Jun 16

Mood and Madness

Posted on Friday, June 16, 2017 in The Friday Times (Editorial)

Mood and Madness

The good news is that Pakistan’s cricket team has survived a drought of 18 years to finally storm into the Final of the Champions Trophy. The bad news is that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) set up by the Supreme Court (SC) to investigate the money trail of the ruling Sharif family has become much too controversial for its own good.

When Team Pakistan set out to redeem its honour – it was languishing at the bottom of the ODI rankings – not many expected it to even reach the semi-finals. Group A was bristling with top-guns India, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Certainly, the team’s cowering performance in the opening match against India seemed to confirm the perennial naysayers on social and electronic media who have made it a business to bitch about the Pakistan Cricket Board and its administrators, coaches and selectors. Chastened, the team then seemed to pick itself up by its bootstraps in the second match against South Africa and was spared potential blushes by rain that washed out play. In the third match against Sri Lanka, the team was true to form – it restricted the enemy from posting a demoralizing target, then the star spangled “middle order” slumped ignominiously (“line lag gayi”) and stamped out any lingering hope of redeeming national honour. But Allah be Praised! A “sitter” enabled Captain Sarfaraz and pacer Amir to steer Pakistan to a nail biting win. But the stumbling recovery did nothing to boost confidence in the ability of the team to outrun hosts England who had been firing on all cylinders. However, Pakistan stunned everyone, not least itself, by whipping England on a glorious sun-drenched day in Cardiff and now seems invincible. The “wretched” PCB is now scrambling to buy tickets for complimentary distribution to ravenous VIPs and blackmailing media who were screaming blue murder only a few days earlier. The joy all round is palpable and infectious. It is as if Pakistan has been reborn, prompting the great British cricket commentator Rob Smyth to write these memorable words about Team Pakistan.

“I used to think that Pakistan were the most interesting team in the history of sport. I now realise that they’re the most interesting team in the history of mankind. Their ability to teleport between farce and genius is unparalleled, and at their best they are like watching sport directed by David Lynch. Nothing makes a blind bit of sense, key characters appear out from nowhere, supernatural forces are at work and inanimate objects can talk. All you can do is run with the mood and the madness.” The great Kevin Peterson (KP) attributed the success of Team Pakistan’s “key characters” to the “super successful” PSL with its “excellent standard” and “brilliant” management.

Alas. The JIT is not in any mood to celebrate. In fact, it is decidedly sour at the way in which its conduct is being portrayed in the media. In a sensational complaint to the Supreme Court, it has noted a litany of criticism by state and non-state actors that is unwarranted and aimed at obstructing its investigations. However, if there is an element of truth in these allegations, the JIT has only itself to blame. The seeds of controversy were sown by the less than transparent selection and biased conduct of some of its members. Indeed, the JIT demonstrated its political bias against the Sharifs by leaking a video-grab of Hussein Nawaz Sharif slumped in anticipation of being grilled by the JIT. Then, overnight, it assembled a dossier of alleged “attacks” on its credibility by pro-Sharif elements, a feat that could only have been achieved by the combined efforts of the agencies that monitor such things as a matter of routine, raising questions about its links and motives.

As the “JIT lurches from one self-made crisis to another”, the Sharifs’ indefatigable critic, Maulana Tahir ul Qadri, has been provoked to smell some sort of conspiracy. He says the JIT is behaving like “an election cell” of the PMLN, implying that its desperate actions are creating a wave of public sympathy for the Sharifs. Now that the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has appeared before the JIT in an unprecedented but dignified manner, it is a foregone conclusion that the JIT’s controversial deliberations will not amount to any conclusive arraignment or indictment of the Sharifs. The SC now finds itself in the unenviable position of having to contend with the JIT’s complaint as well as a fresh petition from Imran Khan on the same subject in support of the JIT. Meanwhile, arguments and documents continue to be traded in petitions against Imran Khan in the SC and ECP pertaining to the money trail of his personal wealth as well as that of funds for the PTI.

If Pakistanis are praying for a memorable win in the Final of the Champions Trophy on Sunday, they are not terribly sanguine about the outcome of the JIT’s Final Report next month. Perhaps we should just run with the mood and madness.

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