One of the problems suffered by the leader of the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf is that he can be both right and wrong simultaneously. There is undeniably risk attached to the staging of the PSL final in Lahore, but the decision is taken and it has been widely welcomed by a cricket-starved populace ever since. A populace willing to put up with considerable inconvenience if they are to see live cricket in the country. The government, provincial and federal, cannot forever be in thrall to the terrorists and if it is ever to have any chance of seizing back the narrative from those that wish ill to the state then cricket is one area where almost universal support for some calculated risk-taking may be found.
Rather than bowling bouncers at the government Mr Khan needs to put his shoulder to the wheel and mobilise his still-considerable popular support to ensure a peaceful and productive match. By all means be critical of the format, by all means argue that playing matches to empty stadiums in Dubai does nothing for the domestic or international game — but do not argue against what amounts to a rare instance of push-back by the federal and provincial governments — that do not have in the recent past and on the civilian side much of a record when it comes to fielding counter-terror narratives.
There is much that can be criticised about the somewhat ponderous security arrangements for the game — but there again the terrorists will be looking for weak points and ponderous though they may be they are entirely justified. The government cannot afford to have an ‘incident’ before, during or after this match, and a lot hangs on the result and not just in terms of cricket. Yes Mr Khan if there is an incident then it will be the end of international cricket for a decade — conversely if there is not then a whole range of doors begin to open and not only those leading to stadia. A successful match will be a confidence-building measure like no other, both at home and abroad. Perhaps you could mention that the next time you have something to say in public, Mr Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2017.
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