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‘A friendly match’ Election Outlook-XIV

What is a friendly match? According to Wikipedia, a friendly game or an exhibition match is a sporting event “in which there is no competitive value of any significant kind to any competitor (such as tournament or season rankings, or prize money) regardless of the outcome of the competition”.

In his talk with media persons at Shaukat Khanum Hospital where he visited an ailing Imran Khan yesterday evening, the `third-time prime minister-elect’, Nawaz Sharif, said, among other things, that he had told the PTI chief that they would be playing a “friendly match” after recovery from illness. And, Nawaz expressed his desire in relation to a “friendly match” repeatedly.

What could be the other possible meanings of a ‘friendly match’ when Imran is said to be mulling requesting a partial recount in 25 Punjab constituencies? Does a `friendly match’ symbolise an effort aimed at reaching a broader understanding on post-May 11 working relationship between two Punjab-based rivals? Is it a strategy that could lead to lowering political temperatures in Punjab in general and its capital Lahore in particular?

There is no denying that Nawaz Sharif is remarkably good at the general glossary of the terminology used in the sport of cricket. His love for cricket knows no bounds. He re-started playing regular cricket after the dismissal of his first government in 1993. In those days, the visitors to Sharifs’ Model Town residence could easily spot a cricket net pitched in a corner of their huge courtyard.

Nawaz has shown his dexterity in this area during his entire election campaign. For example, he frequently challenged his rival Imran with declarations such as “I cannot be cowed down by his deadly bowling spells” and “No fast bowler has ever unnerved me”. According to him, he is endowed with a good batting technique that stems from his skills and visual perception. Since a great cover drive is considered a hallmark of a highly talented cricketer, he is extremely good at that shot. “Ball aik inch zameen say nahin uthi thee jab main cover drive khelta tha, yeh Imran ko achchi tarhaan maloom hay,” according to him.

Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz, however, tried to counter Imran’s ferocious bowling spells with an overtly belligerent approach, accusing him of doing ball tampering. He frequently said that the PTI chief had become a spokesperson for President Zardari and that he would not be allowed to “do ball tampering in politics”.

Imran whose party with cricket bat as its election symbol had also indulged in a war of words based on cricket jargon. In his broadsides against both PPP and PML-N, he used the word “innings”. During his campaign, he frequently pointed out that both PPP and PML-N had already played their “innings” more than once and it was now his party’s turn to bat. “Shattering all the wickets by only one ball” was also one such expression about his unwavering resolve and commitment.

One more politician who had been found using cricket terms with great enjoyment was Sheikh Rashid, who returned successful from NA-55 in the May 11 general election. For example, commenting on the politics of central PML-N leader and Leader of the Opposition in the last National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar, Rashid expressed his surprise over how a candidate representing his party in a contest of a National Assembly seat (tiger as symbol) could also fight simultaneously election on a provincial assembly seat (with cow as symbol) in the same area as an independent candidate. “Even the central leadership of parties have thrown up surprises in a big way in this election. They have been grossly breaching the party discipline. They are playing cricket in total disregard of line, length and crease,” Rashid was found telling a TV anchor.

Last but not least, it was a good gesture on the part of Nawaz Sharif to pay a visit to Imran. But, allowing Nawaz to meet him was a far nobler act actuated by a magnanimous impulse. Courageously noble in mind and heart, Imran is expected to show a great deal of maturity in defusing election-related tensions. Both the leaders seem to have shown that they are eschewing mutual resentment or revenge. Mutual hostility has, however, marred Nawaz Sharif-Asif Zardari relationship particularly since the exit of PML-N from PPP-led coalition government in 2008. As election drew nearer, their ties further strained. It may be recalled that President Zardari had reportedly claimed that the PML-N chief did not give him an opportunity to visit Sharifs’ Raiwind residence to condole the death of his brother Abbas for “whatever reasons”.

The writer is newspaper’s News Editor

Sarfaraz Ahmed, "‘A friendly match’ Election Outlook-XIV," Business recorder. 2013-05-15.
Keywords: Political issues , Political parties , Political leaders , Political system , Mass media , TV anchor , Coalition government , Pakistan