Cricket: In Beowulf’s shadow

To be a hero in the Anglo-Saxon era, it was indispensable to be a warrior. Known for his courage, strength and honour, Beowulf, time and again, stood out amongst the rest of his contemporaries who largely fought for their personal gains. Having made his way to the top, Beowulf refused the kingship offered to him by the Danes after defeating Grendel and his mother against all odds thus ensuring that a hero must remain humble at all times,” reads a 10-year-old Pakistani boy from a book as he flips through the pages wondering why he is being taught the history of Anglo-Saxons in Class Four.

Getting home from school, he turns on the television and watches with disbelief as half of Pakistan’s batting line-up has been cleaned up by Sri Lanka at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium and they are still trailing by two runs. The year is 2000. In comes a 23-year-old debutant batsman, who after failing to impress anyone in the first innings, looks jittery at the crease again. Little does anyone know, this jitteriness, upon arriving at the crease, would soon become his way of announcing himself to the world.

Chaminda Vaas runs in and bowls an inswinger first up. The ball strikes the batsman on the front foot. For a moment, Vaas thinks he has got him. But, the umpire thinks otherwise. The batsman survives, takes a long deep breath; and with him, so does the boy and the rest of Pakistan.

Younis Khan’s career spanned 17 years. Time enough for a boy to grow up

Welcome to international cricket, Younis Khan. Are you ready to face the music?

All eyes are on Younis again. This time Vaas bowls a half-volley, Younis pounces on it and hits, what would later become his trademark shot, the ball through the covers. The ball fails to reach the boundary though but the batsmen run four. The fitness is commendable. Despite it being a cold day in Rawalpindi, Younis has convinced his partner to run four on day number four of a Test match. With that shot Younis is off the mark and Pakistan now take a lead in the second innings.

Slowly but steadily, Younis with a little help from the other end, helps Pakistan get back on track. By the time he is dismissed, he has already scored a century on debut and given his team something to bowl at on a tricky surface. Pakistan go on to lose the match and eventually the series but they believe that in Younis Khan they have found a decent middle-order batsman.

The year is 2005. Pakistan are touring India after six years. The diplomatic ties between the two countries are growing stronger than ever. Both sides are playing each other for the second time in a bilateral series within a year after India thumped Pakistan in Pakistan only one year ago. This time it is Pakistan’s turn to return the favour.

The boy, who turned 15 only two months ago in January 2005, is now preparing for his SSC Part I exams. Younis Khan, on the other hand, is now an established middle-order batsman who averages 39.19 after 35 Test matches with seven 100s and ten 50s to his name. Younis has just played a blinder along with Mohammad Yousuf at Eden Gardens, Kolkata in the second Test match. It is a lost cause with Pakistan now on the verge of a second series defeat against India in a row.

The stage is set at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru for the final showdown. It is a must-win game for Pakistan, and for them to win the match and square the series, one of their players must rise to the big occasion. Who else if not Younis Khan? He arrives at the crease only in the second over of the match, a Pakistani batting ritual for players batting one-down, with which he has become accustomed by now.

From there on starts the grinding process. Younis Khan bats for a hefty 166.2 overs and spends 690 minutes at the crease along with other batsmen. By the time the Indians see him walking back to the pavilion, the scoreboard reads Younis Khan c Pathan b Harbhajan Singh 267 (504), but more importantly: Pakistan 569/9. However, the agony for the Indians doesn’t end there. He comes back to haunt them again in the second innings and scores a brisk 84 not out at a scoring rate of 85.71, ensuring that Pakistan win the match by 168 runs and square the series 1-1.

The year is 2010. The boy is finally enrolled in a university after a year’s gap and excited to begin his academic life again with a fresh start. Meanwhile, Younis Khan has been hailed as the T20 World Cup winning captain, accused of being a match-fixer, forced to handover the captaincy due to a players’ lobby working against him, banned over disciplinary issues, and recalled to the national side all within a year.

In a universe where everyone is going at a snail’s pace, Younis Khan is travelling at the speed of light. He has seen it all. He has experienced it all. It has been that kind of year for him. After missing out on the action for 12 months, he has returned to the Test side led by Misbah ul Haq in October 2010 against South Africa in UAE. This is also the first time the world witnesses the craftwork that Misbah and Younis would continue to display over the course of the next seven years.

South Africa win the toss and decide to bat first. After three-and-a-half days of play, they set a total that has never been chased before. Pakistan, historically known as nervous chasers, needs 451 to win the match and take the lead in the series. But, Pakistan are not playing to win the match here. They are also trying to rebuild their tarnished image after having been brought down to their knees after the fateful tour of England.

By the end of day four, Pakistan are left reeling at 109/2 with both their openers back in the pavilion. They need 342 more to win whereas South Africa need only eight wickets to wrap things up. From Pakistan’s perspective, it would take something special to win or draw the game. And it is something special that Younis Khan has in store for everyone. He scores yet another match-defining century and saves Pakistan for the zillionth time from what looked like certain defeat.

Forward to 2016. This is the first time Pakistan are touring England after the tour of six years ago, which everyone wants to forget. A lot has changed since then. Pakistan are no pushovers in Test cricket anymore. In fact, they are fighting for the ICC Test Championship mace. This is what six years have done to them. They are done with the image rebuilding process. Now it is time for them to show the world they mean business.

And they prove it straightaway. Pakistan beats England in the first Test match at Lord’s — the very same ground where their world came crashing down six years ago. Younis doesn’t contribute much with the bat but he is the one who is marshalling the troops during the team’s famous push-ups at Lord’s.

Pakistan go on to lose the next two matches with England leading the series 2-1 with one match to play. Younis hasn’t been able to go past the 33 that he made in the first innings of the first Test. Going into the final Test he is averaging 20.33. People are calling for his head. His selection in the final Test is met with criticism by most cricket pundits. Some even go on to claim he is finished and his reflexes have given up on him. But he is Younis Khan. He knows in his heart if Pakistan are to get the ICC Test Championship mace, he has to perform.

The match begins and England put on a show. Moeen Ali scores a gritty century and ensures England are past 300 after an early collapse. Pakistan, in reply, lose their first three wickets for just 127 runs, still trailing by 201 runs. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. In walks a 39-year-old Younis Khan, still as eager to perform as he was when he made his debut. He bats and bats for an eternity. The crowd at The Oval rises on its feet to applaud when they see him finally walking back to the pavilion. They don’t applaud his innings only, they realise it is the last time they are seeing him at The Oval.

He scores 218 at a soring rate of 70.77 and ensures Pakistan take a lead of 214 in the second innings and beat England comprehensively by 10 wickets.

Pakistan square the series and go on to clinch the ICC Test Championship mace the following month. They get a hold of it largely due to the herculean efforts of Younis Khan but only a few words are said about it.

While the lives of others have evolved around him, Younis has kept it simple all these years. He goes out in the middle, scores a century, wins the game for Pakistan and quietly walks back to the pavilion.

Today, as Younis Khan hangs up his boots, the boy who has watched him while growing up during these past 17 years, has also grown up. He recalls the passage he read as a young schoolboy about courage, strength and honour, and Beowulf, who time and again, stood out amongst the rest of his contemporaries who largely fought for their personal gains.

“It was Younis all along!” he screams.

That screaming boy is me.

The writer is a member of staff.
He tweets @HumayounAK

FIA launches crackdown on ‘anti-army campaigners’

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has identified dozens of suspects involved in what it calls an “organised” campaign against the country’s armed forces on social media, even as opposition parties condemned the alleged “misuse” of the cybercrime law by the government.

In fact, opposition parties even pledged to fight for supporters of the ruling party, who had been rounded up during the crackdown.

“We have identified dozens of suspects involved in running an organised campaign on social media against the Pakistan Army. We have taken some of them into custody for interrogation,” an FIA official told Dawn on Sunday.

Opposition to fight for all detained social media activists, even those from PML-N; journalist alleges harassment by FIA

The action was ordered by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan around a week ago after he took notice of online criticism of the armed forces following the May 10 announcement by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the military’s media affairs wing, of the withdrawal of a tweet that “rejected” the government notification of the findings of a body, set up to investigate a story published in Dawn last year.

The official said the government had asked the FIA’s Counterterrorism Department (CTD) to help trace the “real culprits” in this regard. “The CTD is also helping us trace those running an anti-military campaign on social media,” he said.

“We have taken some suspects into custody, but at this stage we cannot disclose their identities. No FIR has been registered against anyone detained in the crackdown so far,” the official said.

He clarified that individuals would be charged only after a detailed forensic analysis of their social media accounts, because it had become common for users to employ fake identities and post in other people’s name.

Forensic teams from the FIA’s cybercrime wing have been working on the Facebook accounts of suspects, WhatsApp groups, blogs and websites where such a material is being uploaded.

The official clarified that FIA was “not targeting those posting comments or images unintentionally or without any vested interest”.

Support across party lines

But since the crackdown targeted social media activists linked to nearly all main political parties, the major opposition parties vowed to resist all efforts to stifle dissent through the use of state institutions.

On Saturday, an FIA team took Dr Faisal Ranjha — a vocal supporter of the ruling party — into custody from Kamoke near Gujranwala over suspicion of posting anti-military material on social media and shifted him to its headquarters in Islamabad.

He was detained alongside other party activists belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). Sources said that all those detained had been released after questioning, but complaints had been registered against them.

PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi met the detained activists, hailing from his party, as well as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Sunday and assured them of his party’s full support.

The PTI also announced that it would file a petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the “illegal actions” being taken by the government against political workers and social media activists.

Talking to Dawn, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said his party would stand by all political and social media activists, irrespective of political affiliations, since the party believed in the right to freedom of expression.

“The PTI will support and fight for every social media activist and political worker, be they from the PPP or the PML-N,” Mr Chaudhry declared. He said the party would hold a demonstration outside the National Press Club today (Monday) against the FIA’s actions.

Besides, sources in the PML-N said there was great resentment within the party over the government’s policy to crack down on social media activists. Some party leaders are planning to raise the issue with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his return from Saudi Arabia, they said.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has called the curbs on social media “undemocratic, against the Constitution and counterproductive”.

PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said in a statement the “increasing misuse” by the state of the cybercrime law was a matter of serious concern and must be stopped.

He said the misuse and overuse of blanket orders, issued last week by the interior ministry to take action against social media users in the name of national security, was not acceptable.

“It is disturbing that in a short span of time nearly 1,000 cases had been registered against social media platforms. In addition, provisions of the cybercrime legislation have been arbitrarily interpreted to impose new restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in the name of national security,” he said.

“Publicly voicing concerns about the national security narrative of the state is not undermining security. On the contrary, presenting alternate opinions strengthens national security and should be welcomed,” he said.

In his orders, the interior minister had stated that “disrespecting the Pakistan Army and its officials under the guise of freedom of expression will not be tolerated”.

He had ordered strict action against anyone found involved in the malicious campaign, “irrespective of which party or profession they hail from”.

Soon after the minister’s directive, the FIA swung into action and detained a number of suspected people for their alleged involvement in criticising the armed forces through social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.

However, an FIA official said that its cybercrime wing needed modern equipment to deal with such offences.

“There is also a need to set up a special tribunal to exclusively hear cases related to cybercrime. International linkages for information-sharing regarding cyber security should be established and international covenants and agreements for cooperation in combating cybercrime should be signed. Procurement strategies for secure and resilient hardware and software products should be developed to deal with the issue,” the official said, adding the interior ministry would have to pay attention in this regard.

Journalist ‘harassed’

Meanwhile, a working journalist claimed on Sunday that the FIA had been harassing him and decided to approach the Islamabad High Court for relief. Taha Siddiqui, who works for a number of foreign media outlets, will file a case before the court on Monday through his counsel Asma Jahangir.

In his petition, Mr Siddiqui states he received a phone call on Thursday evening from someone who identified himself as Noman Bodla, a deputy director in the FIA’s Counterterrorism Department, and asked him to appear before the agency.

Mr Siddiqui claimed the FIA officer responded vaguely and gave no details when asked what this was in connection with but hinted that the interrogation would be about his professional work.

He said his name was on a list that was circulating on social media and that he felt harassed, intimidated and unable to continue his professional duties.

When Dawn contacted the phone number (from which the call was received) provided in the petition, the person on the other end confirmed that he was, indeed, FIA’s Noman Bodla.

However, the official did not share what charges the journalist is facing. “It is the right of every individual to approach the courts. If the journalist in question is going to court, let him go. We will present our stance before the court,” he said.

Pakistan deeply committed to Muslim world’s unity: PM

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday said that Pakistan had a deep commitment to the unity of the Muslim world, and to the promotion of interfaith harmony and dialogue.

During his interaction with Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, US President Donald J. Trump and other leaders from the Arab and Islamic countries who gathered here for the first Arab-Islamic-American Summit, the prime minister said that being the frontline state, Pakistan had rendered remarkable sacrifices in the global fight against terrorism, said a Foreign Office statement.

Expressing his pleasure to be part of the Summit, the prime minister said the choice of Saudi Arabia as the venue for the first Arab-Islamic-American Summit was appropriate, given the reverence and respect that the entire Muslim world has for this land of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

The prime minister appreciated the leadership of President Trump to make this Summit as his first overseas engagement, and said that this initiative of President Trump was of great symbolic significance.

“The rising tide of terrorism and extremism is the most daunting challenge that the world confronts today. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been in the forefront of this existential struggle, bearing a disproportionately large burden,” the Prime Minister highlighted.

He said tens of thousands of Pakistani citizens and thousands of the security personnel had been martyred, or injured in terrorist attacks; while billions have been lost in terms of economic cost.

The prime minister apprised that like many other countries, Pakistan had made tough choices and taken difficult decisions to deal with the new and emerging challenges.

“We have confronted terrorism with courage and conviction; and the massive human and financial costs have further strengthened our resolve,” the prime minister further stated.

Sharif said the turnaround in Pakistan both on the security and economic fronts, with the last year witnessing the lowest number of terrorist attacks in a decade, presented a good example of how political commitment, based on an across-the-board national consensus, supported by determined and well organised kinetic operations of armed forces, could bring about the desired results in countries afflicted with the scourge of extremism and terrorism.

Besides King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and President Trump, the prime minister exchanged views with a number of other leaders including the Emir of Qatar, King of Bahrain, President of Azerbaijan, Prime Minister of Malaysia and President of Tajikistan.

The Stranger

Perhaps one of the greatest inventions of mankind is the invention of Gutenberg printing press. Not only has it preserved many of the classics and traditional wisdom that was on the verge of extinction, it has given people the tools to create and disseminate knowledge.

What used to take thousands of scribes to compile, the press could do it in an instant. It was in the hands of the intellectuals, academics, and publishers in the beginning until the technology became too big for even that. The era of web 3.0 came along where not only anyone could publish, people could interact with them instantly.

The Stranger by Albert Camus is one of the classic French novels that many categorize as a blatant defense of existentialism. Novel’s hero is an Algerian French. Islamic Spain was long ago in history and French morals were imposed on the new colonized Algeria. Along with that, it brought the indifference and apathy that is part of European social fiber.

The story begins with the news of the demise of hero’s mother in another province. Man doesn’t show reactions to the calamity as if it was just another cadaver wrapped in coffin put into the casket. He smokes and drinks coffee and sits in front of it the whole night denying the offer to see the face.

The story goes onto to explain his coming back to work and starting an illicit relationship with a former colleague to mistakenly killing someone and denying the appeal. Finally, he denies the cleric’s plea to convert to Christianity in utter contentment with his destiny, death sentence in this case. Meursalt, the hero is portrayed as hardened, cold character for whom the progression of life comes so natural that peer pressure or public reaction seem to be of comical and childish impulse.

For him, this comes as a huge surprise that people would find his personal life and reactions so immensely aggravating that they would make a point by letting him know. His consistent inability to understand how people around him live seems to be very relevant today when one compares it with the occidental societies and literature. Gloom and doom seem to be an acceptable way of life and when it does talk about happiness, it is always bacchanalia of sin and avarice.

This complacency or apathy by any standards of literary style or decency has no precedent in Islamic literature or even eastern heritage. Ironically this has made its way into Le Monde’s top 10 0books. Jean Paul Sartre’s last-minute explanation of the book made it stand out from the rest, perhaps in his self-glorifying attempt of finding an ally for existentialism. Book has since been translated into many languages.

Eulogizing the worst of the society as erudite scholars and intelligentsia is just one of the ways web 3.0 has brought havoc on moral values and religious injunctions. To the point where Sartre himself in his book Existentialism and Humanism had to talk about so-called intellectuals who could rant nonsense in the name of existentialism. Pandora box was wide open, too late to close and French society too corrupt to fix.

One by one they buttered all demented writers the likes of which we have never seen. Some of the most obnoxious include Foucault and Flaubert etc. It is through them vile movements like feminism, heterosexuality, pornography and pedophilia became the norm in a society already heading south. This smearing of lipstick over stinking dead pig has now brought these very people to their own destruction. Le Pen is going neck to neck with other moderate candidates and if she gets elected, time of King Louis isn’t far again. Muslims would be new Jews.

The ability to feel, acknowledge and think is what characterize a human soul. Having a purpose and goals in life make human journey different from animals whose routine lives don’t follow the vicissitudes we humans go through. Pseudo-scholars and phony clerics make the ends of the societal spectrum a suffocating sandwich to live in for people who seek the truth. Navigating these waters without a mentor is bound to fail. Luckily one of the noblest traits of our faith is hope. The quest for truth with sincerity always brings people to other people who have successfully navigated the same dark forests.

The gems aren’t too rare to find. Prophet SA’s hadith should be enough for all of us wayward, looking for solace and peace.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reportedly asked: “Which of our companions are best?” He replied: “One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.”

Punjab body to help Dubai digitalise its police stations

LAHORE: The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) will assist the Dubai police in digitalising their police stations and developing different systems, including cyber security system.

A formal request in this regard was made by chief of Dubai police Abdullah Khalifa at a meeting with PITB chairman Dr Umar Saif in Dubai on Sunday.

“The board will integrate all surveillance systems with police stations in Dubai. Besi­des, it will ensure cyber security of financial institutions and other departments, which will be part of a wider security network,” Dr Saif told Dawn from Dubai by phone.

He said that the PITB would develop a crowd monitoring system in connection with Dubai 2020 Expo. It will also digitalise traffic system in Dubai,” Dr Saif said, adding the board would develop all these systems in two years.

He said the PITB had an experience of digitalising 712 police stations in the 36 districts of Punjab. He said that the PITB was also assisting Nigeria to computerise their Haj operation.