Fitness camp at the PMA
In the modern cricket world, fitness has become the primary selection criterion for a player. All successful cricket-playing nations across the world have modernised their team-selection with technological advancements and achieving high standards of fitness. Gone are the days when players were selected for merely their batting or bowling prowess. But unfortunately, Pakistani cricketers still lag way behind their compatriots at international level. Despite the availability of modern facilities and world-class trainers, the fitness level of the majority of Pakistani players is nowhere closer to international standards. In a step that seemed unconventional to many in the cricketing fraternity, the management authorities of cricket decided to hold a fitness camp at the renowned military institution, the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul, for players to train under supervision of army coaches.
Whether some people consider this camp as a failure of trainers of Pakistan cricket team or blame it on the ‘attitude problem’ of some of the players, such camps should continue if the results are positive. The real results of this camp will only show once the tour of England gets under way in July. Both the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the general public will be hoping that the camp helps set and maintain benchmarks for fitness for the players. The intensity of the training exercises is evident from the footage made available by the PCB. Although these physical exercises will help boost the fitness levels of the players, the PCB must keep a check on the activities so that it is according to recognised international standards, and not very high-intensity military exercises that could harm fitness of players in any way.
Furthermore, the stance of the selection committee and team coaches have been encouraging with regards to making fitness as the primary criterion for selection in the team. During Waqar Younis’s tenure as the coach of the team, batting coach Grant Flower and fielding coach Grant Luden had complained about the players’ attitude towards training sessions. The selection committee has continued to select players without giving much importance to their physical fitness. But with the recent announcements from both the selection committee and the team coach that no compromise will be made on fitness, it could be hoped that this would lead to an improvement in the performance of the team. The effects of the decision might not become evident in the short run, but they will positively impact team’s performance in the longer term. Whether the cricket-mad nation Pakistan likes this step of boot camps at the PMA or not, if results are positive, such camps should be organised on a regular basis.
The imposition of a ban by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) on the reenactment of gory crime scenes can only be welcomed. Following the instructions of standing committee, PEMRA has banned reenactment, telecasting of names of rape victims and crime raids on electronic media with the start of the month of Ramazan. A notification issued by the authority stated that viewers have repeatedly complained about such shows while law enforcement agencies agree that airing them not only entices the youth towards crime but several criminals have confessed learning new crime tactics through these shows.
In their quest to gain higher ratings, media outlets indulge in crime-reenactment programmes, while these programmes cause discomfort for viewers. At the same time, no attention is paid to ethical and moral grounds during the depiction of various crime stories that consist of rape, murder, sexual harassment, kidnapping and other criminal activities prevalent in our society. There is no denial that these disgraceful acts exist in society, but they should not be in any circumstances shown to increase channel ratings. Moreover, these shows are not suitable for family viewing nor are they healthy for the minds of our youth. These shows leave long-lasting feelings of dismay and even outright pain among adults and children. With extremely violent and sinister depictions, women and children are seen being abducted against their will, kept hostage in appalling conditions, and barbaric actions of killers who torture and murder their victims are shown to viewers.
Another debate surrounding violence in forms of entertainment is that audiences become more used to images of violence through this genre of television, becoming desensitised to the reality of violent crime and its victims being reported across our screens. In fact, repeated exposure to crime and death through television leads to desensitisation. Many television programmes feature a high level of crime or violence, particularly through gratuitous scenes of victims being attacked and raped.
Certainly, we should not keep quiet on negative issues hindering the development of our society. In fact, we should wholeheartedly find suitable avenues to pinpoint not only problems but also to find solutions. Reenactment programmes can better serve their purpose if they show motivational stories from our society. Furthermore, the current state of law and order in our country and because of the influence of these re-enactment programmes youth is being exposed to negative and unethical activities such as kidnapping, mobile and bag-snatching, raping, and drug smuggling. Along with the imposition of a ban on programmes depicting violence, there is a need to encourage media to pin point ills of society in a more appropriate way that would work to discourage perpetuation of crimes instead of making the public more desensitised.
US drone strike
As mystery surrounds the alleged death of the Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, competing claims continue to emerge regarding the drone strike by the United States that supposedly killed him. The strike could not come at a worse time as Pakistan-US relations were already strained over the F-16 jets’ issue, and, more importantly, peace talks were being led by Pakistan with the Afghan Taliban under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group. In addition to dampening the attempts being made by Pakistan to secure lasting peace in Afghanistan, the drone strike would serve to bring back the old vitriol against United States in the minds of the Pakistani people, most of whom are already wary of what they consider as undue interference by the United States in Pakistan’s affairs. Naturally, cries of breach of sovereignty were heard loud and clear in Pakistan with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif criticising the strike and lodging strong protest with the US over it. While it is true that religious militancy in all its forms must be condemned by the people of Pakistan, unilateral decision by the United States to conduct drone strikes in Pakistani territory would only exacerbate the situation.
The US has in the past conducted several drone strikes in Pakistan, and the general view has been that at some level there was an understanding between the two states regarding the strikes. However, except for four, all of these strikes have been in tribal agencies of Pakistan, a militant-infested area that has been for the most part forsaken by the state. This latest drone strike was near Pak-Afghan border in an area that constitutes Balochistan. Notwithstanding the double standard in this brazenly expedient notion, Pakistan considers this as crossing ‘red line’ by the US. Hence, this would only serve to exacerbate the already overwrought relationship between US and Pakistan.
The drone strike also points to the gross asymmetry of power that continues to inform the Pakistan-US relationship. A statement released by the ministry of foreign affairs, Pakistan revealed that Prime Minister Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif were notified of the drone strike by the US on Sunday. This can hardly be categorised as the type of communication that takes place between sovereign countries, as it appears that the US did not even deem it fit to take Pakistan’s consent before launching the drone strike. In fact, this whole episode is eerily reminiscent of the raid in Abbottabad by the US forces in 2011, which resulted in the capture of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden. While bin Laden was considered a global terrorist, a sentiment shared by many Pakistanis, it was the audaciousness of the attack within the borders of a sovereign state that became an issue of concern between Pakistan and the US. It is the same old story this time too as Pakistan was kept in the dark while the US unilaterally conducted the operation.
Whether Mullah Mansur Akhtar is actually killed by the drone strike remains to be verified, but, regardless, the strike would derail the peace process between Afghanistan and Afghan Taliban that are being led by Pakistan. It is true that in this case things are extremely complicated as lasting peace in Afghanistan can only be secured if some sort of settlement is reached between Kabul and the Taliban; however, this should not be used as pretence in Pakistan to reopen the binaries of ‘good’ Taliban and ‘bad’ Taliban, which have informed the debate on religious militancy in Pakistan for much too long. It should be made clear that there is no room for religious extremists in Pakistan. And for that, all types of religious extremists must not be given any space to thrive in. Pakistan is rendering great sacrifices in its battle against extremism and for that to not be in vain, all those narratives that champion religious extremism must be vehemently opposed on all levels.