VIEW: Our cricket tsunami —Bilal Abbas
No more presidential pardons, plea bargains, fines and partial bans please. It is time to set an example by awarding maximum penalties and jail terms to those found guilty of selling us down the river
Just when we were getting over Afridi’s world infamous ball-biting episode comes the most translucent match fixing scandal in our cricket history. If cricket is a religion here, then the incident certainly amounts to blasphemy. Achievements in sports have always lifted the nation’s morale in times of crisis, especially in the recent past when Pakistan became synonymous with ‘suicide bombing’ and ‘Taliban’ for the rest of the world. Athlete Naseem Hameed and tennis pro Aisam-ul-Haq proved we were not just exporting terrorism from our soil. Even our cricket team’s ups and downs helped keep our sports spirit alive amid all the chaos and anxiety at home.
Our newest Test captain, who also allegedly enjoys a lead role in the betting scandal, dedicated the Oval Test victory to the flood victims calling the floods a ‘national disaster’ and said that the team’s outstanding performance was their way of giving back to the people. Well Mr Captain, you presented us with an even bigger disaster! The last thing we needed was to become the laughingstock of the world. How — and if — we complete the remaining tour of England seems a mystery, amid all the speculation and uncertainty. An exhibition match was also planned to raise funds for the flood victims; sceptics would wonder whether that would have been fixed too. This scandal could not have been unearthed at a worse time for Pakistan; with the debate about the government’s credibility in transparent aid disbursement still going on in some quarters. The British public donated more than £ 40 million for the Pakistani flood victims, breaking all its previous charity records. One wonders what impression our sell-out ambassadors must have left on those planning to give more.
No matter who spearheads the investigation, be it parliament (although their own honesty is not scoring well these days), the Supreme Court, or any branch of the government, one thing is certain: justice must be served unequivocally and not just to those in the forefront so that other key players escape unscathed. Anyone and everyone involved, no matter how indispensable, must be duly penalised.
A society that has been forgiving people for cardinal crimes for the past so many years deserves exactly the kind of shame that was brought upon it by those who are allegedly involved. Previous probes into match fixing and other scandals resulted in some leading players getting off the hook with fines and apologies, and who now consider themselves ‘daddies’ of the game and appear on television in cricket-related shows. Half-hearted verdicts by the investigating authorities reinforce players’ feeling of ‘we will get away with a fine’.
This feeling of unaccountability is found not just in cricket. I cannot remember the last time anyone in this country got served the sentence he/she deserved for a white collar crime. When it comes to committing such crimes, we have shaded morals. Our ever-so-forgiving nature towards known criminals, who manipulate the justice system in their favour, thereby bypassing any punishment, is responsible for the continued disregard of law. We are equally to blame for whatever fixing went down in England. We forgave our players for ball tampering in front of the whole world and we conveniently ignored Asif’s drug-related issue in Dubai, as we did in so many other players’ cases. If we would have knocked some sense into them back then by awarding just and heavy punishments, this latest spot fixing episode perhaps might not have happened.
So no more presidential pardons, plea bargains, fines and partial bans please. It is time to set an example by awarding maximum penalties and jail terms to those found guilty of selling us down the river.
The writer is an undergrad student of journalism and a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org