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Cricketer’s corruption is a wake up call for Pakistanis

November 23rd 2011
By Faisal Hanif

The response to the corruption trial that has ended in disgrace for Pakistan’s spot fixing cricketers has been met with a resigned response from many Pakistanis both at home and in the UK.

Perhaps the Pakistan teams recent consistency on the cricketing field has been a convenient distraction or maybe we have become immune to yet more stars adorning crickets hall of shame where Pakistan seem to have a star studded line-up.

More likely however is a tactic that has worked wonders in solving many of our problems namely to keep silent and hope the issues go away or even better to sweep the issue under the proverbial carpet.

On Wednesday during a panelled discussion held at City University London on Pakistani’s in the media, British born Pakistani journalist and documentary filmmaker Mobeen Azhar mentioned on several occasions how this tactic has prevented the Pakistani community from dealing with major problems that continue to blight it.

The sweeping under the carpet syndrome has its roots in the idea of Izzat or saving face in the public domain. Personally I have always believed that the idea of preserving another’s respect is a noble virtue as opposed to exposition of one’s faults and their inevitable disgrace. If individual issues can be dealt with in a constructive manner behind closed doors then all the better. But when the symptom becomes an epidemic then communal discussion and resolution is the best medicine.

The cricket scandal is perhaps the best testament to such an observation. In 1998 Justice Malik Mohammed Qayyum spearheaded an investigation into match fixing and corruption in Pakistani cricket. Many of Pakistan’s cricketing stars at the time were implicated at some level yet the PCB on the whole played the old sweeping trick and the issue remained unresolved only to rear its head over a decade later with disastrous consequences.

In 2006 Qayyum admitted that his own leniency saved the proverbial bacon of some of Pakistan’s superstars. In relation to the legendary quick Wasim Akram, Qayyum said “I had some soft corner for him. He was a very great player, a very great bowler and I was his fan, and therefore that thing did weigh with me.”

His decision may have given cricket lovers another half a decade of witnessing a magician at his craft but its long term consequence has been to rob us of his successor and possibly an even more potent talent.

Mohammed Aamer might yet make a comeback and fulfil the promise he demonstrated in his brief stint at the top but Rameez Raja’s call for him and his two compatriots to never play for their country again maybe a more wise call.

The tough love would be a shot in the arm for the country’s budding cricketers and the strongest possible deterrent in solving corruption within the sport. Attempted sweeping was on show in Pakistan where the families of the disgraced cricketers proclaimed their innocence despite Aamer admitting to the fixing and the overwhelming evidence against the trio that has brought about their convictions.

One may have some sympathy for the Aamer’s Mother’s tears as no parent ever wishes to see their child disgraced. Yet the proclamation that her child is innocent is nothing short of madness. When emotion blinds one to the reality of the situation it is a recipe for future disaster blurring the lines between right and wrong and not allowing one to learn from their mistakes.

From personal experience this seems to be a cultural phenomenon where parents veil their children’s indiscretions ranging from financial incompetence to criminal acts.

A little while back a lady from the community paid a visit to our home and in the course of conversation my mother proceeded to tell her how somebody resembling her son was featured in the local press as a drug dealer sentenced for his indiscretions. Her response was to label the police and authorities as corrupt and having an agenda against her son despite the fact that he had been caught in possession of class A drugs.

Another example a few years previous involved the burglary of a petrol station where a firearm was used to carry out the operation. In an attempt to avoid recompense the father decided to board his son on a flight to Pakistan instead of allowing him to pay for his actions.

It’s for reasons like this and the fact that PCB has failed to come down hard on the issue of corruption and players indiscretions that many Pakistani youngsters exist in a deluded bubble of invulnerability.

In 2001, Professor Muhammad Anwar of the University of Warwick presented a statistical analysis of the problems prevalent amongst young British Pakistani’s. In his findings the Professor mentioned how the community had the highest unemployment rate, five times more than the British average; and the highest crime rate as opposed to any other community. At that time the report mentioned how two percent of the prisoners in British jails were Pakistanis, the highest in relation to population for any one community. Professor Anwar concluded his report by stating how he felt over the next ten years, the Pakistanis would suffer further decline in integration and prosperity.

Professor Anwar’ observations are in no doubt correct as the Pakistani community are faced with additional problems of extremism and grooming. These issues may be exaggerated by a right wing media but the fact that the problem however small exists should be reason enough stamp it out. As the cricket turmoil has shown even the most benign occurrences can quickly become a cancer.

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