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Divided by war, united by cricket?


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Captains Misbah-ul-Haq and Mushfiq-ur Rahim are facing contrasting fortunes with their respective cricket teams. —AFP Photo
Captains Misbah-ul-Haq and Mushfiq-ur Rahim are facing contrasting fortunes with their respective cricket teams. —AFP Photo

My Bangladeshi host stopped the rickshaw at a roundabout, stepped out and pointed towards the Independence square with much pride.

“This is the place where we got independence from Pakistan,” said Manjur Mohammad.

He then took a few steps towards the square and stopped. “Here your army surrendered their weapons,” he boasted.

Although December 16 will mark the 40th anniversary of the cessation of East Pakistan and the end of a war that began on December 3, the scars are still fresh and the bitterness lingers on.

For those like Manjur’s 74-year-old father, who witnessed the war and lived to tell the tale, the blame lies with Pakistan. But even for the younger generation of Bangladeshis, who have either read about the war or were narrated to by their elders, the friendliness comes with a hint of spite.

Cricket is no exception.

When Bangladesh achieved a sensational upset victory over Pakistan during the 1999 World Cup–although match-fixing allegations tainted the match – Bangladeshi fans celebrated it like a score was settled. That Northampton win remained Bangladesh’s only one over Pakistan in 26 one-day internationals (ODIs) and things aren’t going to change during Pakistan’s ongoing series against their former countrymen.

Pakistan’s recent mauling of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh’s hapless surrender in Zimbabwe suggest a series sweep for Misbah-ul Haq’s men, barring an extra-ordinary lift by their rivals. Considering Pakistan’s weakness against spin, the two Test matches could provide closer results than the three ODIs. However, even then Bangladesh will have to put up big totals on the board against Pakistan’s threatening pace attack and mature spinners in Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman.

Pakistan are much superior and experienced than Bangladesh, and under Misbah-ul Haq the team has shown the kind of unity which had never been Pakistan’s hallmark.

Additionally, a renewed work ethic and training and fitness regimen is now instilled in the team, which was introduced by former coach Waqar Younis. Under him Pakistan’s training regimen was taken up a level and the players are reaping the rewards in terms of an improved performance on the field.

During the recently concluded Pakistan-Sri Lanka series, it looked as if Pakistan’s negative traits – disharmony, lack of discipline and revolt against the captain – could be found in the Sri Lankan team, whose senior players like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were reportedly unhappy with captain Tillakaratne Dilshan.

The same ills seem to affect Bangladesh. Ever since Shakib-ul Hasan was replaced as captain by the young Mushfiq-ur Rahim, the seeds of discord were sown in the Bangladeshi team. Tamim Iqbal, replaced as vice-captain after the Zimbabwe debacle, is a shadow of the player whose twin hundreds on last year’s tour of England earned him a place in the Wisden Five – the first Bangladeshi player to receive the honour.

Off the field, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a common cause. They have to nominate a joint candidate for the vice-president’s post at the International Cricket Council (ICC). That candidate in turn will take over as ICC President once Alan Isaac (due to replace Sharad Pawar of India in June next year) quits in two years’ time. Since Bangladesh supported Pakistan’s candidate Ehsan Mani in 2003, it is now payback time for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Although both the PCB and Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have denied such reports, but speculations are rife that Pakistan have conditionally agreed to give Bangladesh a chance to nominate its candidate. In lieu, they want Bangladesh to tour Pakistan next year as the former world champions bid to bring back international cricket after nearly three years.

The writer is a senior sports journalist based in Karachi.

Comments (38) Closed

raika45 Dec 03, 2011 06:38pm
So when are you going to bring the thousands of people that pledge alligence to Pakistan and are in camps in Bangladesh back to your country?If you can care for the people of Indaian occupied Kashmir, you also have to consider these people.HA moderators, I got you on this.
Haris Dec 03, 2011 06:59pm
We must not forget the thousands of stranded Pakistanis who after 40 years still have no rights
Syed Yasir Kakakhel Dec 03, 2011 07:29pm
It is necessary to mention in favour of above comment that in 1980's a joint comission was set by the then presidents of Bangladesh and Pakistan to shift Eastern Pakistanis trapped in Western wing after 1971 back to Bangladesh and similarly to shift the trapped Pakistani in Bangladesh back to Pakistan. Nevertheless, that all the Eastern Pakistanis were shifted, no Pakistani was brought back to Pakistan from Bangladesh. General Zia Ul Haq was famously reported to have said that "an influx of Non Bengalis to Pakistan from Bangladesh would allow the index of Beggers to get much high". It is intresting to note that General Zia although did'nt allow the Pakistanis from Bangladesh to their home due to fear of increase in poverty, but on the other hand welcomed more than 4 million Afghan Refugees to Pakistan. Today those Pakistanis are living in camps even after 40 years since the fall of Dacca. Do you stil think, we are united . . ?
SFDawnReader Dec 03, 2011 07:34pm
I appreciate the article and its intentions, but I don't think there was any reason to highlight any lingering animosity that may remain because of the blood spilt in '71. We South Asians in general need to move on from the grudges of the past and move forward. Most Bangladeshis I know still have a sense of love for Pakistan. Perhaps I've met a select anamolous bunch, but from what I see each time Pakistan takes the field in Dhaka against a side that isn't Bangladesh, there's overwhelming support for 'West Pakistan', even when Pakistan play India. Again, rather than focusing on the supposed animosity and historical bad blood, I think it would've been better to show the warmth that Bangladeshis welcome Pakistanis with and the uplifting thought that they still feel a sense of brotherhood with us despite the wrongs committed against them. Also, it's never a good idea to say with such definitiveness that a team will sweep a series. Give Bangladesh some respect. Of course, I'm not saying Pakistan won't prevail, but the opposing side deserves at least a bit of respect than to just be dismissed outright in that manne.
Nurul Amin DHAKA BAN Dec 03, 2011 08:02pm
General A K NIAZI surrendered to a joint command of MUKTI BAHINI and the Indian Army on 16 December 1971. 90,000 Pak soldiers SURRENDERED.
Khurram Dec 03, 2011 09:24pm
Lets stop arguing amongst ourselves and agree that both countries pre and post independence have been plagued by corrupt generals, politicians and the so called elite class. May they and there families feel the full warth of God.
Aftab Alam Dec 03, 2011 10:24pm
The genocide just cannot be forgotten. This was the biggest genocide after the second world war. Has Pakistan apologized? Has any army officer been convicted? Do text books continue to lie about 1971? There is lot that needs to be done before relations can move forward.
pakistankiqasam Dec 03, 2011 10:59pm
"For those like Manjur’s 74-year-old father, who witnessed the war and lived to tell the tale, the blame lies with Pakistan." ofcourse the blame lies with pakistan. it was our fualt, 95% our fault. we need to put patriotism and pakistan studies' lessons taught at our schools to a side and accept the reality of what really happened. pakistan army did commit genocide and west pakistanis committed injustices against east pakistanis since day 1 1947, till 1971. on that note of all the bengalis whom i am acquainted with here in england, i ve never felt any animosity or hatred from either side, to a lesser extent same goes for indians except for when pak v india cricket is on.........
RM Dec 03, 2011 11:45pm
There are more than 2 million Bangladeshis working in Pakistan. Places like Ziaul Haq colony are full of them. Entire poultry labor in Hub is from Bangladesh. The Paan Wala in my mohalla sends Rs. 50,000 a month to Bangladesh. Yet B Deesh twice a year renews animosity and hatred against Pakistan. Now even their own writers are talking about the deaths of Urdu speaking at the hands of Mukti Bahinis. I feel sorry for Bangladeshis who are above hatred but are trapped in a country which lives on Pakistan bashing.
anony Dec 03, 2011 11:55pm
This is just typical. Pakistanis moving along, forgetting the bitter past and considering bengalis like brothers, and bengalis 'still' holding a grudge against the pakistanis from 1971. Its true that the majority of bengalis I have met here in the US are very friendly towards pakistanis and literally consider them like brothers, hoot for Pakistan whenever there is a Pak/India match, it angers me to see the few that are still stuck in the past. May there be peace amongst all muslims.
Nasser Ali Khan Dec 04, 2011 12:18am
My heart goes to the nearly half a million non-Bengalis who have always wanted to remain Pakistanis and move to present-day Pakisr tan, which no Pakistani politician has ever allowed or the general Pakistani population bothered about. My suggestion to these non-Bengalese would be to ask for Bangladesh's nationality by heart and formal request to the Bangladesh Government. What's so great about Pakistan anyway. I say this with a heavy heart being a Pakistani myself. At the ned of the day we all are human beings and that's most important, not nationalaties. Allah does not consider nationalities.
syed ahmed Dec 04, 2011 02:28am
could we can play cricket ,what happen is happen they are happy we are happy no blame game ,what happen is passed look for new begening from both side ,what i belived ,bangal now is are oppent in cricket and new nation build by pasion people just pray just for peace .
Saqlain Dec 04, 2011 04:10am
It's article without ground reality that Bangladeshis love and like Pakistan. I live in Australia since a long time and meet many Benglais 98% of those don't like Pakistan
Waqarcan Dec 04, 2011 05:28am
As an eye witness of the gruesome killings and political blunders committed by the ruler of the time in 1971 debacle of East Pakistan, those memories still haunts my mind after so many years. if Bangladeshis have any bitterness, they have every right to have that.
Asaad Dec 04, 2011 05:56am
I believe general public of Bangladesh,India, Pakistan, Srilanka, Nepal have mutual respect and love for each other. Tolerance did & does exist regardless of religious and other differences. Few people with hate, always finds a way stir up emotions and divisions. Simply love Pakistan Cricket and wishing a 2nd WC for Pakistan (Bangladesh need more time). - A Bangladeshi.
FR Dec 04, 2011 07:40am
Great comment SFDawnReader to a poor article.
hammad Dec 04, 2011 09:01am
very well said
G.A. Dec 04, 2011 09:32am
I have never really seen Bangladeshis and Pakistanis express any animosity towards eachother. Infact I have seen very cordial and brotherly relations between the two. East Pakistan is a distant memory in Pakistan and the younger generation sees Bangladesh simply as another country and ad time passes, cultural and religious similarities will only bring them closer. It's only natural.
Raza Dec 04, 2011 11:35am
Very well said brother, especially one should never forget that Pakistan, besides the good form they are in now, still have the tendency to do the unexpected as they had done in the past and that is why it is still the most unpredictable side in the world. All pakistani fans should consider the fact that win against Zimbabwe, weakened Sri lanka, and Bangladesh doesn't provide the seal of A Class team. Lets see how Paki boys do against england in UAE. I consider Pakistani batting one of the weakest in test cricket especially when facing an A Class bowling attack.
Aamir Dec 04, 2011 11:35am
It is not division by people, it was division by a bunch of empty headed individuals who burned all hopes of decent coexistence during 1971. Blaming only Pak Army is a sin and attrocities comitted by Mukti Bahni is still under the carpets. Be open an accept that faults were on both sides. Even then, Pakistan's deliberately lost a match in 1999 which helped Bangladesh earned a test status which they failed to justify to date.
Saud Bajwa Dec 04, 2011 01:22pm
Very Well said.
Paki Dec 04, 2011 02:28pm
thumbs up . very well said
Muhammad Jahir-Ul-Is Dec 04, 2011 03:02pm
This is not true at all. A few people don't like your country coz they may have lost their relatives in 1971. If they don't like your country then how can we support 99% when u play against India or other country and your players is being idle here.
Taj Dec 04, 2011 03:11pm
It is always disappointing when sport and politics are mixed. Good to see at least cricketers are getting on well with each other. As far as Pakistani’s in Bangladesh are concern, they should have brought back to Pakistan. Pakistan spends millions to look after Afghanistan refugees and spends millions to fight war over Kashmir but cannot look after our own Pakistani brother from Bangladesh, just shame. Afghans and Kashmirs will always be anti Pakistan but our Pakistani brothers in Bangladesh will sport Pakistan
Usman Aftab Dec 04, 2011 04:44pm
Well said mate!
Usman Aftab Dec 04, 2011 04:52pm
It is never too late to admit the faults and allow things to change for good. The world has changed in leaps and bounds since 1971 and I would like to stress on the need to be futuristic. Pakistanis and Bangladesh should join hands together and work together for the mutual interests. The Pakistani nation has a lot of affection for the Bangladeshi brothers in their hearts. Let's bury the past and start a new chapter of love and peace. - A Pakistani.
Dr. Salaria, Aamir A Dec 04, 2011 05:01pm
Let sports be differentiated and separated from politics since both have no connection with each other directly or indirectly, implicitly or explicitly, knowingly or unknowingly.
Ay K Dec 04, 2011 07:06pm
Couldn't put it better. And especially to say score was settled just by beating us in the 1999 world cup's a bit of a shame since they lost the next 26 ODIs ha ha ha. -.- Indians caused a massacre while Muslims were trying to move to the Pakistani side of the border in 1947, but does Pakistan whine about it? No, because that only makes us sound debilitated and inferior.
khan Dec 04, 2011 07:57pm
spoken like a true indian.
Imran A. Dec 05, 2011 09:24am
Bangladesh should appreciate they got independence from India because of Quaid-e-Azam. No country can ever survived if the distance between them is 1000 miles.
Aqil Siddiqi Dec 08, 2011 12:31pm
I agree with Usman, to forget about the past, and worry about the future. I have never considered Bangladesh any different then Pakistan. I love them both. If not for our own stupid mistakes, we could still be one country. I live in Canada, and my best friends are mostly from Bangladesh, and they treat me same as I treat them(Like Brothers).
Aqil Siddiqi Dec 08, 2011 12:39pm
I agree with you. My best friends are from Bangladesh, and they love me, as I love them. This pain will go away, need some more time and effort. B.C, Canada.
Marya Dec 09, 2011 01:16am
May Allah give you sabar and jaza on the day of judgment. Aamen
javed helali Dec 09, 2011 08:21pm
Bangladesh has offered BD nationality several times in the past... even as late as last year! Many hundreds have accepted it with gratitude and are living happily ( as happily as a citizen of a poor country be). I know many of them. Thanks. javed helali
Shazli Dec 14, 2011 01:17am
The distance between the hearts was, unfortunately, much greater than that, thanks to the politicians on both sides.
Muhammad Jahir-Ul-Is Dec 14, 2011 06:53am
Thanks a lot for writing
saeed Dec 15, 2011 06:21pm
Don't blame Politician everytime It Is always PEOPLE .
saeed Dec 15, 2011 06:25pm
Haris, don' forget JUST ADOPT ONE FAMILY.Pakistan law allow it .