There’s a lot to love about Pakistan.
Everyone is smiling. The place is relatively clean. The weather, while hot, is no worse than a searing Melbourne summer. The food, oh the food, is simply glorious. No one does barbequed meats like this place.
But there is one side to Pakistan that I am desperately struggling with.
Respect of time.
I’ve written in an earlier journal entry that having an allotted appointment rarely means that it will occur. It is not something that I’m used to and I find it terribly frustrating.
Today the evil time genie struck again.
Najam Sethi is the head of the PCB. A man who is doing an amazing job to re-open Pakistan to cricket.
My story about cricket in Pakistan will not be complete without an interview with him. So we locked one in for 3pm.
To fit Najam into our shooting schedule, we had to bump some other activities. Plans to spend a day in a rural village were thrown out, as was a scheduled trip to the Indian border. Both would have been extremely cool things to do, but form a production perspective, neither come close to an interview with Najam.
We arrived at the PCB at around 2.45pm. For once, we were early.
The PCB marketing honchos led us into a waiting room.
“Najam isn’t here yet. Would you like to interview our Chief Curator while you wait?”
“Sure. Why not.”
The PCB Headquarters reside at the horribly named Gaddafi Stadium. We were ushered down into a basement where Agha Zahid was enjoying some tea.
Agha is a man just shy of his 65th birthday. He played one solitary Test for Pakistan against the West Indies, but here, it seems that to have real influence within cricket, it’s a condition precedent that must be met.
We choose to shoot on the ground. Agha tells me he first visited this stadium in 1965 and has seen plenty of cricket here over the years.
I ask him what does cricket mean to Pakistan?
“Love, passion and pride”
We bring out the drone to film the ground from the air. Via an iphone connected to an antenna, the crew control this this with precision. It hovers 650 meters above the ground taking footage of Gaddafi and the surrounding areas. I kind of expect a Pakistani fighter jet to come soaring by and shoot it down.
But none do. Oh well.
By 3.30pm, we are back in the PCB offices waiting for Najam again. One of his senior guys tells us there is good and bad news.
The bad news is that Najam has bumped us. The good news is that he has invited us to his place in two day’s time. The bad news is that we plan to be in another city at that time, interviewing Imran Khan. The good news is that we can split our camera crews up and do both. The bad news is that both will then probably bump us.
This is how Pakistan works.
Emmad Hameed is the PCB’s Manager of Media, Communications and Marketing. A senior guy who is also an official spokesman for the cricketing body. He joins us for dinner at an outdoor restaurant behind the stadium.
More barbequed meats. This is so good.
I had a list of questions prepared for Najam that I throw at Emmad instead. He’s a 30 something year old, savvy and intelligent man. The conversation is at times intense as I probe into the PCB’s role as custodian of the game in Pakistan.
Emmad only plays a straight bat at one question. The rest he tackles head on, helping me solidify my view that nothing in Pakistan is ever black or white. It is more nuanced than that.
I take a quick glance at the local newspaper when I reach my hotel to help unwind. There has been a suicide bombing in Quetta. A city in the western part of the country near the Afghan border. It is nowhere near Lahore. But the bomber targeted the anti-terrorism chief of the region and murdered him.
This is sobering, as I was riding in the same car as the guy with the same title in Karachi only a few days back.
What if they had gone after him?
I reach out to him and offer my condolences at the loss of a colleague. I can’t imagine how he is feeling.
On one hand, I feel immensely safe here in Pakistan. On the other hand, localised terrorism is still occurring.
I’m struggling to piece this puzzle together in any kind of logical sense. How can I tell people it is safe here when this kind of thing is happening? But I feel extremely comfortable moving around the cities.
There are many layers to the Pakistani onion. I’ve still only peeled back a few.