And cricket must be its beacon...
You must be reading the title of this post and wondering "but how"? Surely Pakistan has sunk to new lows, it is being consumed by the flames of terror. If I were to use Bush's hopelessly ridiculous color based terror meter, we have already run out of colors to represent the state of affairs and the "threat levels".
Now that its been a full day since the despicable and unfortunate incident, I have had more time to think like everyone else. The players have safely returned home to their concerned family, friends and fellow Sri Lankan's. Yesterday, I was searching the depths of my heart to see how we could continue to have hope in circumstances like these.
While I do not live in Pakistan, I have family and friends there and know that they have perceptions in their mind about things that are sanctimonious; freedoms that are placed upon a pedestal so they can not be touched by those looking to snatch them away. As a nation, very few such freedoms exist and very few such pedestals remain. Mosque's and places of worship - the most ancient of sacred environs have long lost their protection and have become blood filled battlegrounds. Just the other week, we sank to a new low when a suicide bomb went off at the funeral of someone killed in an act of terror. Violence consuming violence.
Each day we lose a freedom. Each day we take a step backwards. We must stop deluding ourselves. One of those last pedestals was that "no one would ever hurt visiting sportsmen, especially cricketers". I want to make it clear that it wasn't Imran Khan who just believed this - it was all of us. Read past posts and comments by our bloggers. These beliefs were reflective of the psyche of a whole nation - singling Imran or someone else out for believing this and gloating over the situation is ridiculous and twisted.
The fact remains that another one of our freedoms has been taken away from the very pedestal we put it on. Sure, we deluded ourselves and as we now know and arguably put the lives of our guests at risk. It is very sad that it has taken an incident such as this for us to come to this realization.
Life carries on in Pakistan, and so must the cricket. At the same time we must not fool ourselves - it is unlikely that any foreign team will visit Pakistan for at least 3-5 years. But does that mean we stop watching the game and playing it? Do we let terror define our lives?
Finally, I want to say a small prayer for the brave, brave men that gave up their lives protecting the players. If you have ever seen a Pakistani police escort car, you will know how tough of a job that is. They sit at the back of a police pickup, an open sitting target for anyone wanting to attack them. Like the poor Indian policemen of Mumbai, they carry 30-40 year old rifles that fire one bullet at a time. They are given only a few bullets and are no match for any sophisticated attacker. Yet, they managed to keep the attackers at bay long enough and gave up their lives protecting the players. The driver of the bus is also a brave man, driving the bus when all that was in front of him and the bullets was a sheer wall of glass.
I have a few Sri Lankan friends from my school days in Karachi. I must join Younis Khan in apologizing to them and the whole Sri Lankan nation as well. To the Sri Lankan team - you came to us when no one would and the day you landed in Pakistan you were heros. I hope that no cricketer or human has to go through what you had to, but this is not the Pakistan and Islam that we know and the people who did this are not from amongst us.
Let us re-construct the pedestals that we place our precious freedoms upon. Let us redefine what is sacrosanct and what can not be taken away from us.
And let us start by continuing to play cricket. Let no one take away our freedom to play cricket - in our schools, in our streets, in our mountains, on our beaches and every other inch of Pakistan.
And let us keep hoping that one day we will be able to ask another team to come play in one of our beautiful stadiums and that our children will be able watch a Waqar or a Shoaib steaming in to bowl. My anticipation builds like the noise of the crowd when they come in to bowl, but for now we must be patient.