The Blackcaps fled Pakistan, but this Kiwi is staying!

At 2.25pm on Friday 3rd September, the office was abuzz with the imminent first ball being bowled in what should have been the start of an historical ODI match between Pakistan (the hosts) and New Zealand, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

The fun and excitement on Friday morning was palpable, as my Pakistani colleagues and I talked about the series. Who might come out on top? “All bets are off” I said to a colleague, as the touring Kiwi side was a combination of their A & B squads. No-one was sure how the New Zealand team would fare after their poor performance against Bangladesh a couple of weeks earlier. Bangladesh won the series against the Kiwis, although the Blackcaps managed to clinch a win in the 5th and final match.

The New Zealand team and its entourage had been in Pakistan a week before their scheduled first game. For most of the young NZ squad, it was their first time to visit Pakistan, and experience first-hand the warmth, hospitality and generosity of the Pakistan Cricket Board, the Government, and the people of Pakistan.

I was in New Zealand when the tour was announced earlier this year, and rather than focus on the positives of Pakistan, its amazing cultures, culinary delights, sightseeing and other unique and wonderful experiences to be had in the country; the media (One News and News Hub in particular) focused on the unfortunate incident in Karachi in 2002, and interviewed retired members of the team and its entourage from those times. They had very little to contribute or add to the current tour in a positive way. The New Zealand Cricket Board, and its players did come to the defense of its decision to tour Pakistan, and at the time, felt it was a new beginning for international cricket. They were looking forward to the tour.

Also, it is well worth remembering, that earlier in 2021, Pakistan toured New Zealand in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In itself and on its own a health and security risk for Pakistan’s cricketers and their entourage.

I was living and working in Pakistan, when Zimbabwe, the first international cricket team return to Pakistan since 2009, toured in 2015. I was also here when Sri Lanka returned in 2019. Both international tours were a success. The security operations, while colossal by any stretch of the imagination, were reassuring for the safety of the teams, their entourages, fans and the general population of Pakistan, and the touring team’s fans, friends and families in their home countries.

What went so horribly wrong in Rawalpindi, on the morning of Friday 3rd of September, which caused the Blackcaps and the NZ Cricket Board, to take a unilateral decision and cancel the tour, hours before the first ball was bowled, and flee the country?

It’s a question I cannot answer, and neither will I attempt to do so. Simply because I do not know. I have read media reports, and seen social media debates and discussion, with their conjecture of misinformation and conspiracy theories. I subscribe to neither, and also think, that given the sensitive nature of the circumstances surrounding the event, one is wiser to maintain a circumspect view, and not fall victim to the imaginings of the mind.

But I do know that the decision has shocked the country, and left it traumatized. It shocked me. I couldn’t figure it out (and still cannot). The unfortunate actions by the New Zealand entourage on Friday 3rd of September, reinforced negative perceptions of Pakistan peddled in the West. This is very, very sad indeed.

In an age of ubiquitous social media use, the silence from the New Zealand squad was deafening. A few tweets from the team, a few instagram messages or videos to their Pakistani fans, expressing disappointment and regret, or even apologizing for a decision, obviously not in their hands, could have helped soften the blow. It has been a PR nightmare for everyone, but in particular for New Zealand, the Blackcaps, and international cricket. The concern remains on the ripple effect New Zealand’s actions will have on other Western international squads touring Pakistan.

What can I say to my Pakistani friends and colleagues? The Blackcaps may have fled Pakistan, but this Kiwi is staying put, and will do so; to continue to enjoy my work and life amongst the warm, hospitable, friendly and welcoming people of Pakistan.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, 私たちの罪を赦し, Rimetti a noi i nostri debiti, আমাদেরকে ক্ষমা করে দাও আমাদের পাপ, हमें माफ कर दो हमारे अपराधों

peace 2peace

Please forgive me for lumping together the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme with this year’s (2016) terrorist attacks in Europe, North Africa, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. But the news is all gloom and history has a way of catching up with us. I use the term terrorist and war loosely, and may be criticized-but death is death and the slaughter of innocent people is just that: slaughter of the innocence. The battles fields of Europe, Asia, the Middle East are often lumped together as historical manifestations of past wrongs (with blame shifting according to different interpretations) and we feel somewhat removed from these tragedies; but  cafes, schools, movie theatre , airports, beaches, night clubs – the places where we go to celebrate the joy and happiness of life have become the battlegrounds of the 21st century.

The sullied; those driven by an evil nihilist ideology and a hate for life and an extreme odious revulsion for the simple delight and exhilaration of others  kill for pleasure.

May be all war is like this? Historians will disagree-explaining in minutia the causes and effects, actors etc…and rightly so; but for me it is the consequences of this madness which affects me.

I’ve traveled to 40 countries of the work, lived and worked in 9 countries, including 14 years within Islamic humanity, and in a variety of different cultural contexts. I’ve always met engaging, hospitable, kind and welcoming people who have grown  numb with the incredulity of the madness of the death cults enveloping the planet and claiming allegiance to Islam.

People sitting in a café enjoying camaraderie and banter are slaughtered in the most perfidious and unimaginable way including a 33 year old woman, 7 months pregnant, working in a country where aid is desperately needed and providing that aid. In Baghdad ordinary people enjoying their recreation during the Holy month of Ramadan, chatting imbibing refreshment before beginning their fast are blown up by madmen. In Lahore families enjoying a Sunday out together a blown up. Men and women in a night club are gunned down, and people celebrating Christmas are shot and killed. Young police cadets deciding to serve their county are slaughtered by those old enough to be their fathers. What is this insanity? What hope for humanity?

The Unreturning by Wilfred Owen

Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled
Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled.
Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled
When far-gone dead return upon the world.

There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke.
Each one whom Life exiled I named and called.
But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled,
And never one fared back to me or spoke.

Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn
With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds,
The weak-limned hour when sick men’s sighs are drained.
And while I wondered on their being withdrawn,
Gagged by the smothering Wing which none unbinds,
I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.


 For those slain though this lunacy may you rest in peace- because the living are not.


There are many paths to God as there are Stars in the Universe: In Memory of the Sufi Mystical Qawwal Musician Amjad Sabri

multifaithThe ineffability of the mystical state isn’t known to many. Across all the major and minor religions we can find reference to a ‘consciousness of the Oneness of everything’; it’s an innate knowing that one is an integral part of existence, beyond just knowing through the external self-it’s an extraordinary experience but they seldom last for long unless one chooses to practice along the path and follow a particular way of life to enter the state again, again and again. It requires self-discipline, dedication and commitment.

In the West we have the history of the Christian Mystics-long lost in the 21st century- today found mainly in the cloistered corners of the lives of contemplative monks and nuns-very few left now. Mysticism’s secular counterpart is sometimes found in the works of poets like Wordsworth:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking, all objects all thoughts,

And rolls through all things

Or in the lines of Shelley:

That light whose smile kindles the Universe

That Beauty in which all things work and move

In the East among other religions is the deep insight and beauty of the Islamic Sufi mystics, poets and musicians. Amjad Sabri’s soul based mystical renditions of Qawwal crossed sectarian religious lines in Pakistan-he was much loved by the population. His assassination in Karachi on Wednesday is another deep wound in the psyche of this culturally rich and diverse nation.

I must utter what comes to my lips by Bulleh Shah

Speaking the truth creates chaos.

Telling a lie saves one scarce.

I am afraid of both these.

Afraid I am both here and there.

I must utter what comes to my lips.

He who has this secret known.

He must peep into his own

Lives He in the shrine of peace

Where there are no ups and downs

I must utter what comes to my lips.

It is indeed a slippery path.

I take precautions in the dark

Look inside and see for yourself

Why this wild search afar?

I must utter what comes to my lips.

It is a matter of good form

A norm to which we all conform

It’s God in every soul you see

If he is in me why not in you?

I must utter what comes to my lips.

The master is not far from me

Without him there none could be

That explains the suffering and pain

But mine is not the eye to see

I must say what comes to my lips.

Rest In Peace Amjad Sabri