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And the final word rests with...

And the final word rests with...

THE big boys got together and decided they are going to hold the final in the city. They said it was good for the people. A large number of people agreed, if the rush for an entry ticket to the game is anything to go by. There has been constant and growing support for the game’s homecoming. So much so that any rare voice even making a polite inquiry about a realistic assessment of the situation is brutally snuffed out. Those who speak of the discomfort caused to the people of Lahore are summarily dispatched to the camp of the cowards or the unpatriotic.




Leave aside the condemnation of the ‘traitors’, even the rest of the buildup must have come as a surprise to many who had doubts. Let us now pray that we — them the organisers and we the people — are successful in our objective, that is to send across the message that there are far more uncomplicated and peaceful ways of making a point about life and lifestyle than doing it with violence.

It was a tough call from the beginning. The foreigners, it appeared, were not to be convinced by the Lahori vows of hospitality. They perhaps had some evidence of just how overconfident this city’s dwellers can be when they saw a bunch of them doing the chasing in the desert under the banner of Lahore Qalandars.

In the ultimate analysis, the most restrained of them perhaps was the owner, Rana Sahib, with his prominent, apparently well-oiled, moustache. The gentleman went about celebrating the momentary, small gains of his team with the same jolly verve with which he recited Faiz’s ‘Aye roshniyon kay shehr’ at the first Amn Mela dedicated to the poet in the 1980s. That Mr Owner was its most subdued member says a lot about a side which had men as brazenly and visibly disinterested in their job as skipper Brendon McCullum — lest they were put on the plane for the final.

The Lahoris did eventually manage to make it to the final via a different route. They came out of the initial tentativeness and, as says their Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, they did it in the national interest. This made Sethi Sahib and Shahryar Sahib — both of whom have been trying to bring big-time cricket to Pakistan — happy, as also those who are willing and ready to take serious risks in protecting the people.

The wise and the single-minded amongst us tell us this is exactly the decision we had to arrive at even if they concede we could have played a slightly more active role in the process that led to this decision. That active role was precluded by a severe and prolonged dearth of information. One result of this lack of essential resource was that, for many days, the people in the city as well as interested souls everywhere else were reduced to waiting anxiously for the decision by those who rule in their name.

The people at large had no idea what aspects were being discussed and by whom on their behalf. When it came, it came as an order: the final is good for us and as patriotic citizens we must all pull up our socks and take up the assigned duty.

Those at the helm have to learn the value of helping people reach an informed conclusion — to ensure maximum participation by a willing public.

In the case of Lahore which loses Basant here and a mela and a fair there but is lucky to have a PSL final and an odd tour by Zimbabwe, it is not clear how much of it is done knowingly and what percentage of it is committed due to assurances by which of the organisers. A more open, participatory approach will eventually lessen the weight on the shoulders of officials who are often unnecessarily burdened by taking decisions which are the responsibility of individuals or collectives formed by the citizens.

In the system prevailing, the officials always have a lot of explanations to offer. This to some extent is because, up until now, the people in the city — the province, the country — have been considered quite unworthy of having, at best, more than a token say in the affairs that concern them. The more ‘sensitive’ the matter, the more likely it is that the people are going to be kept out of the discussion about what is happening.

In matters of war and hosting international players or top-level games, the effort at keeping things under wraps is more pronounced. And the choice of people who are then sent on stage to brief the people can often be counterproductive. The Punjab government loves to do it through the person of Rana Sanaullah Khan.

It will be an understatement to say that the minister is somewhat suspect in the eyes of many even if one was to remove Khan from his name. It is a shame that a government, otherwise so resourceful, cannot improve upon Rana Sahib as its spokesman when it wants to convince an apprehensive population that the loud bang they had been rattled by was caused by not a bomb but a clutch of gas cylinders.

The sense that people are not — never — taken into confidence is intensified by the chief minister’s style of governance. There exists no dialogue with the people at any level. There is no political or social reform movement in place to connect the people with those who have been ruling in their name for so many decades now. That would have made it easier for the government to woo popular support for events and causes. The government must overcome its own illusions about its authority and work towards that end. We must all wish ourselves a successful final. Remember there will be other occasions in future where the government will need genuine public goodwill.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2017

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