have been heard from the Karachi airport. Just when things seemed to be on the up for a terrorism-stricken Pakistan, the blows set them back again. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at things from an ordinary Pakistani’s point of view.
Dear cricket fan across the world:
Remember March 3, 2009? The Sri Lankan team bus was passing Liberty Market, Lahore. A group of 12 terrorists had opened fire on the bus. They also threw a grenade, but it had fortunately missed the bus. Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Ajantha Mendis had got away with minor injuries, as had Ahsan Raza, the reserve umpire. Thilan Samaraweera, on the other hand, had shrapnel stuck in his leg, while Tharanga Paranavitana had one stuck in his chest.
It was the last international match played in our nation. Terrorist attacks have not been anything new in our country, and tours have been cancelled or rescheduled before. Australia, for example, had played a three-Test series against them spread over Colombo (ironically, a place they had refused to visit seven years earlier on the same grounds) and UAE in 2002-03.
This, however, was different. The attack had been a direct one. It was the first of its kind in 37 years (the incident previous to the one mentioned was at the Munich Olympics of 1972 where Palestinian terrorists had killed 11 Israel athletes). No international match has been played in our country since the aforementioned attack.
Even we thought cricket will resume after a while in our nation the way it had in Sri Lanka. In fact, things have been looking somewhat better of late. With the terrorist attacks on the wane, Najam Sethi, the chairman of our cricket board (at least at the time of writing this letter) was hopeful of bilateral cricket relationships. He was also hopeful of hosting the semi-finals and the final of the Pakistan Premier League (supposed to be held in UAE) at Lahore.
And now, this. There have been two blasts (three, according to some sources) at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, followed by gunfire. At least 27 (and counting) people have been reported dead. Sport in Pakistan has received a setback again.
The scar lies deeper, though. What about our future? Not much separates us from the one separated by the Wagah Border. Yet, while India has opened up significantly to the world (not to speak of the brain-drain outside the nation), we have continued to spend our days in a realm of terror for no fault of our own. And we have received yet another major setback.
Those of us who have been lambasting the average Pakistani must remember that we, too, want our children to grow up in a country that would offer them the basic, if not the best, facilities, and safety certainly ranks top on the list. We do not want to get that desperate urge of calling up school to check whether their children are safe. Nobody wants that.
Mumbai had shrugged off 26/11 and had resumed life the morning after. Kevin Pietersen’s men had dared to visit India despite the 26/11. Sachin Tendulkar had erupted in a rare moment of ecstasy after pulling off a Test win against England: it was more than winning a cricket match for him, and for the nation. Sport had brought the country back to its feet and freed them from terror — at least, temporarily. We, on the contrary, are not even entitled to see a match live in our country — for the personal interest of a handful of people.
Life will resume in Karachi — it may have as I write this letter. But for how long, with terror lurking around the corner? For how long will a country continue to be pushed back due to a handful of men who care about personal interests more than the nation’s? Here we are, prepared to get back into the mainstream of life.
It is claustrophobic, living a life where we panic even at the sound of a flat tyre. You will never understand. You have never lived this life. I am not talking of a life of comfort here; I am talking of a life where we can at least go to sleep in peace.
Pakistan will emerge like a phoenix some day. We are all looking forward to that, trust me. We, too, want to celebrate our success as an economic force and want you to visit our country unhesitatingly. Believe me, it is the selfishness of a handful that is responsible for the chasm between us and the world.
We want to be one of you. In fact, we are one of you.
Thanks for understanding us.
(A Pakistani whose heart beats for cricket and peace in the nation)
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)