Cricket for peace, Peshawar fills with smiles

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“a game of hope”

I haven’t the first clue about cricket but today that didn’t matter, I saw the people of Peshawar full of smiles as an estimated 24k filled the Arbab Niaz stadium in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The cricket for peace initiative was announced by Sports Minister, Mehmood Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK)with the theme ‘Love Pakistan T20 Peace Match’ and current and former Test cricketers participating in the event.

Chief guest was cricket legend, Imran Khan who works tirelessly for peace in the region. He was the first politician to call for drone strikes to stop and dialogue with Taliban to start, a call now taken up by the All Parties Conference (APC) as the best way forward to tackle ongoing violence which had seen many civilian victims in Peshawar. Playing for peace were Abdul Qadir who led Pakistan Peace XI team and Inzamamul Haq who captained the KPK Peace XI.

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Smiles all round, something to celebrate

Social media was abuzz with enthusiastic fans of both cricket and peace, tweeting commentaries with Insaf Radio broadcasting live. Technical hitches didn’t matter, what was important was that the event was taking place and Insaf Radio was going all out to spread the message.

The absence of coverage from mainstream media was shameful and disappointing as they fell over themselves to film the recent bombings in Peshawar and the agony of those caught up in the blasts. Where is the balance… are people so immune to blood and guts that only violence now sells?

“if there would have been any blast or election result you’ll see them mentioning “we are the first one to deliver this news” … Seema Malik

Time to change attitudes and celebrate the positive side of life too. The winners were all who contributed to the event whether actively or spectators… There were no losers today other than those who failed to support peace.

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A great day out 

Following the match Imran Khan tweeted to followers:-

Witnessed a wonderful cricket Peace Match in Peshawar. Great 2 see such a huge crowd at a sport’s event in this city after so many years.

He also informed cricket fans of a new initiative,

Have announced an Under-17 talent hunt scheme in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa & FATA plus a sports’ ground in every tehsil of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa

This will give many young people a focus as they strive towards excellence in the sport. It is a breath of fresh air away from the horrors of conflict and towards a collective activity regardless of race, religion, gender, a community spirit to be enjoyed by all.

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Imran promoting peace through sport

It was a great pleasure to be in his companionship in Peshawar (My Hometown). He is a legend, a true legend :)  tweeted Umar Gul (cricketer)

Sport can bring people together in the most surprising ways. I was reminded of a time in 1914 in the trenches of the First World War when  a German had bravely offered a truce for Christmas if the English did not fire.. Both sides agreed giving time for the dead to be collected. When an Englishman accidently knocked a football in No Mans Land it led to an extraordinary game, enemies coming together. This was followed by the singing of Christmas carols with an exchange of greetings and even sharing of cigarettes http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9763539/Britons-started-WW1-Christmas-football-match-with-ball-kicked-from-trench.html

A crazy thought perhaps, who knows one day we night see a game of cricket in Pakistan between those now embroiled in terrible conflict. Impossibly you say … today’s match was between love and hate, peace and violence… and love and peace were the winners by far!

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

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