Variety

Brotherhood, not by diktat

Norris Pritam | Updated on March 28, 2011 Published on March 28, 2011

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The Prime Minister may be trying to earn some brownie points by inviting the Pakistani President and the Prime Minister for the Mohali match. But his Government had denied a visa to the legendary former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam when he wanted to renew his coaching assignment with the Punjab Ranji team.

Incidentally, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh were under Intikhab Alam's tutelage during his first coaching stint in 2004.

The fact is that Indian and Pakistani sportsmen have always got along splendidly, without sarkari help.

Flying Sikh

For example, after the 1971 War between the two nations, one Col Abdul Khaliq was kept in the Ferozpur jail as a prisoner of war. As an officer, he had the due facilities but he remained restless.

Finally, one day he poured his heart out, “Please let me meet Milkha Singh”. The Indian officer in charge at the jail was rather surprised at Khaliq's request but then it dawned on him that Khaliq was none other than the legendary Pakistan sprinter who had run several memorable 200-metre races. The one in 1958 in Lahore has become the stuff of athletics folk lore in the sub-continent.

Milkha had edged past Khaliq in a packed Lahore stadium watched by no less than Field Marshal Ayub Khan (then General). In fact, this was the occasion when Milkha earned his famous Flying Sikh sobriquet from Ayub Khan. Khaliq is now dead but Milkha still regrets that he was not allowed to meet him at the Ferozpur jail.

Once more, dear

At the opening ceremony of the 1989 South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, a lively band under the baton of composer Sohail Rana played Pakistan's national song, Jeev e Pakistan (Long live Pakistan), to a lusty home crowd at the Jinnah Stadium. After the ceremony was over and the stadium had emptied out, Rana still gladly agreed to do an encore.

The over-150 piece orchestra played again for just two Indian journalists, including yours truly, in the giant stadium. Just because Rana was born in Agra and as a 12-year-old had moved to Pakistan during Partition.

When Islamabad again hosted these Games in 2004, Lt Gen Syed Arif Hasan, the right-hand man of Gen Pervez Musharraf and Chairman of the Organising Committee, was graciously polite to the visiting Indian journalists. “I have to be,” he later said. “My mother was from Allahabad and father from Ajmer so I am half-Indian,'' he revealed.

Helpful editor

In 1989, the SAF Games were being staged in Islamabad. In the pre-digital era, P. Sivakumar, a photographer from the Indian Express newspaper covering the Games, was finding it tough to transmit his pictures to his Delhi office.

A frustrated Sivakumar was on the verge of collapse. But then the Resident Editor of the Muslim newspaper rose to the occasion.

He asked his newspaper's photo section to process Sivakumar's film and transmit pictures to Delhi. And all for free. Such plain tales from Pakistan are not etched in any almanac nor initiated by any diplomatic channels.

(The writer is a senior sports journalist)

Published on March 28, 2011
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