That the Pakistani state is bigoted and rotten to the core is no secret. As such, any incident of religious discrimination or persecution against its minorities does not shock people around the world, but the abhorrent treatment meted out to the non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan is nothing short of the Apartheid era witnessed in South Africa.
Shoaib Akhtar, former fast bowler (record holder for fastest delivery of 161.3 km/h) has admitted to the already known discrimination which the minority players in the Pakistani cricket team face. Speaking on a show named‘ Game on Hai ’, Shoaib was seen conversing with previous captain Rashid Latif and previous centre order batsman Asim Kamal. Cricket expert Dr. Numan Riaz hosted the talk. Speaking about various topics, Akhtar spoke about the inherent bias of the Pakistani players against Hindus.
Danish Kaneria, only the second Hindu to have been part of the Pakistani team faced immense discrimination by his teammates, despite the fact that he outshined many of them. The highest wicket taking spinner to have played for Pakistan, Kaneria was ultimately banned for life by the ECB on charges of spot-fixing.
Shoaib Akhtar goes on to speak about what all Danish Kaneria faced, to the extent that his teammates were also uncomfortable at the idea of having him at the dining table. Shoaib said, “I had a fight with two or three players. I said that even if someone is a Hindu, he will play. And that same Hindu won us the test series… some people asked the reason why he (Danish) is having meals with us. I told all of them that I am going to pick you up from right here and throw you away. You would be a captain, but on your own property. He is providing 6-6 wickets. In England, it had been Danish and Shami who had won the game for people.” Danish Kaneria took 276 international wickets and more than 1000 first-class ones. In 61 test matches played, Kaneria took 261 wickets. The Pakistani state ruined the career of a budding cricket-star, only after brutally humiliating him for the religion he practiced.
Shoaib Akhtar also spoke about Yousuf Yohana (now Mohammed Yousuf). Yohana, originally a Christian, was forced to convert to Islam after he too faced unprecedented discrimination by his teammates and the establishment, and people at large. His parents had vehemently protested his decision to convert, however, he was left with no other option. Rashid Latif said, “Yousuf Yohana was bullied a lot. He was also a God-gifted player.” Shoaib added, “Yusuf was to have 12,000 runs. But, we never guarded him.”
Danish Kaneria’s case should serve as a reminder to all those who question India’s treatment of its minorities. It must be mentioned that India has had innumerable players from the minority communities, unlike Pakistan. Of course, to even compare India with Pakistan is a shameful proposition, but let me indulge for the larger good. Right from Syed Kirmani to Mohammad Shami, from Azharuddin (who also became captain) to Yusuf and Irfan Pathan, from Zaheer Khan to Mohd Kaif, India has never discriminated against players on the basis of their religion. Harbhajan Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Yuvraj Singh, Bishan Singh Bedi, etc, have been the Sikh cricketers of the Indian team. Never has anyone treated these players as untouchables, unlike in Pakistan, where the pompous players refuse to even break bread with a ‘kaafir’.
Compared to Pakistan, even the Bangladesh cricket team fares well. Despite being an Islamic nation, Bangladesh currently has two Bengali Hindus in the team, Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das. It has also in the past had players like Alok Kapali and Tapash Baisya who were not Muslims, yet never had to face discrimination for their choice of religion.
The international community must take cognizance of Shoaib Akhtar and Rashid Latif’s revelations and refuse to play any game with a bigoted Pakistani cricket team.