Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Greatest Idea Ever

So Carlos Tevez threw a tantrum after being subtituted in a game, and walked out on his teammates. The manager says the team should decide his punishment. What do they decide? That he should wear a Brazil shirt during practice. This is honestly the most brilliant idea I've ever come across. Athletes are way too rich for fines to make a difference anyway. But pride can tug at them more than most people. Can you imagine this in other sports? Say Shoaib Akhtar goes around banging at doors at night and smoking joints in public. Don't fine or ban him. Just make him wear a Tendulkar shirt and carry a poster of Ganguly with the words "I love India" printed in big, black letters. I guarantee you, he'll never do it again.

Quote of the day

Here is the central truth about Iraq today: This country is so broken it can’t even have a proper civil war.

There are so many people killing so many other people for so many different reasons — religion, crime, politics — that all the proposals for how to settle this problem seem laughable. It was possible to settle Bosnia’s civil war by turning the country into a loose federation, because the main parties to that conflict were reasonably coherent, with leaders who could cut a deal and deliver their faction.

But Iraq is in so many little pieces now, divided among warlords, foreign terrorists, gangs, militias, parties, the police and the army, that nobody seems able to deliver anybody. Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war — it’s gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It’s Hobbes’s jungle.

Thomas Friedman, in his column (don't bother clicking if you don't have NYTimes Select). I have no problem with what he writes in the first three paragraphs. It's this part I have a problem with:

On Feb. 12, 2003, before the war, I wrote a column offering what I called my “pottery store” rule for Iraq: “You break it, you own it.” It was not an argument against the war, but rather a cautionary note about the need to do it with allies, because transforming Iraq would be such a huge undertaking. (Colin Powell later picked up on this and used the phrase to try to get President Bush to act with more caution, but Mr. Bush did not heed Mr. Powell’s advice.)

But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam’s iron fist.

So, wait, Iraq wasn't "broken" by the U.S. invading it but by a history spanning 1000 years? And the Baath Party somehow broke and held together the nation-state of Iraq. That's quite an impressive feat, wouldn't you say?

I-had-no-idea-about-this fact of the day

These numbers are absolutely ridiculous. In 97-98, Shevchenko scored 19 goals in 23 league games. The next year it was 18 in 26. His first two years in Milan? 24 in 32 and 24 in 34. His last three years in Milan? 24 in 32, 17 in 29 and 19 in 28. I know strikers are generally expected to score around 20 goals a season, but to do so at such an astounding strike rate, with such consistency, is mind-boggling.

Sorry for being away, but I was away

I came across an interesting article in the Washington Post today on the pervasiveness of me-sites: blogs and websites where the subject seems to be the self. I've always been a little baffled by facebookers and orkuters and bloggers who wish to tell us how they spent their day. Now, understand, I'm not judging (I promise). If you wish to use the internet to tell us about yourself, by all means, go ahead. All I'm saying it, don't expect me to understand the compulsion (or to visit your page/website/blog).

Look, I'm an incredibly egotistical guy. But even I would never think my life is interesting enough for me to plaster myself, my pictures or my stories all over the web. I would be terribly embarassed by it all - I would ask myself, "Who the hell cares what you did on the weekend?" and answer "Uh, no one". For me, if I'm going to blog about myself, I would need to have climbed Mount Everest or done something even more difficult, like taking a few points off Roger Federer, so that I would have something to write about. Only in that situation would a personal blog make sense. But I guess that's not true for an increasing number of people, many of whom feel the need to detail incredibly mundane aspects of their lives.

I suppose many people feel the MySpaces and Facebooks and Orkuts of the world are social networking sites and help to meet new people. I'm not so sure. Since I'm not a member of any of these things, I really can't say from experience, so if I'm wrong, by all means let me know. But I'd be truly surprised if anyone on these sites actually made a new friend through them. People find it hard enough to make time for the friends they have; you're telling me that they're going out, consciously looking for more friends? I don't think so.

In essence, these sites seem to be (again, let me emphasize I'm speaking from a distance, so I could be wrong) places where you tell the rest of the world what you're up to, what your favourite movie is and what your hair looks like this week. That's it. You can't really call them social networking sites. I doubt very seriously if anyone who's, say, interested in computer games, British politics and badminton goes around Facebook looking for someone in their area who also happens to be interested in computer games, British politics and badminton just so they can be friends. More likely is the case that the person interested in computer games, British politics and badminton is self-important enough to think that the rest of the world cares that they're interested in computer games, British politics and badminton, and hopes that the rest of the world will sit up and say "Wow! If someone is interested in computer games, British politics and badminton, they must be really cool! And look, these pictures of Saturday night's party prove his coolness! What a God!" And that's the part I don't understand. Surely the people using these sites are smart enough to know that they only seem interesting to themselves, right? Right?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sex Free Zone Baby!

My best buddies, the MMA, has been going on about how Pakistan has now become a sex free zone where people hump on the side walks and in the parks, atop trees and in the back seats! I guess the mullahs are pissed off that everyone's spoiling their party, as NB's close relation said, "Why should madrassahs be the only sex free zones".

But I'm not happy. This country is headed towards unfathomable disaster, the wrath of God shall befall these wrectched creatures who shall drive us all to the depths of hell with their iniquitous acts. All I ask for them is to not stop...but too share. It was ok to not get 'some' in a a country where no one's having sex, unless its, rape or with little boys, but now that the Mullahs are saying that everyone's boinking - and I take them on their word - I feel so left out.

Damn you Women's Protection Bill!

'Rape Watching: For those boring Sundays' - MMA

TV show on CNBC or GEO a couple of weeks ago which had some crazy feminist women fighting some crazy MMA dick warts, most of the show was incomprehensible as everyone was just shouting until one of the ladies says that "the law is just stupid because you're never going to find four men witnessesing rape". The MMA cadre remains silent, deep in thought, I naively expect something a little nuanced from their mouths, then the dear leader of MMA Sindh starts talking, "well its not too hard to find 4 male witnesses, there are always people watching rape!"

Ronaldinho is God
This has to be one of the greatest goals ever! He could've just headed it in, but that would be too easy.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Raping Karachi

There’s an alarming story in this month’s Newsline about the privatization of pretty much all of Karachi’s beaches. Everyone’s been making noise about the manner in which the DHA (army people) has sold ALL of Defence’s seaside lands to foreign developers; a lot’s been said about the sale of two islands in the Korangi creek area (you can see these from Phase 8 / Marina Club Area) by the Port Authority – the provincial government is contesting this sale, not on the grounds that the land should not be sold at it displaces the entire population of an adjacent fishing village (Ibrahim Hydery) but on the grounds that the money (quoted as high as $ 30 Billion, which I refuse to believe) belongs to Sindh and not the Port Authority.

Newsline reveals that the sales don’t stop there, the Karachi City government has sold the entire stretch of beach from Sea View McDonalds to Oyster Rocks (area way past Indus Valley) in a dodgy deal – apparently a local politician and Middle Easter developers stand to make millions from the deal, while the city will get miniscule interest payments. The one good thing is that the road’s been done up so that you can travel from Seaview to West Wharf / Keamari along the beach and get there quite fast. And this has meant another opportunity for the fucking idiot ex-Navy officials in-charge of the Port Authority are ready to sell even more land. Islamabad has already signed a MOU with yet another Middle Eastern developer to sell, get this, MANORA! Continuing from there local businessman , and property cartels have started buying large chunks of land, excluding fishing villages, west (I think its west anyway) of Manora and in Hawks Bay. Apparently they’ve been intimated by the government that once the Manora development is underway the government will clear out the fishing villages and build a bridge linking Manora to Clifton (I think realistically this will be from Manora to Keamari) whereby the journey time from the city to Hawks Bay, et al will be drastically reduced. This way the only Public beaches left within the extended confines of greater Karachi will be Sea View, and that even only the area between McDonalds and The Village, or the area west of French beach, which is actually in Baluchistan!

Now I don’t mind the development of the beach one bit, and personally I don’t mind the privatization of the beach either because I will either be able to afford it, or I’ll have some friends who will be able to afford it or I’ll just marry someone who can; the point is that all of Karachi’s beaches will become the domain of the rich. The logic of the Admirals and Generals in charge of most of these sales is quite clear, “Manora’s a shit hole, no one goes there so lets sell it off so it gets developed”. Absolutely right, Manora is a shit hole but it’s a shit hole where fisherman live and have lived for centuries, and lots of people do go there; they’re not rich perhaps, they’re people like my driver who takes his family there whenever he can because its one of the few places he can afford to go. What all this means is that even if a million people can afford to visit these new private developments, 15 million people will not be able to do so; that’s 15 million people in a poor, dirty city robbed of one of their few means of entertainment and that’s just not right. But hey, I’ll be sipping a non-alcoholic cocktail in a ‘nice little place’ by the sea, the rest of the city can fuck right off, dirty, smelly buggers, we’ll start another NGO to look after them; and what of the fisherman of Karachi, well they’ll manage to find some fish in a well in Sohrab Goth, they’re quite ‘resourceful’ you know… now where’s my cigar, OI WAITER!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yup, he's their President

Photo credit: AP

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quote of the day
These are my pants. And those are your pants. And you should not take my pants. This is mine, and that is yours! I never took anyone’s land.

A West Bank Palestinian, whose privately owned land has a synagogue built on it. And no, he didn't want a synagogue built on his land. One guess as to who did.

Monday, November 20, 2006

You go, girl

Guess who Newsweek magazine interviewed this week? Benazir Bhutto. Every time I watch/read her interviews, I'm even more inclined to support the PPP. Now before you get all jumpy and tell me she didn't do anything for women or she supported the Taliban or it's all rhetoric, I ask you to just consider this: even if it is all rhetoric, don't words carry weight? Isn't it important that someone is at least saying these things? I mean, no other Pakistani politican is this enlightened with their public views - doesn't that count for something? Anyways, here are my favourite bits from the interview:
When I look at the rise of the religious parties, the reorganization of the Taliban and the persistence of the militant groups, I worry for Pakistan’s future.

A democratic society will also create tolerance among the young people in Pakistan who are confused by conflicting messages. On the one hand, they hear about the beauty of an accountable, transparent governance system that empowers ordinary people. But their reality is that power flows from the gun. We need to reverse the culture of violence and replace it with a culture of law and tolerance.


These corruption charges have been made to tarnish my image and deny Pakistan a democratic alternative. Since 1950, corruption charges have been made against every civilian prime minister—I believe it’s to divert attention from the institutionalized corruption of the military.

Irrespective of the differences on Kashmir, India and Pakistan have to move forward. One of the key ways that we can move forward is by copying Europe’s example. Europe was torn apart by war until it decided to build a common market. I’ve spoken to Indian leaders on this, and within Pakistan and India there’s an emerging consensus that while we have differences, these differences should not stop us from economic development and cooperation in terms of trade and travel.

The time has come when we within the Muslim world need to realize that each of us has a right to interpret religion as we wish, and we do not need clerics or the state to tell us how to worship.


When I was first elected prime minister of Pakistan, a leading Saudi cleric said that it was un-Islamic. At the same time, the religious leaders from Yemen, Cairo and Syria all came out in support of a woman leading an Islamic nation. [There is] tremendous debate and discussion between those who would take us to the past, and those who look to the future.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quick links, no time for commentary

Lots of interesting stuff in the news today, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) I can't give my two cents on it all. David Aldridge, one of the best NBA reporters out there, says Webber should accept his role off the bench and stop whining. Maulana Fazlur Rahman says the Mindless Medieval Assholes won't allow the implementation of the WP Bill in NWFP and Balochistan. The New York Times weighs the possibilities of a grand bargain the Middle East, involving the U.S., Iran and Syria. Hilarious piece by Osman Samiuddin on that dumbass workshop the PCB organized. A BBC article says that for British Muslims, Kashmir might be a bigger magnet to terrorism than U.S. foreign policy. General Abizaid (hyperbole alert) says Islamic militancy could lead to World War III. Junk food ads will now be banned in children's magazines in Britain because their kids are too fat (this is going to work great - because if you don't see something in a magazine ad, you don't know it exists). And finally, Dawn is helping someone find their long lost friend. Awwww.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bald-faced (and unbelievable) lies

We've all told those types of lies. You know, the ones that are so stupid that no one in their right mind would fall for them. One that sticks out in memory for me was when I was about 10 or 11 years old. My maulvi sahab, who used to come 5 days a week, came to our house as usual around 6pm or so. I was NOT in the mood to read the Quran on that day. I had to think of something fast. Instead of going to my parents and/or the maulvi saab and tell them I was sick, I decided that would be too transparent and thought that I should push it up a notch. Why not let them find out for themselves that I was sick? So the maulvi was let in the house and my name was promptly yelled from downstairs, as it always was. However, I didn't respond. Why? Because I was lying on the floor, faking a blackout. Anyways, a few yells went by without my response, so my mom came up to my room and saw me on the floor. She didn't buy it for one second. She said something to the effect of "How dumb do you think I am? Do your wuzu and go downstairs." She didn't even entertain the possibility that I might actually be ill. Guess she knows me too well.

Why do I bring this up? Because a one Mr. Masood Hassan and his missus Shahnaz Parveen had been living illegally in Delhi since 1999, when they entered on 2-month visas. They were found out and have now been sentenced to three years in prison, plus Rs. 2000 fine. What, pray tell, was their defence to the court? This: they were always Indian citizens who had gone to meet Pakistani relatives in Pakistan, somehow lost their Indian passports and so had to return to India with Pakistani passports with Indian visas. Forget visa violations - they should be sentenced to jail for telling the dumbest lie the world has ever seen.

Hail to the Quaid...the one in London!
Yesterday was MMA's day of protest against the brothelisation of Pakistan, as always MMA had waited till Friday to protest, it’s easier for them to march the madrassah students out into streets after Friday prayers. There were sizeable demonstrations across the country but what happened in Karachi was truly astonishing. The MQM anticipating MMA demonstrations decided to hold its own rally that completely overwhelmed the MMA demonstrations. The MQM rally was also a logistical masterstroke, the MQM sent some of its people to the Gurumandir area before friday prayers and they started diverting traffic to other routes from mid-afternoon even though the rally itself was in the evening. The MMA people gathered outside different mosques after friday prayers but found that the roads had already been taken over by the MQM and they had no way of getting to the main MMA demonstration at Gulshan, so these mullahs just kept on standing outside the mosques, denouncing the US, and soon dispersed. And that wasn't the end of it, the MQM then sent its people on motorbikes (many with women) across the city with MQM flags. The MQM demonstration itself was huge and was quoted by many TV channels as being the largest gathering of women in recent history. The best part was Altaf, the mad Quaid, saying: 'The MMA promised to resign if the Bill passed, why haven't they? Come on MMA stick to your word. And if the MMA resigns the MQM promises to only appoint women for those seats ' (It sounded hilarious in Urdu, especially in Altaf's sarcastic tone).

Now I'm no big of the MQM, I hated the way they took advantage of students in the 90's and handed them all guns (Disclosure: I'm a Mohajir and I personally know of people who were given guns and made 'sector incharge' so the mafia thing isn't Ahsan's Punjabi propaganda). But nobody knows how to piss off the mullahs better than these guys. The mutual hatred of these two parties goes back a long way; before the 90s Karachi was a Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) stronghold and they pretty much ran the show, now contrast that with the last elections when the MMA got only one seat from Karachi (guess which one...why Defence ofcourse!). The opposition of the MMA isn't a seasonal thing for the MQM, they really are against the policies of the mullahs identifying themselves in part as an ideological 'other'. This might not be there primary identity but it does form part of the MQM's identity.

I'm still not sure about who I would support, I've always had reservations about the MQM's use of the ethnic card, much more so then them being a mafia - and they really are getting a lot better at curtailing violent elements within the party. The only other option is the PPP though it’s certainly not the party that it used to be. During the last decade the PPP in trying to reassure its base (Sindh) played up its ethnic credentials and lost much support in the rest of the country. More importantly it lost sight of its own identity and even now is unable to define a clear national agenda, something it had always been good at - the party was built around Bhutto's famous slogan "roti, kapra aur makan" (translation: 'bread, clothes and shelter'). Most critically, the regionalisation of PPP has led to a fundamental change in its leadership. PPP during the Zia years was led by some of the finest intellectuals even though most of the seats were won by feudals (and many of these feudals were also reform minded) - however the political elders of the PPP have had no successors with the same intellectual vigout, their children have simply become 'urban feudals', and many of the reformist feudals were unable to instill the same values in their children and this new generation of feudals is horriffic. The PPP appears reasoned, reformist and 'modern' on a cursory glance but at its core it is very much elitist and is anything but reformist in nature. Its leaders might be well educated and speak perfect English and quote Chomsky et al to sure up their liberal credentials but they are a) disconnected from Pakistani society and b) show distaste for it.
If the MQM and PPP were TV Channels, MQM would be GEO (its staff and benefactors are MQM wallahs), and the PPP would be Business Plus (whose owner is a PPP man and also owns the Daily Times and I really fucking hate that elitist, self-righteous, condescending fucking fuck of a newspaper - its the newspaper equivalent of a young Defence auntie, house wife with an American education, talking about reform and then complaining about the maid asking for a raise' "as though Rs.3000 wasn't enough'" before going of to a feudal friend's village retreat for the weekend - its that whole guise of being liberal as though liberalism is defined by going to a party and rubbishing Bush).

Well there's always the Kisan Party (Pakistan's resident Communists).

Friday, November 17, 2006

"The Seal"

I have absolutely no idea how Brazil keeps coming up with these guys. Apparently he's a Man United target.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Best Sledging Ever

There's a reason Kumar Sangakkara is one of my favourite cricketers.

The Aussie Squad

Big mistake. Luckily they'll have a chance to rectify it, given the squad announced is only for the first test. How can they play Shane Watson at 6? It completely blows my mind. He's not a test all-rounder, ok? If England's bowlers are bowling well, he'll be found out. Plus I'm decidedly unimpressed with his bowling (admittedly, I haven't seen a great deal of him).

See, this is what happens when you learn the wrong lessons from defeat. The Aussie thinking seems to be that they lost the Ashes because (a) they were too friendly with the English players and (b) they didn't have an all-rounder and England did. Utter crap. The two reasons England won the Ashes were (a) the complete neutralization of Gilchrist and (b) the crappiness of the bowler(s) not named McGrath, Warne or Lee. In their hunt for an all-rounder to presumably match up with Flintoff, they've chosen a guy who's neither here or there. Tell me this: Australia are 60-4, with Flintoff having taken two wickets in two overs. How many runs do you think Watson makes? Conversely, pretend England are somehow 310-3, with Strauss and Collingwood at the crease. Which Australian would you pick to bowl at that time? Not Watson for sure.

Australia should realize that there is nothing wrong with the specialist strategy (6+1+4) that served them so well for so long. It's just that the personnel used by the strategy was lacking in quality. This time, there should be no worries. Mitchell Johnson should play, adding bite to the attack, along with the three guaranteed bowlers. And Michael Clarke (perhaps the only Australian cricketer I can bring myself to like) should bat at 6. I'm sure he's learnt from the mistakes he made last summer, and is a better player for having made them. Australia are too good a team to have a Watson-type player in the test side.

I'm supporting England by the way.

Happy, could've been happier

Like most people, I'm reasonably satisfied that the WP Bill has passed. Yes the lewdness clause was a shameless attempt at placating the Mindless Medieval Assholes. But as some of the reports I linked to last night said, a rape case can't become an adultery case, though the reverse is possible. One of the most important things to come out of this is that forensic (DNA) evidence can now be used to prosecute rapists. All in all, this is most definitely a step in the right direction. As I said in an email to a friend about this, I've developed a beggars-can't-be-choosers mentality to this question. In other words, some progress is better than none. I'm even inclined to say that Musharraf and the Parliament deserve a pat on the back. Combined with the non-negative news coming out of the Foreign Secretaries' meeting in Delhi, and it's been a good couple of days current events-wise. Now watch something terrible happen tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quote of the day
This bill will turn Pakistan into a free-sex zone.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Surely they don't believe the shit that comes out of their own mouths. They can't. It's obviously all about politics - making a nuisance of themselves when they can to get concessions elsewhere. Now ask yourself this: what sort of people play politics with a woman's ability to get her rapists prosecuted?

Hasba Bill Here, Women's Protection Bill There, Mindless Medieval Assholes Everywhere

I have depressingly low standards for political parties in Pakistan. When I ask myself why I support the PPP, I can only come up with three answers, each no longer than a sentence. One, they're not a mafia or terrorist organization. Two, the PPP leadership is on record as saying that Pakistan's territory should not be used for terrorism. Three, the PPP leadership is on record as saying that they are against the draconian laws against women that exist in Pakistan today. That's it. If any of our readers can give me the name of another party that fulfills all three criteria, I'll be glad to hear it. But the MQM fails the first test, almost everyone fails the second and the PML (both of them) fails the third. The MMA? Well, those bastards fail all three.

As most people know already, the MMA have once again tried to push the Hasba Bill through in the NWFP. If the Supreme Court gets tired of fighting the government's battles for it (as it should) and if it gets the governor's assent, the bill goes through. The bill's main accomplishment (if one can call it that) would be the creation of ombudsmen at various levels of government to "promote virtue" and to "eliminate un-Islamic practices". It also seeks to ban alcohol (somewhat redundant) and music in commercial vehicles. The obvious implication would be a dangerous extension of the powers of the Mindless Medieval Assholes and their kin. Lest anyone think I'm over-reacting, please remember "un-Islamic practices" can be defined however they see fit. This bill is about power: both of the "traditional" political kind as well as the Orwellian-oversight kind.

In its editorial (linked above), the Daily Times says "extremism is hardly being rolled back by the King’s Party. It is actually creeping in under its door like a stain of blood." Creeping is right. 40 km south of Peshawar, two girls' schools have already been closed down, with threats extended that further closures could be on the way. And although the Supreme Court (thank God for Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry...seriously) has done its bit to water the original Hasba Bill down, its passing would still be disastrous. If it goes through, I really wouldn't know whether to be scared or angry. Knowing me, it would probably be the latter. But it's still scary. As Dawn says, it is the duty of everyone opposed to this law to resist it, however they can.

If suspicions of a quid pro quo agreement between the government and the MMA on the Hasba Bill and the Women's Protection Bill aren't unfounded, then there's reason for even more fury. If it's true, then essentially the MMA has told the government "Let us pass a horrendously unconstitutional bill guaranteed to strike down the few liberties that Pakistanis enjoy and in return we won't resign in protest if you pass a bill that actually makes rape prosecutable." It's as if they think they're doing everyone a favour by not standing in the way of women attaining the most basic rights. What's truly mind boggling is that if that was the deal, they still weren't satisfied with it. No, they wanted their three proposed amendments to the Women's Protection Bill (the ones that pissed the MQM and the PPP off so much) to be taken up on top of all that. Well, guess what? Looks like they succeeded. Under the new WP Bill, "lewdness" is now a crime punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a Rs. 10,000 fine. What, pray tell, is lewdness? Why, consensual sex of course!

There are two mini-victories in the lewdness clause. One, the bill makes clear that the clause does not apply to rape cases and that a person suspected of "lewdness" could not be arrested without a warrant. In other words, an "adultery" case can become a rape case but not vice versa (this is important because so many women who are raped are afraid to come forward for fear of being tried for adultery if they don't furnish enough proof of rape). Two, somewhat bizarrely, two eyewitnesses are required for the prosecution of lewdness. So if my reading of this is correct, it means you must have a foursome (with two participants sorely disappointed) to be prosecuted for lewdness. If that's true, then it's fine. People that greedy need to be in jail anyway.

Make no mistake though. Those are mini-victories in a decidely lopsided battle. For a party (or group of parties, whatever) that really wouldn't stand in a chance in a truly free and fair election, the MMA gets to decide an awful lot in Pakistani politics. They decide who can run marathons (men) and who can't (women). They decide which crimes can be prosecuted ("lewdness") and which can't (rape). They decide, at least in NWFP, what should be encouraged ("Islamic" activities) and what should be discouraged (music, dance, art). For all of this, we can only blame Musharraf and his political engineering. None of this would have ever happened had he had the foresight back in 2002 to see how badly his backing of the religous parties would backfire. I hope to dear God he's regretting it now and ensures it won't happen again next year. In the short term, though, he can still rectify this by doing two simple things. One, prod the government to challenge the Hasba Bill and take it to the Supreme Court, where it'll be thrown in the trash can. Two, not back down on the Women's Protection Bill and tell the Q-League in no uncertain terms that they better take out the MMA-sponsored amendments.

I feel incredibly strongly about all of this. Women's rights and warding off Talibanisation are two issues I absolutely cannot compromise on. Nothing else in Pakistan - not the rampant inflation, cell-phone theft, sugar lobbies, lack of democracy, corruption, whatever - is as important as this. Last word to Ali Dayan Hassan of Human Rights Watch (full disclosure: Ali's a friend of my brother).
General Musharraf claims he is an ‘enlightened moderate’ in favour of women’s rights, but so far he has been all talk and no action. Failure to act this time will irrevocably damage his credibility. The government must present the draft bill to parliament as agreed with the PPP to ensure that Pakistani women finally get at least some of the rights long denied to them. It is time for the government to stop dithering and honour its word.

Quote of the day
Just understand this: [Larry] Brown won't go away. He won't retire in Philadelphia where he's living with his family now. For years, Brown has said he'll take a high school job, forever selling himself as some sort of purveyor of basketball purity. That's been one of the truly phony tenets of his whole act, because Brown wouldn't walk across the street without a bag of money sitting on the sidewalk.

Ouch. For the record, I don't think Larry Brown handled himself with a great deal of dignity in New York. He knew damn well before he signed for $50 million that Marbury was going to be there, that Eddy Curry was going to be fat and lazy, that their team in general sucked and was about as un-Larry Brown a team as you could hope to find. And remember, he okayed the Steve Francis deal. But I will say that he remains probably the best X's and O's coach in the game today. Look at the plays the guy ran in Philly and Detroit, two teams that absolutely overachieved with him at the helm (note how quickly both fell apart once he left). Bottom line: he wasn't right for the Knicks and they weren't right for him. Pity neither party saw that in the summer of '05 when everybody else did.

I just hope he considers coming back to Philly. Man, would AI welcome him with open arms, given the idiot coaches he's had since then. It would be like a couple in their early 40s who always fought, decided to get divorced because they thought the grass was greener on the other side, played the field, had a few one-night stands, realized it wasn't what they were looking for and that in reality the original marriage was the best thing that ever happened to either of them. Come on, LB and AI! Get married again!

Darfur and the Arab world

Nicholas Kristof is one of my favourite columnists, and probably the best Western one I read regularly. He's not one of these typical arm-chair critics with grand theories about how the world works. He's a journalist at the core and even though he has a spot on the NYT op-ed page, he's not forgotten what real, hardcore journalism is meant to be. He visits Mukhatran Mai every now and then, he goes to Darfur regularly, he once went to Cambodia to free a sex slave and does all sorts of other cool stuff other journalists would never bother to do.

As people who know his writings are well aware, he's been perhaps the most impassioned voice in the U.S. on Darfur. He's now in Chad covering the genocide which has spilt over the border from Sudan. Anyways, he had an excellent point on his blog on the silence that the Darfur issue has been greeted with in the Arab/Muslim world. (It's Times Select content, so don't bother clicking if you don't have access).

It’s important because it would make a tremendous difference if there were more rage in the Muslim world, especially the Arab world. Sudan is now able to say, largely correctly, that most of the criticism is coming from the U.S. and Christian countries, and it portrays the objections as an effort by neo-Crusaders to invade Sudan and steal Arab oil. If the Muslim world were only half as concerned by the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people as it was by the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, then vast numbers of lives could be saved.

So why isn’t the Islamic world upset? For starters, we all have blind spots, and we all tend to be more interested in brutality committed by outsiders. The world was furious when white South Africans were oppressing black Africans; the world isn’t much concerned by blacks like Robert Mugabe oppressing blacks.

There is also an element of racism, I think. One of Islam’s great strengths is the dignity it confers on even the poorest person. But the Arab world (as a region, not the religion of Islam as such) has a history of enslaving blacks and looking down on blacks, and I think there is less concern for the victims of Darfur because they are dark-skinned.

More broadly, we all see events through narratives. And the Arab narrative (and to some extent the larger Islamic narrative) focuses on Western colonialism and the sins of Zionism. There isn’t much room for fussing about Muslim-on-Muslim oppression, whether of Kurds, or Western Saharans, or Darfuris. I’ve sometimes thought that the only way to get the Arab news media interested in the plight of Darfur would be for Israel to lob a few shells into the Darfur desert.

In contrast, a major element in the Western narrative is the Holocaust and genocide, and so that gives genocide in Darfur a prominence that it lacks in the Arab world.

There are a couple of issues here I want to address. First of all, the comment about blind spots is, well, spot on. For instance, the Darfur issue isn't even the most horrendous in terms of lack of attention in Africa (and that really is saying something). Congo's African World War, as it is known, took about 3.5 million lives and led to millions of refugees. How many people know about that compared to, say, the 9/11 attacks or this summer's war in Lebanon? We don't even have to think about wars, though, to prove the point. People can be blind to every day things, like the fact that driving is statistically more dangerous than flying. At the bottom of this is the very banal fact that the media has an incredible amount of power in shaping our fears and knowledge.

Second, it really does amaze me how much violence and injustice is allowed by groups as long as the group doing it is not The Other. This concept is basically what I called Group Insult Allowability except it's multiplied by 100, on steroids and a cheese burger-only diet. For intance, blacks in the U.S. were sick and tired of the treatment meted out to them until they finally snapped in the 60s, leading to the civil rights movement. But today, blacks kill each other in gang warfare routinely and arguably do themselves as much, if not greater, harm than was ever done to them, and not a word is said, except by a few important personalities like Bill Cosby. Similarly, the Arab/Muslim world gets up in arms if Israel attacks Lebanon, but says nothing when Saddam kills his own people or the Taliban round up Shias in Afghanistan and shoot them. Maybe "says nothing" is a bit over the top, but the noise level is nowhere near where it should be.

What does this have to do with Darfur? Only the fact that almost all the victims are Muslims! Last time I checked, we were around 300,000 dead in Sudan/Chad. 300,000! But the Muslim world - its leaders and press - is by and large silent, because the killers are other Muslims (for an exception to silence, click here for an article in the Khaleej Times). Same thing in Iraq, where Shias and Sunnis are presently carrying out against each other two of the most effective ethnic cleansing campaigns seen in recent history. The lesson is: if you want to kill lots of Muslims, and not have the Muslim world hate you, just convert to Islam.

Not much else to say, so I'll leave you with a great quote on genocide, except I don't know who came up with it. It goes like: "After the holocaust, the world said never again. 'Never again', however, meant that never again would the world allow the genocide of Jews by Germany in 1930s Europe."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shoaib, unplugged

I'm getting the "buffering" sign again so I thought I'd take the time to quickly post this article, with a couple of doozies from Shoaib. There's this:
"I have been systematically victimised in this case by certain powerful people who want to destroy my career."

and this:
Asked whether he had misbehaved in a discotheque in Jaipur during the Champions trophy, Shoaib said, "Not at all. I may have been partying, but who doesn't?"

and, finally, this:
Shoaib, however, claimed that Younis Khan had differences with the coach. "Younis and Woolmer keep fighting."

Does anyone else not really miss him?

Link courtesy sightscreen on rediff iLand

Thoughts on the first three days at Lahore

Ok, so this first test hasn't set the world alight. It's still been absorbing cricket though (as far as I can tell through all the "buffering" and the "waiting"). Anyways, here are some random thoughts on the cricket so far:

Thanks, Asoka!
You've got to feel sorry for the Windies and the decisions they've gotten in this game. Fine, they batted like complete idiots that first morning (the Ganga and Bravo dismissals, brilliant as they were, paled in comparison to Ramdin's majestic sweep against the spin 2 balls before lunch). But there's no way in hell they deserve to be 200 runs behind with 7 second-innings wickets left with 2 days to go. Gayle was not out in the first innings, Sarwan in the second. Most egregious of all was Yousuf being given not out when he was clearly stumped. Amazingly, Asoka didn't even call for the third umpire. If that had been given, Pakistan would have ended up with something like 300 or so, rather than the 500 we actually ended up getting. I know, I know, Lara was plumb in front in the first innings but wasn't given. But think about it: Lara wouldn't have even been there if Gayle wasn't wrongly given out. I don't want to get mired in counterfactuals here, but suffice it to say the Windies have been Haired in this game.

Poor, poor Lara
The West Indies at their worst remind me of Pakistan at their worst in the mid-late 90s. They collapse so easily it's not even funny. Amidst all the rubble was, of course, Lara. How many times has he had to go through this? How many times has he been the only one to make a score? He is truly a tortured artist, except the people doing the torturing are on his own team. It's such a shame that a player of his class and talent can't be on a winning team, or even a drawing team. We should offer him Pakistani citizenship, the captaincy, the pitches he wants, the money he wants, whatever sponsorship deals he wants, cars, houses, the whole enchilada. Then we can open with him and Hafeez. Which reminds me...

The run-out
I don't believe Farhat got that direct hit to get Ganga. Such a travesty. Even though he didn't get a score, the run-out will mean that this will be counted as a good test match for him. The selectors will stay with him now at least until the Australia series in 08 on the basis of that one throw, keeping in line with the whole "anything Salman Butt does must be forgotten immediately but anything Farhat does must be fondly rememberd for eons even though he's a flashy, catch-dropping little shit who needs to take off that goddamn bandana" rule.

The commentators
Actually, I think Intikhab has been a valuable addition to the team, really. It is really nice to hear his melodic voice for at least 2 hours a day, really. He really has a really good grasp of the game, really. Actually, his points are pretty sound, really, and he gets them across succintly, really. I actually enjoyed it, really, when he referred to Dave Mohammad as Mohammad Dave, really. I curse all TV companies, really, who never hired him before this series, really. Acually, Ten Sports can make up for it by keeping him on the whole day and rotating the rest of the commentators, really. God bless Intikhab Alam! (Really)

The ball he got Lara with was, without a doubt, one of the best deliveries I've ever seen in a test. No joke. Lara was in one his I'm-just-going-to-be-really-solid moods, he was looking really good, had a 60 odd to his name, and Gul bowled the absolute perfect ball to him. The Gayle (2nd innings) one wasn't too bad either. It's so nice to see this guy with some wickets. He deserves everything he gets. I thought the commentators were a little harsh on his first spell on the first day. Ok, Gayle knocked him around a little bit but I don't think it was that bad. Plus, he came back really strongly. Manjrekar made it seem like his 5 wickets were thoroughly undeserved. Couldn't disagree more. I also loved his little cameo partnership with Dani yesterday. Straight bat and all, I think Gully should be promoted. To the openers slot, preferably, so we can field another bowler (whose absence we might have felt if the Windies had half a collective brain).

The pitch
Not exactly the WACA is it? For the record, I don't think it's as bad as everyone is making it out to be. The reason we were scoring so slowly was that Shoaib Malik was working himself back into form and that two of our quicker-scoring players (Inzi and Younis) got 11 between them. The fact that Yousuf wasn't too far from his usual pace, and that Akmal was pretty much par for the course strike rate-wise, should tell you it's really not that bad. There's not much bounce in it but when is there ever bounce in Pakistani pitches anyway? I do think though that if a partnership gets going, it might be a long day today. One of those Dani-bowling-38-overs days. Which is fine, because I think (and hope) he'll pick up wickets. He looked really good in the first innings and should hopefully end up with at least 5 in the match, if not more.

Things I want to see today
Just two, because I'm not that selfish. One, a Lara hundred. Two, a Pakistan win by tea so I can get some sleep. Come on, boys, let's make this happen.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Excerpt of the day

Similarly, in 1812 Napoleon viewed the French capture of Moscow as a step toward victory, where as Russain General Mikhail Kutuzov saw it as hastening French overextension and defeat, commenting when he ordered the retreat from Moscow that "Napoleon is a torrent which we are as yet unable to stem. Moscow will be the sponge that will suck him dry."

Man, I love war/diplomacy quotes. This one is from "Exploring the Bargaining Model of War" by Dan Reiter. For the record, the Russian guy turned out to be right. If I remember my A-Level History correctly (which is no sure thing), Napoleon went into Russia with something in the order of 4 billion men and 3 billion horses. He came back with something approaching 27 of each. As I recall reading, the Russians kept retreating and burning their own cities as they left them. This left Napoleon's men no food (the fields were ravaged) and no shelter (the buildings were destroyed) as they continued to follow the Russians further and further in. Plus, Napoleon in true Rumsfeldian fashion thought the war wouldn't last particularly long so wasn't prepared to spend winter in Russia (no warm clothes or anything like that). Well, as luck would have it, the war did last into the winter thanks to the Russian tactics, and half of his men simply froze to death. All of this goes to prove one thing: never pack light if you're planning on conquering all of Europe.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pakistan-West Indies Preview

Ah, the life of a graduate student. Here we are, 35 minutes before the start of play, and I'm only just getting down to writing a preview I had planned to do 4 days ago. No matter. Previews are nothing like justice. In other words, it really doesn't matter if they're delayed.

Instead of trying to predict things, which as our 9 readers know I'm horrible at, I'm just going to highlight some of the key battles to watch in the series. Onwards we march.

Umar Gul vs. The World
Is there a more likable cricketer in Pakistan right now than Umar Gul? He doesn't go to nightclubs, he doesn't smoke hash, he doesn't take steroids, he works hard, he keeps his mouth shut and he gives it absolutely everything he's got. This is exactly why I'm already starting to feel sorry for him, and the series hasn't even started yet. Think about it. He's going to be sharing the new ball with either Shahid Nazir or Samiullah Niazi, who between them have 10 tests and 23 wickets to their name. He's going to be bowling on pitches that give him absolutely nothing, the type we saw earlier this year against India when scoring a hundred meant you only did what was expected of you. And he's going against a batting lineup which, when it clicks, can absolutely murder you. Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul and, of course, The Prince. Let's wish him luck. He's going to need it.

The Prince vs. Danish Kaneria
Fortunately the last time we played the Windies, I was interning in DC which precluded me from being able to watch any of the action. I did follow it on cricinfo though. I loved those overs from Kaneria which looked like: 4.44.2 or 6.44.4; they were a real blast. To his eternal credit he played a big role in our win at Jamaica and got The Prince for good measure. But let there be no doubt: Brian Charles Lara is the best player of spin in the world by the proverbial country mile. No one comes close to being able to do what he can do on his day. He's played Murali better than anyone else in the world - including the Indians - and he's completely destroyed Warne, who was dropped from the Test team in '99 after the mauling Lara gave him in the Windies. Dani is an excellent bowler who had a bad series in England this year, primarily because our batsmen never gave him enough runs to play with (a point Michael Atherton kept harping on throughout the series) and because some of the umpiring decisions that went against him were some of the more ludicrous I've ever seen. He's going to need to be at the absolute top of his game here - if Lara gets to him to the extent that Inzi has to take him out of the attack, it's over for us.

Younis and Yousuf vs. The Law of Averages
In his last 15 tests, Younis has scored more than 1800 runs at an average of 70 with 6 hundreds. In the same time period, Yousuf has played 14 tests, scoring more than 1700 runs at an average of 74 with 7 hundreds. These are not normal numbers. No matter how great you think both of them are (and they're certainly up there in my book), they can't keep this up forever. Will gravity get the best of them in this series? I don't know. What I do know is that its unrealistic, not to mention unfair, to expect them to show the form they've shown in the last 18 months. Other people have to step up. Which brings me to...

Imran the Terrible vs. The Forces of Sanity
Ok, so maybe comparing Imran Farhat to the guy responsible for serfdom in Russia is a bit much. On the other hand, at least Ivan the Terrible brought Tartary and Siberia into the Russian empire. What the hell has Farhat ever done? This guy is such a catastrophic choice as opener I can't even tell you. He plays extremely low percentage shots; he's liable to get out the same way at 9 as he is at 46 as he is at 91 (if he ever gets that far); he hogs for himself all the good luck we're deemed to deserve (notice how many times he's dropped and then compare it to how many times Inzi/Younis/Yousuf are dropped); and on top of all that he can't catch. It is an absolute travesty that he's in the team ahead of Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed (most likely, from what one can infer from Inzi's quotes). He needs to be dropped. Right now. I'll go so far as saying that for the first time in my life, I will be rooting for a Pakistani to fail in international cricket. I will absolutely be on the Windies bowlers' side when they're bowling to him. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards vs. Conditions
Why, hello, Mr. Taylor. Mr. Edwards, how nice to see you! Such a pleasure. Please, have a seat. We hope you enjoy your stay in Pakistan, where it's going to be hot, where the pitch will give you absolutely nothing, where the new ball will barely move (let alone the old) and where foreign quick bowlers come to die. I take it you've never played in conditions like these before, have you, gentlemen? Well, bon chance to you in that case. If you're looking for advice, speak to your teammate Corey Colleymore, who will be the biggest threat to Pakistan's batting in this series by keeping it straight and keeping it simple. If you try and get too clever, you're going to look like Steve Harmison did back in December last year. In other words, don't try and get too clever.

Dwayne Bravo vs Shahid Nazir/Samiullah Niazi
The battle of the X-factors. Bravo is so important to this Windies team. He's come on leaps an bounds, both with his batting and bowling, and has the potential to develop into a genuine Test all-rounder, if he's not already not there. He's going to be expected to score runs in this series at no. 6 and stave off the Windies' penchant for collapsing plus chip in with at least 15-18 overs every day. Meanwhile Umar Gul's new-ball partner has to, simply has to, bowl well. Even if SN/SN doesn't take wickets, he has to keep the runs down and not let Gayle off to a rollicking start. He has to build pressure on one end and hope that Gully and Dani are good enough to do the job. In other words, he has to be anyone but Mohammad Sami. Can he do it? I think so, but we shall see.

The Team That Keeps Collapsing vs. The Team That Can't Possibly Hope to Take Wickets
I know I said no predictions, but I can't help myself: 1-1.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Proud to be Pakistani II

I don't even have a comment for this shit anymore.

Proud to be Pakistani

What an uplifting story.

It was a joke!

That's Faith Hill's defense. Put it this way: if that wasn't a genuine reaction, she should be acting, not singing, for a living.


What's worse? Being a winner without class and pushing someone off a stage during a ceremony? Or being a loser without class and, well, see for yourself.
(Youtube link courtesy Andrew Sullivan)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Inexplicable celebration of the month

Can someone please tell me what the hell is wrong with footballers?

Photo credit: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Air Force Denial

The other day I posted an item on some officers of the Air Force being involved in an assassination attempt on Musharraf. Today's Dawn carries a "clarification" from the PAF, who say the news item is "baseless" and was published with "ulterior motives". Is the story true? I have no idea. Damn, I miss Geo.


Dante should have had a tenth circle of hell - for the pricks who make up the sugar lobby in Pakistan. How can these sons of bitches keep doing this? What, they weren't satisfied with their ludicrous profits in the beginning of this year? Don't they realize Pakistan is a poor country and that sugar is a staple item for many people? Why are they so shameless?

Interesting musings...

Uh, I have absolutely no idea of what this guy is talking about. This has never happened to me.

It is tempting to think that domestic quarrels are the occasional eruptions that disturb the otherwise tranquil surface of a relationship, but in fact the reverse is true: strife, in progress or just around the corner, is the default condition of domesticity, and tranquillity is the anomaly. Perhaps that is why when the poet John Milton needed a plot device that would get Adam and Eve from the happy perfection of Eden to the act of disobedience and the Fall, he invented – it is not in Genesis – a domestic quarrel. Milton’s Eve says to Adam (“Paradise Lost,” book 9), This garden grows so quickly that we’re always falling behind in our labors, especially when we stop to talk; maybe we’d get more done if we separate and work in different areas. Adam responds, Does this mean you’re tired of me? Stung, Eve replies, Why would you say that? Are you afraid I can’t manage by myself? And with that, they’re off to the races, serpent waiting. Later, when the apple is eaten and they see it was a bad idea, each blames the other: he blames her for having left his side, and she blames him for having let her. The poet draws the moral, and it is one we all recognize: “Thus they in mutual accusation spent/The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning,/And of their vain contest appeared no end.”

Is there no way out of this unhappy spiral? Is mutual accusation the only possible career of a quarrel? Can’t we learn from our mistakes? Well, there are three things to know about domestic quarrels. The first is that they have no beginning. There is no bell that announces the passage from ordinary and amiable conversation to conflict. You only know you’re in one when it has already been going on for a while. In this genre, in medias res is all there is.

Once you do tumble to the fact that you’re already in the middle of a quarrel – and this is the second thing to know – you will try to get out of it by returning to the beginning that never was; and this means that you will go back to your first remark (or what you take to be your first; a standard move in this game is to contest the moment of its non-origin) and vigorously assert its blamelessness. In short, you will try to clarify and sanitize your words by producing more words, but of course the more words you produce, the more weapons you provide the person who is sitting across from you at the breakfast table. (And who is he or she anyway? How did I ever get mixed up with anyone like that?) Every exculpation you offer for your previous utterances will be heard as evidence of a new sin, and every attempt to absolve yourself of that sin will generate another. The mathematics of these situations are exponential.

I also loved this comment from one of his readers:

What a relief it is to learn, at long last, that these arguments really are, in so many ways, her fault! Or, I think that’s what you said. Right? I mean, if I didn’t start it I couldn’t finish it, and she didn’t get what I said because she was talking, right? So, it can’t be my fault. Right? I mean, that’s really what you meant, right?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Who won the Bangalore Test in 2005?

Reader Farooq is pissed. He thinks Imran Khan is off the handle for thinking Sami won the Bangalore Test, pointing out the fact that Younis Khan scored more than 350 runs in the game while being dismissed once (read his comment in response to the post).

Here's my opinion on the matter: bowlers win tests, batsmen only set them up. The only exception to this rule is when a side is chasing more than 300 in the fourth innings and someone plays a blinder (see: Lara, Sir Brian Charles. 1999, Barbados). So I won't say Younis won us the match, but he did definitely played the biggest role in giving our bowlers something to work with.

But have a look at the scorecard of that game. Our best bowler in that game was Dani, who took 7 wickets, including Sehwag, Dravid and Ganguly in the first innings. Our second best bowler in that game was Afridi, whose match figures were 5-43. His wickets included Tendulkar (twice), Laxman and Ganguly. Sami was only our third best bowler. He too took 5 wickets but at a cost of 190 runs. Who were his victims? Gautum Gambhir (twice), Dinesh Karthik (twice) and Irfan Pathan. He deserves respect for getting through 55 overs. But did he win us the game? Hell, no.

Let's assume for a second, for the sake of argument, that Imran is right. Let's say Sami won us the game in Bangalore. My question would then be: so what? Salim Malik won us the 1994 series against Australia. How about we call him back? What about Mushtaq Ahmed, who won us a couple of games on the England tour of 96 and a Test in South Africa in 98? Let's bring him back too. Remember all those great innings by Azhar Mahmood? Get on the phone, tell him to get his ass back from London: he's playing next week against the Windies.

Sami is a crap bowler. He is a really crap bowler. It's not because Bob Woolmer messed with him. It's not because he never gets a good total to bowl at. It's not because he changed his pace, or his run-up, or his hair style. It's because he's crap. Sometimes you're crap simply because you're crap. Sami is in that category. He's been crap both home and away. He's been crap against good teams and bad teams. He's been crap on seaming pitches and flat pitches. He's been crap against right handers and left handers. He's been crap when our batsmen have put a score on the board and when our batsmen have collapsed. He's crap over the wicket and round the wicket. He's crap whether it's Waqar who's captain, or Rashid, or Inzi or Younis. In short, he's crap. Can we please move on?

My team

It suddenly hit me last night that the Windies series is less than a week away. With all the shit going down, it completely snuck up on me. Be that as it may, I'm fairly happy with the squad selected, though I would have liked to see Rana maintain his place. But I can understand the argument to drop him - he's looked nothing like the 2005 Rana, and maybe he just needs to go work on his game away from the glare of the media and the pressure of international cricket. Same goes for Salman Butt. Both of them will be back.

Anyways, I'm putting down two teams below: first, the one I'd like to see, and second, the one I think we will see.

1. Yasir Hameed
2. Mohammad Hafeez
3. Younis Khan
4. Mohammad Yousuf
5. Inzamam-ul-Haq
6. Shoaib Malik
7. Kamran Akmal
8. Abdul Razzaq
9. Shahid Nazir
10. Umar Gul
11. Danish Kaneria

Hafeez, Younis, Yousuf, Inzi, Akmal, Gully and Kaneria select themselves. I would play Hameed over Farhat any day. In fact, I would play Begum Nawazish Ali over Farhat any day. I'm in a good mood today, so I don't want to spew any vitriolic hatred over Farhat's batting (not to mention catching). Let's just move on.

At 4 down, you're basically looking at Faisal vs. Malik. I'd play Malik because he gives us another spinning option (our only chance to do anything in this series is prepare Indian type dustbowls and hope only Lara manages to score) and because I think he's a better long term prospect than Faisal. That's no slight on Faisal, who I think has a good future ahead of him as long as he can sort out that Pietersen-like tendancy to spring forward and shift all his weight on the front foot before the ball's even bowled. Pietersen can get away with it because he's about a foot taller than Faisal. The point being, I'd like to see Malik at 6.

After that you have to select two bowlers from among Razzaq, Shahid Nazir, Samiullah Niazi, and this Abdul Rehman fellow (who bowls left-arm spin). I've never seen the last two bowl so I can't really say anything about them, except that I've heard Niazi can bowl and Rehman's pretty good too, and can bat ok as well. But I'm going for the tried and tested here, I know a lot of people can't stand Razzaq in the test team, but he does ok when given the chance and you know what you're going to get with him. Shahid Nazir impressed me greatly on the England tour, him and Gully I think can bowl well together and at least kept the Windies quiet if not rip through the lineup. If Samiullah does get a game, I hope it's in place of Shahid Nazir and not Razzaq because if not, our tail will be awfully long.

Now, here's the team I think we will see.

1. Imran Farhat
2. Mohammad Hafeez
3. Younis Khan
4. Mohammad Yousuf
5. Inzamam-ul-Haq
6. Faisal Iqbal
7. Kamran Akmal
8. Abdul Razzaq
9. Samiullah Niazi
10. Umar Gul
11. Danish Kaneria

I have a bad feeling about Woolmer's opinion on Farhat. I'm getting flashbacks of the middle-of-2004-to-late-2005 period, when Woolmer kept insisting Sami had talent, that he was underappreciated and misunderstood, that he had pace and fire and that he wasn't hugged enough as a child. He took about 18 months longer than everyone else to conclude Sami was utterly shit. And I think the same thing is going to happen with Farhat. He's going to keep making excuses for him and selecting him over more deserving players (Salman Butt, for one). I just have a bad feeling about this. I really hope I'm wrong here but I'm afraid I won't be.

I think they'll select Faisal because they think Hafeez is a slightly better version of Malik and you don't need two of the same kind of players in the team. I understand that argument, I just don't agree with it.

I think they'll go with Samiullah over Shahid Nazir because they think our attack is too predictable otherwise, and the fact that Samiullah bowls left-arm gets him a leg up on Shahid Nazir. Again, I understand the argument, just don't agree with it.

5 days to go! Man, I love Test cricket.

Sobering thought of the day
Inside Iraq, the killing would intensify between communities, until it burns itself out. How long that would take is impossible to predict. In Lebanon it took 14 years.

Thomas Friedman, on the consequences of a pull-out from Iraq. One thing I've never been able to figure out is how intelligent, well-intentioned people who know the region better than anyone else ever supported this war. It's one thing for self-important dumasses with delusions of American power like Rummy and Wolfie to have supported the Iraq invasion. But how the hell did guys like Friedman and Fareed Zakaria ever go along with this? Why couldn't they see what the rest of the world saw? It's a total mystery to me.

By the way, even if you don't have NYTimes Select, you can click on the link. NYT, in its infinite genorisity, has decided to offer NYTimes Select content free this week.

Sayonara, Shoaib! Arrivederchi, Asif! Salut, Sami?

I don't think I've ever felt more apathetic about something as significant as the drug bans given to Shoaib and Asif. I didn't feel a great deal of anger. Or sympathy. Or disappointment. I didn't know quite what to feel, to be honest. So I ended up feeling nothing.

Were the bans unfair? No, I don't think they were. I finally found the time today to go through the entire statement released by the PCB when the bans were announced. Reading the statement, it became clear to me that at least as far as Shoaib was concerned, there's just too much smoke for there not to be fire. The most salient features of the report were covered by an excellent (as usual) piece by Osman Samiuddin, but he didn't mention this part, from paragraph 27 of the report:
We may however state that there is a urine test known as GC-C-IRMS which can determine whether or not the given levels of the metabolite have been produced endogenously or otherwise. We offered this test to Shoaib Akhtar but he declined to take the same.

If he's declining to take a test that may prove his innocence, he must be guilty, right? That's my view on it, though I suppose the retort to that would be: he's not denying it's in his system, he's denying he knew how it got there. To that I say: doesn't matter. With the amount of supplements he was taking (seriously, if you haven't read the report, please do just to see what was entering this man's body) he should have asked either his doctor or a coach or a trainer or someone. And that's under the charitable assumption that he didn't know damn well what he was doing.

What about Asif? The most astonishing thing about his case is that, as Kamran Abbasi said in his blog, he had no legal representation. But here's the kicker: apparently the Shahid Hamid/Intikhab Alam/Waqar Ahmed panel repeatedly offered him to get legal or other representation. He declined (see paragraph 15 of the report). Why would he do that? One can only speculate, and frankly, I've had enough of speculation. What was really unfortunate about his situation was that he was portrayed, both in the report and in the media coverage that followed it, as a true village idiot. It must not be easy to have your intellect questioned in public the way his has been in the last 2 weeks. But I guess it's easier than having your integrity questioned.

You have to feel sorry for him though, unless you're an asshole and just like to see people suffer. Any reasonable person can conclude that he had absolutely no idea. He was given a few injections on the England tour and was taking some sort of supplement, which he stopped doing when he was told. By that time, clearly, the damage had already been done. What can you say? I hope he keeps his head up, that he keeps working hard, keeps bowling in the nets, that our management and Woolmer stay in touch with him through this period, that his family gives him support, and that our media lays off him. He's a genuine, genuine talent, we're lucky to have him, it's unfortunate what happened, it's not the end of the world, and that's all there is to say about it.

What does this mean for our team? Well, as I've said before, one-day cricket doesn't really matter, so even though the World Cup may be an important tournament for many, it's certainly not for me. I'm more gutted about the South Africa tour immediately preceding it, where with our bowling attack on those pitches, we would have had a great chance to knock 'em over. I have an enormous amount of respect for SA's batting (at full strength: Smith, Gibbs, Kallis, Rudolph, de Villiers, all of whom can play) but I have even more respect for our bowling. That's all gone now. But if you think about it, we're only really losing Asif for two series, provided he's allowed to walk back into the team straight after his ban ends. The tour dates to India aren't finalized (they never are until the 11th hour when the BCCI is involved) but it's around November of next year. He was banned October 15th. What a Messianic return that would be, huh? Especially if he can do this again.

For now, though, all of that is well into the future. In the present, we're apparently looking to call back a man who averages near 50 with the ball in Test cricket and another who's been called more times than the average hooker in Heera Mundi (zing!). Which basically means we're back to the halcyon days of 2002 vs Australia, when our attack consisted of a half-fit Shoaib, an old Waqar, a new Dani, a predictable Saqi, a docile Razzaq and a crap (as usual) Sami. Actually, that might be a little harsh (on our current attack, that is). I think Gully's a fantastic bowler. I think Rana just needs one spell to go right for him. I think Shahid Nazir can be effective on South African pitches. And I think neither SA nor the Windies (except for the Prince) know how to play Dani. I also think in our next six tests, we're not winning more than two and not losing less than four. You don't lose your two best bowlers without suffering some sort of blowback. I'd be very surprised if our record in the next two series is any better than one draw, one heavy loss.

That's all I want to say about the Shoaib/Asif affair. But I do have comments on a couple other issues:

Religion and cricket
Should Nasim Ashraf have said what he did? Probably. Should he have said it in public? Absolutely not. He should have talked to Inzi in private, told him what he thought, politely, respectfully, and dropped it. Whatever your thoughts may be on Inzi, his English, his sometimes horrendous on-field decisions and his attitude to training, know this: he has united and led this team and brought us, along with Woolmer no doubt, to the top 3 in both forms of the game from one of the lowest points in our cricket history. For that, he deserves respect. He is, at root, an honorable man. He should be treated as such. Embarassing him and calling him out in public was absolutely over the line, which is why he reacted the way he did.

That said, I don't disagree with the substance of what Ashraf said. Things like this get so messy so quickly that it's hard to state your case without getting bombarded, so I'm going to try to carefully parse this out as well as I can. Look, Inzamam might say no one is forced to pray in the team. That may well be true. But what does "forced" mean? If the entire team wakes up at 4 in the morning to pray, and I choose not to, am I going to be asked why I wasn't there? Am I going to sit alone at breakfast that morning in the hotel? Will the team treat me the same way they would if I did show up for prayers? You see, "force" is a tricky word when it comes to groups like teams and office colleagues and cohorts. Even if nobody actually uttered the words "You must pray with us", there can still be "force" applied. It's intangible yet palpable. Anyone who's ever lit up a cigarette because everyone else was doing it knows exactly what I'm talking about (not that peer pressure was ever a reason for me to start..promise).

On the other hand, what is a pious, religous member of the team supposed to do? If they're 14 of you going to prayers, and 2 don't show up, it's quite natural to talk about the two behind their back, to comment on their lifestyle, to shun them. You're obviously going to be friends with people like yourself, and in this case, if there are 13 others like you, and 2 not like you, who're you going to be friends with? It's clearly a complicated situation, which is the main reason I think it should have been handled behind closed doors.

Intikhab's comments
I actually burst out laughing when I saw what this jackass said. It's obvious what he was doing: he was appealing to the lowest sensibilities of our population, hoping that by bringing Shoaib's "anti-Pakistani/anti-Muslim" habits to the fore, any criticism of the ban would be deflected. Hey, if he drinks and fucks, he deserves to be banned, right?

Look, Shoaib deserved to be banned for his actions. The panel should be strong enough to back their judgement by standing on the merits of the case and evidence provided. Slinging cheapshots to ward off criticism of your decision, especially when a man is down, is disgraceful.

Take care, Hair!
I love how the stories are already coming from the British and Australian press that a good man and umpire was sacrificed at the altar of financial and political considerations. Look, I don't know about him being a good man. He could be the next Mother Teresa, he could be beating his wife every day. I don't know. What I do know is that he was a bad umpire. Not just a bad umpire, in fact, but a horrible, horrible umpire. People who say he was (the use of the past tense has never felt this good, by the way) a firm umpire who stood up for principles are lying. Or are blind. I've seen plenty of Hair decisions on LBWs, caught behinds, running on the pitch and bat-pads and they haven't been firm. They've been wrong. I have no problem with "firm" umpires as long as they are fair too. Hair wasn't. Which is why he's been told to fuck off. And for that I am thankful. (Speaking of being thankful, a hat-tip to the Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, South African, West Indian and Zimbabewean boards).

That's enough for me today. Good night.

Correction: If Asif's ban is not reduced under appeal, then he would miss 3 series, not two. I completely forgot about the home series against South Africa before our India tour next year. Apologies.