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DAWN - Features; August 21, 2002

August 21, 2002

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Democracy without let or hindrance

By Syed Zafar Ali Shah


ONE can, these days, hardly miss observing signs of pre-poll rigging of the forthcoming general election. Pre-planned and blatant rigging down to the locations of the polling stations and the staff to man them in focused constituencies is too evident to go unnoticed if one ventures to reach the grassroots’ level.

Parties, groups and individuals nestled with the government are feeling cozy wishing to be of any use to the junta in return for the favour of getting their electoral victory ensured. The numbers game has been rather easy for the governments in Pakistan’s history to manage.

If the locations of polling stations are in such villages as have smaller community and are not easily accessible by means of good roads and better still if the notable of the area is an ally of the party in power, such place is preferred to the one that has larger population, multiple communities, roads, shops and is a central place and has no rogue or intimidating notable available to manipulate large scale fraud.

Selections of favourable locations for polling stations are not enough to implement the rigging plan. The services of pliant and obedient officials to man the polling stations and facilitate rigging and casting of bogus voting is, therefore, of utmost importance without which the numbers game cannot be materially effective.

The assertion of the Chief Election Commissioner that the polling stations would not be permitted in the buildings which are owned or are under the influence of a candidate is merely sidetracking the issue of rigging. This writer has seen wholesale change of many key polling stations made in his home district, and those have been proposed to Election Commission by the mukhtiarkars who are grade 16 employees of the government.

The same is the case with the selection of personnel of polling stations. This has been done before the returning officers were notified by the EC. The chances, therefore, of rectifying the wrong to the extent of the required magnitude are slim unless the Election Commission directs that the locations of previous general election must remain unchanged.

If, however, the number of polling stations needs to be increased, it should be done in a transparent and fair manner. In fact, this writer suggested this to the Election Commission in writing. Recently, this demand has come from one of the two mainstream political parties, ie the Pakistan People’s Party.

It is, thus, hard to make any sense of the power game being played at the national, provincial and the local levels excepting one only. It is, that, the regime has become deeply involved in the results of the October election, that the present non-party government has become the most prominent party-based. To an extent it does not seem to be bothered to camouflage the status and authority granted to their allies, who are swiftly making election alliances and romping pompously. Ministers have been inducted into the Sindh cabinet recently who belong to a (government- sponsored alliance and they find time touring back and forth, mostly waffling inanities for public consumption.

The Chief Election Commissioner has demanded that the ministers should resign their posts if they wish to contest elections but at least one minister has posed a defiant note. The governor of Sindh, if the Sindhi press is to be believed, says that if more parties contact the government, it would consider inducting their members into the cabinet also.

On that account, the present government has been showing that it is the establishment that is mainly responsible for bringing into power the kind of politicians it wishes to. How on earth can then the junta absolve itself of the blame in the mess that the country has been in since for long time? Can one ask, how and why would any political party become democratic and stable as the present set of laws on the subject require of them, when it is not the people who ‘freely’ choose their representatives?

The Election Commission has said that it has obtained lists of defaulters of loans and utility bills from the agencies concerned. Those should be made available so that the political parties and candidates are aware of their liabilities. It has been chaotic that suddenly the candidates have to face such demand, sometimes not justifiable, and there is a scramble to clear it. There are, this time, new laws demanding assets and several other declarations from the candidates apart from their graduation certificates.

It is offending to sensibilities of citizens of a free country to prove their eligibility for membership of parliament. Many of new qualifications and disqualifications (more than two dozens under the 8th Amendment of 1985) have been in existence and several general elections were held under those eligibility conditions. If those could not produce the kind of parliament as the present junta wishes to see, how can more such conditions bring a different one.

A new scene has emerged, particularly in Sindh. After the union councils were elected, the government surprised many political observers as it was interested in getting those candidates elected as tehsil and the district Nazims who were contesting against the PPP and the PML (N) candidates. Now, particularly after the referendum of 2002, the situation has taken an abrupt turn for the worse. There appears to be hardly any check on the power and authority of the Nazims who are the allies of the government.

Opposite is the case where the Nazims are associated with the PPP. The former have been allowed to get the officials of their choice posted where desired but it is contrary in the case of the latter who have had hard time getting anything worthwhile done in the government hierarchy. This fact may be hard to swallow by the high-ups in the federal government but it is true that at present there are no checks on the powers of the government-allied district Nazims.

A kleptocracy has been established in the name of devolution plan. District Nazims are allowed to recruit government employees and grant development schemes to their favourites. This is most unfortunate on the part of the government, which had appeared serious in its policies as enunciated by Gen Pervez Musharraf on Oct 14, l999.

Gen Ayub Khan had established Basic Democracies System in 1959 for empowering the people at the local level. He declared the new system as being nearer to the genius of the people. But in the fall of 1964, when he had to confront Miss Fatima Jinnah as the combined opposition parties’ candidate for the election of the president, he tried to manipulate, though subtly, members of the basic democracies for his election. There was a rush of the elite to join his Convention League. The system collapsed as it did not reflect the real wishes of the people and had failed to address their problems.

Similar seems to be the case of the present devolution plan created with seemingly good intentions, though at the cost of provincial autonomy — whatever little it has existed. The wholesale demolishing of the bureaucracy, for whatever it had come to be worth, and, along with that the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances, the system has failed to utilize the services of whatever bureaucratic setup exists there, for the common good.

The king’s party has come into being, and the remnants of the bureaucracy have been totally politicized. The situation at present is worse than at any time of Pakistan’s chequered socio-economic and political history.

Whenever there befalls any injustice or an instance of tyranny, the district Nazim is the point of last resort to which the aggrieved can turn. But that depends on the position the Nazim holds in the present selective hierarchy and then it would depend on his motivation too.

We have often seen in our country the human failing in honouring the oath of office the holders of high offices make. So, how much strong sense of justice would our politicians have, exceptions apart.

We, then, can easily conclude that there has never been anything wrong with the system of federal parliamentary democracy in Pakistan as was envisaged by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It is the implementation part where our rulers have failed us. In fact, it is the wrongs that the rulers of our country, at a given point of time, tend to inflict upon the system.

In other words, it is a grand failure of state institutions which are often used for strengthening the individuals rather than the institutions, be it parliament, provincial assemblies, office of the president, higher judiciary, election commission, public service commissions, et al.

What indeed we need is untrammelled political and administrative structure without any interference by the establishment. What we have been doing, as remarked a venerable bureaucrat over the diabolical blunders of 1970-71 crises that led to the creation of Bangladesh, that we follow logic of force than force of logic.

The writer is a former deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

District council members protest against police

UNDER the devolution of power plan, the police were made answerable to the elected representatives of the local governments. But all efforts to this end proved futile since no apparent change in the police culture had come about.

On Tuesday, the blue-eyed public representatives of the Musharraf government stunned the people by burning tyres and blocking roads against the police excesses. The people were driven to think how could their representatives save them from the police when they themselves were helpless against their iron clutches.

As the story goes, scores of members of the District Assembly, including Nazims of union councils and lady councillors, staged a demonstration, blocked traffic and burnt tyres to express their anguish and resentment over the highhandedness of the police with a lady councillor. The protest demonstration was the first of its kind since the inception of the new local government system.

It all started when a lady member of the District Assembly, Dr Zahida Parveen, stood up on a point of order and complained to the House that a heavy police contingent on the orders of the DSP Civil Lines arrested her husband, Dr Muhammad Ilyas, on Sunday night. The police misbehaved with her and her family members and violated all rules and regulations during the raid.

With tears in her eyes, Zahida Parveen urged the members of the District Assembly to take a stand against the cruelty of the police and to save her from the police wrath. The emotional speech of the lady councillor infuriated the entire House and they boycotted the proceedings of the session. Despite repeated requests of acting speaker B.K. Tabish, all male and female members present in the House took out a protest procession and assembled at Zila Council.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against the local police and demanded immediate suspension of SDPO Civil Lines, including the policemen, who raided the House of the lady councillor. Traffic on the University Road remained suspended for about two hours. Traffic on other main roads was also disrupted.

After about two hours of the blockade and demonstration by members of the District Assembly, Zila Nazim, Zahid Nazir and District Police Officer, Zafar Abbas, rushed to the scene and prevailed upon the protesting councillors to end their sit-in and hold discussions in a peaceful manner. It was resolved that the dispute would be decided in the House.

Several members of the assembly took part in the proceedings and highlighted the police excesses, particularly in the case of Zahida Parveen. They contended that the entire city had been made hostage by dacoits and outlaws while the ordinary citizens were being made victims of terror by the police for their greed and to please the influentials. They said the police had failed to discharge its duties and protect the life and property of the people. They alleged that the police stations gave a deserted look as the SHOs remained out. Stereotyped replies were being given by Muharrars that the SHO was on patrol duty or had gone for recording statement in court.

They said that although on the eve of the devolution of power plan it was announced that the police would be accountable to the elected members of the district government, the police was abusing power and had let loose a reign of terror for lust for money and it seemed that no one could check its excesses.

After about one hour, the convener called the district police officer, Zafar Abbas Luk, for explaining the conduct of the police before the House so that the matter could be resolved. The DPO in his explanation assured that a detailed inquiry of the Zahida Parveen incident would be conducted and action would be taken against the police officials if they were found guilty of committing any excess.

He told the House that an “action programme” had been prepared by the local police for constituting special committees for the redress of the people’s grievances at the police station level with the help and coordination of the elected representatives.

The DPO, however, refused to accept the demand for proposing suspension of SDPO Civil Lines and other police officials to the high-ups, saying that everyone had to bow before the law and that an opportunity should be provided to the police officers concerned to explain their conduct in a conducive atmosphere. He denied the allegation of the worsening law and order situation in the district and added that the elected members were supposed to assist the police in providing protection to the people instead of blaming it for the mess.

Zahid Nazir, the District Nazim, in his speech termed the demonstration staged by the members of assembly “painful and regrettable” and urged upon them not to indulge in disgraceful acts, saying that they were rulers of the district and had the power to resolve collective and individual problems at the forum of the District Assembly. The staging of demonstrations and burning of tyres was uncalled for and gave a negative signal about the new local government system, the Nazim remarked.

He told the House that rules were being framed for protecting the privilege of the members and making it obligatory for the police to approach the District Nazim or convener before taking action against the members of the District Assembly.

Zahida Parveen pointed out that she had moved a privilege motion before the House in which she had complained that the DSP Civil Lines had demanded bribe of Rs50,000 from her for discharging her husband from a criminal case registered against him. The House called the DSP the next day. He denied the allegation levelled against him and assured the District Assembly that the matter would be dealt with under the law. Zahida Parveen told that the DSP had ordered the arrest of her husband to take revenge for being summoned to the District Assembly.

Although the District Nazim was posing as being most disturbed by the protest demonstration, an insider revealed that he was much satisfied by the act because he himself had reservations about the police.

One feels sorry on the whole episode and can well imagine the way society is going. A rosy picture was painted by the National Reconstruction Bureau wizard, Lt-Gen Tanveer Naqvi (retired), on the eve of the devolution plan empowering the members of the local bodies to decide their fate and live with dignity, honour and respect. But one fears that all is not going well, as perceived and advocated by Gen. Naqvi.

Political pundits are of the view that such system as had been introduced by Gen. Naqvi was undoubtedly appreciable, but it could be implemented in letter and spirit only in a hi-tech civilized society. In a society where the overwhelming majority of people was illiterate and over 70 per cent were living below the poverty line without basic amenities, it could not be expected to work.

Memories of parliamentarians were recalled who used to agitate in the assemblies about their degradation at the hands of government functionaries and the police which did not entertain their recommendations.

Hardly had one heard any member moving a privilege motion pinpointing the excesses of its police and administration against the ordinary people. Similar dramas are being repeated by worthy members of the District Assembly staging demonstrations for expressing sympathy with fellow members. But the question is who will raise voice in favour of the ordinary people.

Iqbal, Nairang & Nadir Kakorvi

SOMETIMES a writer provides a vital clue to his innermost thought in an off- hand manner without caring whether this bit of ‘clue’ would lead to some serious study yielding some interesting conclusions.

We come across a couplet in Allama Iqbal’s poetry in which he shares with us two names - his contemporaries - both of them good poets who were, according to the Allama, his Hum Safer, co-sharers of that great mission of co-travelling towards the muse of poetry.

Nadir-o-Nairang hain Iqbal mere hum safer/ Hai isi taslees fil tauheed ka sauda mujhe (Nadir Kakorvi and Nairang (Mir Ghulam Bhik) are my co- sharers of the mission, and it is this triangle (unity in trinity) which is uppermost in my mind).

The above couplet throws some light on the kind of mission or poetry Iqbal believed in. This is a clue which distances Iqbal from the predominant trends - I would not call it a tradition - of Urdu poetry. He is more of a disciple of Sir Syed and Hali when it comes to discussion of the functions of poetry.

Nairang was an important leader of Muslim India and an important poet of his day. He remained a member of the Central Assembly of India from 1936 to 1942 and was the deputy leader of the Muslim League parliamentary party in the Assembly from 1938 to 1942. This fact alone is enough to evaluate his importance.

From the days of the Khilafat Movement to the heyday of the Muslim League he was a leader whom Allama Iqbal looked upon as someone who could be a source of strength. He put up strong resistance to the Shuddhi and Sangathan Movement which created leaders such as Golwalkar, Monje and Savarkar who succeeded in alienating Muslims from the mainstream politics of India. It is a pity that some scholars don’t pay attention to the root causes of communalism in India and forget that manufacturing of rhetoric against one section of the population cannot help us to appreciate the real causes which led to the point of no return in Indian politics in the 1930s.

The key to the parting of ways lies to those vastly powerful machines of rhetoric which are, by the day, strengthening themselves. Here one would like to mention the Gujarat riots - as documented by the Communist Party of India’s Urdu periodical Hayat (August 2002 issue).

Nairang’s role against Shuddhi and Sangathan in the early 1940s should be read with a view to finding out convergence between him and all those poets who believed in the maxim that any nationalism using territorial and cultural nationalism has all the germs of fascism because it has the tendency to regard all those who don’t subscribe to it as the ‘others,’ and hence hell.

Nairang’s poetry collection appeared in 1907. Its second edition was published in 1917 and the third edition - a bit enlarged with a detailed introduction by Dr Moinuddin Aqeel - appeared some time ago.

Born in Daurana, Ambala, in 1876, Nairang did his BA from Government College, Lahore. He was a class-fellow of Allama Iqbal and was also his hostel-mate. His other classmates were Sir Fazal Husain, Mian Abdul Aziz Malik Falak Paima and Bakhshi Teek Chand. Nairang became a lawyer and joined politics. In order to fight Shuddhi and Sangathan - which were very active movements in the Punjab for the reason that the Punjab proved to be a fertile ground for the Arya Samajists - he also formed an Anti-Shuddhi organization. He was also on the editorial staff of the Makhzan. He was also a member of Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly.

I will confine myself to only two couplets of Nairang which I regard as the most representative of his ghazal:

Talab nay khai hain woh thokrain rah-i-tamanna mein/Kay aakhir mujh say sharmanay lagi hai aarzoo meri.

Ae waye na rasai-i-dast-i-daraz-i-shauq/ Aur aap ka nikal kay woh jana qareeb say.

I believe that Nairang’s crusade for communal harmony in the subcontinent should be remembered with a sense of gratitude. He appealed to the majority community to desist from the path of sowing the seeds of discord because it is more likely than not that a day would come when those seeds would become trees casting long and wide shadows. This is what the situation is today in our neighbouring country.

Now I come to Nadir Kakorvi. Shaikh Nadir Ali Kakorvi was born in Kakori in a family distinguished for its literary accomplishments. The year of birth is itself historic - 1857. Possibly Iqbal knew that he was a very good translator of western poetry. The only concession which Iqbal has given is to Goethe while translating his poem Song of Mohamet.

Goethe has been, at times, very unkind to the Prophet (PBUH) falling an easy prey to some of the prejudiced Orientalists who have tried to compare Arabia with the Europe of their times, forgetting that Arabia was not even a country in the sense in which a country was known in mediaeval Europe. It was a medley of tribes scattered from one end to the other, prizing water more than elixir. Iqbal, including the Persian translation of Goethe’s Song, has excised some of the biting and abrasive couplets. Iqbal, however, knew how to translate. Not like many of our contemporaries who are attempting translations from other languages without knowing the rudiments of translation. Iqbal was a great admirer of Kakorvi whose translations are the best examples of what a translation should aspire for.

We should better think of Iqbal’s views on communalism - and their relationship with Nairang’s - and admire Iqbal’s concern for artistic embellishment which are characteristic of Kakorvi. The latter was fully alive to the first condition which the translation of English poetry demanded of its practitioner - a thorough correspondence between objectivity and subjectivity - which most English poets demand as of right.

Kakorvi has enlivened Tennyson and Thomas More. His translation of More’s poem The Light of Other Days is the epitome of ultimate creativity. It begins with Aksar shab-i-tanhai mein/Kuchh dair pehle neend say/Guzri hui dilchaspian/Beete huay din aish kay/Meray dil-i-sad chak per/Woh bachpan aur woh sadgi/Woh rona, woh hansna kabhi/Phir woh jawani kay mazay/Woh dil lagi, woh qah qahay/Woh ishq, woh ahd-i-wafa/Woh waada aur woh shukriya.

It goes on and on and one starts humming the tune over and over which comes from the poem itself.

Iqbal once said this translation could keep me humming for hours. Kakorvi has another distinction as a truly patriotic poet. Hence Iqbal’s predilection for a poet whose lyricism and patriotism blazed a new trail in Urdu poetry. Iqbal developed this tradition still further, to new heights.

Spectre of drought in Thar

By Sohail Sangi


THAR, with a population of 1.107 million, is technically facing drought because till July 31 there was no rainfall. So, its people are getting ready to move out of the areas that would soon be in the grip of another severe drought.

Earlier, it had experienced a severe drought spell from 1997 to 2000 in which 2,565 villages were affected. Before that, the 1987 spell had caused untold miseries to the people.

In the year 2000 over 300 people and a sizable number of livestock had died because precautionary measures were not taken on time though the government officials claimed that they had undertaken rehabilitation plans by introducing uplift schemes, such as extension and improvement of wells, construction of roads and digging of water ponds.

However, for all these efforts and claims of the government, the situation had remained far from satisfactory. The government had not, according to the drought victims, taken preventive measures, which should have been its foremost preoccupation in view of the long history of drought in the area.

There is a lesson for the government in this assertion. It should now prepare short-term and long-term plans to negate/lessen the impact before this natural calamity strikes with its horrendous effects.

The Asian Development Bank has funded a $100 million drought mitigation programme whose closing year is 2004. It is regrettable that the ongoing year (2001-02) of its execution has lapsed without any progress. Inactivity concerning the drought programme was observed in December last year when a major donor of the programme expressed its concern over the non-execution of the drought mitigation programme, saying a part of the project period had elapsed by five per cent but physical progress is zero.

Just after three continuous droughts the Thar region faced three problems together in 2001: one, there was less and sporadic rainfall during the monsoon; two, there was severe shortage of water in the adjacent barrage areas, particularly those fed by the Nara Canal and, three, the earthquake that had hit the area had destroyed the underground water resources, which multiplied the sufferings of the Thari people who were already battling with drought. The prolonged dry spell had also destroyed trees in most parts of Thar.

According to weathermen, the drought may linger for another two to three years. Moreover, it may turn into famine. Thus this early warning should give the government enough time to prepare plans that should be of greater help to the people. In the meantime the government, as a first step, should declare Thar a calamity-hit area in view of the sufferings of its people over the last five years.

A special package for them must include the provision of enough food and potable water, and medicines for those afflicted with TB, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, malaria, and skin diseases. There is a danger of serious health problem if precautionary measures are not taken.

For speedy help, efficient coordination between the government and NGOs and the local people is vital. The vulnerable class of society will get more benefit from the humanitarian aid if civil society is part of a decision-making and relief supplies process.

Moreover, medium- and long-term strategies be prepared and implemented to play an effective role in keeping the situation under control. The government should prepare drought-combating programme, and all stakeholders, i.e. the common people and experts, should be consulted while designing such programmes.

These long-term efforts must aim at reducing the vulnerability of the people to drought, at managing drought and at recovering from it.

In the second stage, transportation of feed and availability of water for the livestock is the only option for reducing mortality.

There are many options for providing feed to animals, e.g. provision of credit according to the herd size so that the farmer can buy feed himself; subsidized transportation and distribution of livestock feed and establishment of animal feeding centres from where fodder can be bought.

Other measures to be taken under these options include re-stocking, food aid, vaccine and drenching campaign for livestock, schemes to support diversification of income sources, fodder development and tree plantation schemes.

Looking back at the experience of the past few decades in disaster mitigation field, it has been noted that there is a direct link between the disasters and development interventions.

This link forms the basis of the ‘alternative perspective’. The alternative perspective promotes paying more attention to mitigating and preventing disasters. That is to look at disaster as unresolved problems of development and as part of the normal development of society.

The alternative perspective argues that it is important to analyse the structural relationships within a society in normal conditions to understand the degree of vulnerability of different sections of their population to disaster.

For effective long-term disaster mitigation, we must develop strategies to change social and institutional structures which increase people’s vulnerability to disasters. Reforming these relationships lies at the root of strengthening the community’s capacity to cope with disasters.

The situation may worsen in the days to come because of paucity of torrents in the region, escalating the problems, specially for agriculturists and livestock holders. It is time for the government to act lest the situation goes out of its hand.

Pakistan could not handle pressure

A CRICKET expert, by definition, knows more about the game than a follower of it. But cricket is a great leveller for when it comes to pure luck, no amount of expertise can account for it. Inzamam-ul-Haq was on course to see Pakistan home in its crucial match against South Africa. He hit Justin Ontong for a six and momentarily got off-balance and his leg touched one of the wickets, the lightest of touches, and one bail was dislodged.

As freak dismissals go, this was the mother of them. But the South Africans can argue that Inzamam was dropped by Allan Donald off Nicky Boje, the most dolly of catches and, therefore, had used up his luck. It is this element of luck that guides the destiny of cricket matches and, looking on the dark side, makes hell for bookies!

Pakistan crashed out of the Morocco Cup because, in the end, it couldn’t handle the pressure in a low scoring match and proved yet again that it is a team that has not learnt the fine art of chasing runs. I don’t think that Saeed Anwar should have been dropped and to ask Shoaib Malik to open the innings was asking too much of him in a pressure-cooker situation.

Sending Shahid Afridi at number three was the right decision to offset the loss of Imran Nazir who needs a crash course in shot selection. Shahid not only took Pakistan to a stone’s throw from victory but set up Pakistan to get a bonus point.

There is no more glorious sight in cricket than Shahid blazing away and clearly he got under the skin of Jacques Kallis who was taken for plenty and his ‘verbals’, his bad-mouthing, were ignored by Shahid and he never took the smile of contentment off his face and there was something of the Tom and Jerry about the thrashing of Kallis by Shahid. To dispel the impression that this was something personal, Shahid also hit Allan Donald for a six.

When he was out, one shot too many, he had given Pakistan the platform to waltz the runs required, 105 with seven wickets in hand and plenty of overs remaining. It was from here that Pakistan botched it up. And the good fortune that South Africa had in the manner of Inzamam’s wicket. It was a slow paced wicket but not an impossible track. Pakistan should have opted for grafting rather than stroke-making but it must be admitted that the South Africans bowled brilliantly and the fielding was, as always menacing. A fielding side can exert its own pressure and no one does it better than South Africa.

Pakistan had bowled magnificently and had reduced South Africa to 49 for five and Wasim Akram, in particular, was superb. Perhaps, Pakistan should have gone for the kill and kept Wasim on. His coming off after five overs, allowed South Africa to breathe again. But this is hindsight. The bowlers did a fine job in restricting South Africa to 196. Once again, it was the batting that left Pakistan stranded, missing the bus to the final. Much praise has been heaped on Tangiers as a venue and the climate has been particularly praised and also an abundant supply of exotic vegetables. There is no doubt that a wonderful job has been done. But missing has been the buzz that a full house brings to a cricket match. Even John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier would have looked lesser actors had they played to an empty theatre.

What we got at Tangiers was ‘made for television’ cricket. Millions watch cricket on television but they too miss the buzz and the production becomes flat and two-dimensional. I don’t think comparisons with Sharjah are apt.

At Sharjah and indeed UAE, there is a very large expatriate population. This is not the case in Morroco. It is going to be a very long haul before the stadium at Tangiers will be bustling with avid and exciting fans getting themselves hoarse, cheering for a team of their choice. But it can be argued that sometimes there are fewer people at Test matches than there were at Tangiers. These are early days.

The conflict of business interest between the players and the ICC threatens to devalue the Champion’s Trophy in Sri Lanka. The ICC has once again butted in, head first. There are many players who have long-term contracts with sponsors. It is not a case of players versus country. The ICC too is trying to protect sponsors. So it’s money versus money.

If some player decides to take the ICC to court, the ICC will lose, as the MCC lost against Kerry Packer. And whatever little authority that the ICC has still got, will go out of the window. Have the ICC lawyers not heard of restraint of trade’? Anyhow, one hopes it will be sorted out and well before the World Cup starts next year and there are only a few months to go.

The Packer players too were accused of being unpatriotic. We now know that that was a load of rubbish. Banned, at first, they were reinstated and the cricket establishment ended with egg on its face.