Don't let Afridi rant vitiate Mohali spirit
We must take note of the feelings of hurt and bitterness coming out of Pakistan after the World Cup semi-final loss to India. But we should not allow these to create self-doubts in our mind about the wisdom of the exercise set in motion at Mohali, says B Raman
The feel good atmosphere generated by the 'wide-ranging conversations' between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousef Raza Gilani at Mohali on the margins of the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final on March 30 should not be allowed to dissipate over the subsequent expression of hard feelings in Pakistan over what they consider as the obnoxious treatment amounting to mental torture meted out to the Pakistani team by large sections of the Indian media in the run up to the semi-final in an allegedly orchestrated attempt to break the morale of the Pakistani team.
The feelings of hurt in this regard are reflected in an article titled 'On the debris of defeat' written by well-known columnist Syed Talat Hussain in the April 4 issue of the Dawn of Karachi.
The Dawn had also carried on April 1 an interview with Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, which was quite negative vis-a-vis India and the Indian people as compared to his positive comments at Mohali, which were praised by many, including myself. Afridi's negative comments in his latest interview would not invalidate our praise of him after the Mohali match.
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Don't dismiss the feeling of hurt as 'sour grapes'
In some of the interviews given by him to sections of the Pakistani media before Mohali, the feelings of hurt nursed by Afridi and his team over the negative projection of the team's professional integrity and morality by sections of the Indian media were evident, but he had kept his feelings apparently under control and did not allow them to affect his interactions with our media at Mohali.
Hardly a few hours after the team returned to Pakistan, these feelings of hurt are coming out from columnists as well as the players. We can't just dismiss them as 'sour grapes'.
Nor should we counter them by pointing out that sections of the Pakistani media were as nasty as sections of our own media.
I notice that the feelings of hurt in Pakistan are not only over the negative coverage by sections of the Indian media, but also over the way (according to them) India has sought to isolate and humiliate Pakistan in the field of international cricket.
Is the real Afridi the one we saw at Karachi or the one at Mohali?
More than any other comment, those of Afridi have received considerable attention in the Indian world of Twitter. Last night, I saw a mini-tsunami of Tweets on Afridi's latest interview.
Why this sudden metamorphosis in him? Is the real Afridi the one we are seeing now in Karachi and not the one we saw at Mohali?
Is he recanting under pressure from the extremists? What would be the implications of this pressure on the exercise for a "re-engagement" and "re-connecting" set in motion at Mohali by the two Prime Ministers?
'Yes, media in India are very jingoistic, but...'
I also noticed the following two comments by Susan Koshy from India in the Dawn: 'It is very very very sad to (see) this video. First of all the interviewer is very aggressive and full of assumptions and asking leading questions based on her assumptions. Yes, it is true that the media in India are very jingoistic, loud and opinionated. But I have seen that on Pakistan TV too on my visits to Pakistan. There are also some parts of India that are more reasonable in their views. But I didnt think that the spirit of the game in Mohali was aggressive at all -- in fact that is what Afridi said too immediately after the match. We enjoyed having Pakistani people, cricketers with us for the game. That was how we experienced the game. So it is really very very very sad to hear this interview. I wonder if this interviewer has ever been to India? Doesn't seem like it from her horrible tone and arrogance.'
'I hope the aggressive interviewer (almost doctored interview) reads the lovely article written by Maheen Sadiq, 'To Afridi with Love'. That was the spirit of the match as we experienced it and not the really sad comments made in this video. I have visited Pakistan and experienced an obsessive media there too. I do get very angry media in India but I experienced something similar there too.'
'Take note of the bitterness coming out of Pakistan'
Meaningful and tension and bitterness free re-engagement between the two countries is not for tomorrow. It is going to be a long drawn-out process with ups and downs and zigs and zags. We should persist with this exercise for as long as we can without allowing the extremists to derail it.
Having said that, I will be dishonest if I do not say one thing in conclusion; I do hope Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari will be able to resist any presuure from the extremists to abandon this exercise.
Reading between the lines of the Dawn article, I get a disturbing feeling that Gilani was probably under pressure from the extremists not to honour the Pakistani team for having let down Pakistan.
I keep my fingers crossed.