Pakistan lost the T20 semi-final match. But it doesn’t matter, for winning and losing are part of such games. What really matters is how the present team was able to galvanize the nation and bring us together. This is significant given that there isn’t much to celebrate in a country facing a rise in cost of living, stagnating wages, and the fanaticism of groups like the Deobandi TTP and their Barelvi counterpart TLP. Barring aside a few, a vast majority of Pakistanis are grateful and full of pride for their beloved Team Green.
Even someone like me, who rarely watches any cricket, now knows about Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi. Such players do not arise from a vacuum. They emerge from an institutional or cultural context where the young are inspired by those who came before them. Indeed, they have before them the legacy of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Inzamam ul Haque, Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, amongst many other brilliant Pakistani players of the past. That finally we have a team that can rouse the passion of a nation is something that deserves to be celebrated. Therefore, the sanctity of this moment in the history of Pakistan should not be allowed to be polluted by Hindutva trolls from across the border.
By and large, Pakistanis have maintained a dignified composure. We celebrated Team Green reaching out to Namibian players in their dressing room. Therein lies a fine display of sportsmanship and genuine humanity. Of course, Indian trolls keep spinning a warped narrative that is based on their deep-rooted prejudice and lack of humanity. While commenting on any news, any event, they are out there in hordes with their vulgar coitus memes with pigs, and their mindless obsession with tainting Pakistan as a jihadi or beggar nation. Their contribution to humanity rests on using the most contemptuous and Islamophobic tropes in a bid to seek self-validation.
The unfortunate part is that with a population in billions, even a small percentage makes too many of these trolls. India is seven times larger than Pakistan and has multiple times the financial and media resources. There is simply no level playing field — economically, militarily, or on other metrics that count. Therefore, Pakistanis simply cannot spend all their energy duking it out with every worthless troll, whose place is in the dustbins of human history. They should be mercilessly ignored. We need to conserve this energy to build the nation instead of engaging in the umpteenth argument on the genesis of Pakistan. Enough already!
Pakistanis have their own narrative as Muslims of South Asia. We are neither Arabs nor are some of us entirely indigenous to South Asia. We are a syncretic nation, whose religion is a blend of Arab Islam and local Sufi folklore. We find ourselves based in Indian, Persian, Afghan, Turkic, and other roots. It adds to our diversity and makes us stronger. No two Muslims think alike, and therefore, our narrative is different from that of Indian Muslims.
Just as the Emiratis think differently from the Qataris despite both being Arab, so Pakistani Muslims differ from Indian Muslims too. Both responded differently to the clarion call of the Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah. This diversity ought to be celebrated. In essence, Pakistanis should simply ignore the Hindutva trolls when they try to foist a narrative on their terms. If they wish to live in the past, so be it. We need to look ahead and make Pakistan into one of the strongest nations of the world. In the present context this means ignoring the trolls and celebrating Team Green, who brought us great joy and pride. In the thunderous words of the late Tariq Aziz – Pakistan Zindabad.