Has Pakistan Shot Itself In Its Foot?

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When you heard about the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, your stomach churns to a point of nausea. What kind of religious battle do you wage against school-going children? Has the Taliban become a band of heathens? It puts the spotlight now on the Pakistani establishment, the lame-duck civilian government and the all-powerful army and ISI. Certainly one cannot justify such an act in the name of religion or revenge for that matter.

The attack was claimed by Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) which is different from the Afghan Taliban which is being fought by the NATO forces. The attack was touted as revenge by the TTP against the Pakistani army’s war against it in the North-Western region of the country (therefore the attack on the army school). Yes, apparently Pakistan is doing something to fight terrorism. Up until now, Pakistan differentiated among the Talibans as being good and bad. The good ones are those that spill foreign blood while the bad ones are those which spill Pakistani blood. Pakistan has a hand in giving a rise to both of them.

Now we all know that state-sponsored terrorism is Pakistan’s thing. They indulge in nurturing terror organizations. (It was a safe haven for Osama; I mean what else can you say?) So is this strategy really working for them? In light of recent events, you’d have to say no. The TTP has waged various attacks against the state of Pakistan, the latest one being the most gruesome. So why has Pakistan not woken up? Pakistan became a terror factory because diverting attention to religious issues that never existed was the best ploy to keep its populace occupied. If the media glare remained on its internal affairs, there’d be revolutions every day.  The army realizes that if it wants to stay in power, it must back terrorism and present outsiders as the biggest enemies. It therefore got so engrossed in aiding terrorism that when something cropped up in their own backyard, they were too busy to realize it.

What the TTP has done may actually backfire on them. Until now, people were largely indifferent to state-sponsored terrorism but when they turn on you, what do you do? The outrageousness of the Peshawar attack actually prompted reactions from the world even evoking reactions from the Indian populace who might have reacted in a ‘serves you right attitude’ if not for the death of innocent children. So people are now calling upon the government to take a stronger stance against the TTP. Even the army is bitter for the TTP’s attack was against an army school. It gives rise to a serious dilemma for the Pakistani state as there are risks of its dichotomy being exposed. This was evident by the bail granted to terrorist Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi which was subsequently followed by his detention by the government after protests from the Indian establishment regarding the two-faced nature of the state.

The world now expects Pakistan to take action against state-sponsored terrorism. If the government or the army doesn’t act, they stand to lose out on public approval. If they act, they would be forced to clean up their act. They cannot act against the TTP and leave out the rest of the organizations as they are basically made out of the same mettle. If it’s TTP today, it may be someone else tomorrow. Pakistan must realize that it has created a Frankestein and if it doesn’t act fast, such attacks will never be a thing of the past.

Commercialization of Sports: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Nowadays, cricket is no longer a game. It has become a business or a profession of sort for Indians. No longer do cricketers have to search for alternate sources of income like they used to in the old days. The same shall become true for hockey and football in India if the current trend continues. The commercialization of sport is a newer phenomenon for Indians. Gone are the days when sports was only about international rivalries, nowadays club culture dominates cricket as well football (to some extent) in India.

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One can attribute all this to the Indian Premier League (IPL). It started as a spectacle. It began pitting players of the same nation against each other and establishing mouth-watering permutations and combinations to allow players of different nationalities to play together. From the outside, it promoted the entry of youth into this much-revered sport. From the inside, it turned out to be money-churner. Its lure was too much to ignore for the cricket bigwigs. Revenue flowed like the Ganges to the BCCI and the cricketers. Controversies continued unabated. It has been blamed for deterioration of test cricket and turning the game into a mere money-machine. The recent controversies surrounding former BCCI chairman and India Cements owner, N Srinivasan doesn’t help the tournament’s image either.

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While this was the ugly aspect of sports commercialization, it didn’t turn out like this for the Pro Kabaddi League. Kabaddi, a rural sport with little international relevance and even lesser audience took off like a fever. As stars descended on the kabaddi scene, Indians found the link to their roots. Little known kabaddi stars became household names overnight. He game got a huge fillip. It was a shot in the arm for a dying game. So far, kabaddi has represented the most successful transformation into a commercial event with the least number of controversies and the greatest success for the game itself.

A study in contrast to both IPL and Pro Kabaddi League is the Indian Super League (ISL) which started this year as an exquisite football competition. It managed to attract a few aging international stars and along with vast celebrity visibility, it became another money-churner. ISL has been criticized for doing little work at the grassroots level which matters for a dormant footballing nation like India. Exposure of local Indian players to stars like Nicholas Anelka and Alessandro Del Piero can do unimaginable wonders for the game. Although it is at a nascent stage, it has attracted crowds like football never before did in India. ISL must make sure that it doesn’t end up the IPL way and instead promotes the game to Indians like it never before did.

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Little known leagues include the Hockey India League, which failed to draw a lot of interest in the national game. Although it attracted international talent, Indians still remain oblivious to this league whose commercial success may be bleak. Also falling in the same category is the Indian Badminton League which also is the new kid but has had its fair share of controversies thanks to Jwala Gutta. The newcomers have been International Premier Tennis League and the Champions Tennis League. The success of both shall be seen as time progresses.

Overall, what we are seeing is the pumping of money into sports other than cricket in India. While Pro Kabaddi League and ISL show promising signs, they must not go the IPL way and remain strictly professional games. IPL has tarnished the image of BCCI and cricket for people all around and its focus on money leaves out the critical aspect of the game, which is to promote new talent. With commercial leagues in hockey, kabaddi and football, for the first time we can say that Indian sports stars are being given their due. No longer do we have to read about their glories in obscure corners of the sports editions. They have made their mark and are here to stay. If they can promote viewer interest without increasing focus on commercialization and revenue generation, they are here to stay for the long-haul as far as the common Indian is concerned. With more than 1.2 billion people, India can become the next sports powerhouse if it manage to give fillip to such leagues without making them mere revenue machines.