SADIQ Khan keeps his eye on the ball during a cricket match at the British Deputy High Commission on Friday while Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed stands in as keeper.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
SADIQ Khan keeps his eye on the ball during a cricket match at the British Deputy High Commission on Friday while Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed stands in as keeper.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Nothing cheers up a crowd more than a cricket match, especially when the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, takes to the pitch alongside cricket legend Mushtaq Ahmed and current Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed. Cheers from young children reverberated in the grounds of the British Deputy High Commission on Friday and the sight was a rare one indeed.

The mayor’s short trip to Pakistan ended on a high note in Karachi where he participated in British Council’s sports for peace initiative, Dosti, answered questions at an event organised by Habib University, attended the book launch of writer Kamila Shamsie at the British Council Library and went to the Chief Minister House, where Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah hosted a reception for him. Earlier in the day, the London mayor also visited the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam.

At Habib University, it was announced that the mayor had a busy schedule and was pressed for time therefore he would be answering only three select questions after his brief talk. But having answered those he said he could stay for a few more and encouraged the students, especially the female students, to ask him more questions.

Sadiq Khan suggests it is wise to plan for growth of cities

And at the Dosti event, which aims to promote community cohesion and participation among underprivileged children, he spoke to young boys and girls from 12 to 18 years of age, all from government schools who took part in a cricket match on the premises, in crisp Urdu and appreciated their efforts in the field of sports, which he said was essential for peace, stability, inclusion and tolerance.

He spoke about the importance of empowering children through sport and was excited to see “the passion and skill of Karachi’s young cricketers. This just goes to show how grassroots sports can inspire and change the lives of young people all over the world”.

Speaking to the media, he admitted that after his trip to Pakistan he can safely say that “there has been quite a huge improvement in relation to security in the country. We saw that earlier this year in Lahore with the Pakistan Super League final and I look forward to the final taking place in Karachi this time.”

Speaking about the parallels between Karachi and London, he stressed that both cities can learn from each other. “I can learn from Karachi and Karachi can learn from us. Karachi is a growing city as is London. And in London we are planning for the growth which means more infrastructure, making sure the community has the skills for the jobs of tomorrow, encouraging businesses to come to our city, building homes that people need.”

These all are being done in London and are needed to be done in cities around the world that are growing, he explained.

“Karachi and London have a lot of parallels. Both are cosmopolitan cities with fantastic cultures, sports and wonderful people. And both are cities that can become even better. London is open; for trade, business, sports, culture, visitors; London is also open minded and outward looking. And all great cities can learn that from London.”

He proudly proclaimed that London is the greatest city in the world because “you can be successful, if you work hard then you can get a helping hand and you can do whatever you want to do. All great cities must provide a helping hand so that people can achieve their maximum potential.”

At Habib University, he said that only last week he was looking at the Quaid-i-Azam’s speeches before the unveiling of his bust at the London Museum to be placed at Lincoln’s Inn. “Jinnah spoke about religious freedom and women’s rights,” he reminded, adding that he was the father of two beautiful and intelligent daughters.

When asked how important it was for students to join politics, he said that it was important not to see oneself as a consumer, but as a citizen and as a citizen you need to turn up and step up. “You need to get involved in any mainstream political party. But turn up first. Because if you don’t turn up those decisions will be taken by someone else,” he pointed out.

About the rise of right-wing politics in London, he said that those politicians were just playing on people’s fears. “Politicians need to be educators who spread awareness about pluralism and its benefits in society,” he said.

When asked how he saw Karachi through the eyes of a mayor, he said that it is always a good sign when you see a city growing because then there is something there which is attracting more people to go live there. “So it is always wise to plan for growth,” he said. About his own way of planning he said that he liked to pick up and copy the good things about various cities. “I believe in stealing ideas rather than inventing badly,” he joked.

Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah hosted a reception for the visiting mayor of London and his delegation here at CM House in the evening. The reception was attended by prominent businessmen, former hockey, cricket and squash players, academicians and others.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2017