Ishq, Ibadat aur Pakistan

I often think about the love that this land has given birth to: Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, Sassi Punno, Mirza Sahiba. These were tragic romances, there was separation, pain and loss.

Maybe all great romances are tragic.

I said this once previously, but I must repeat it again today: I see the loss of cricket in Pakistan as the loss of a nation’s love to foreign lands, the exile of a beloved.

This too is a tragic romance, whose pain all of us feel, the return of whose beloved all of us seek.

It has ached, it has devastated us.

But this too is a great romance, one that we refuse to give up on and vow to win over.

Perhaps that is why when it comes to our beloved, we either sink or collapse into despair or we rise to the heights of passion and audacity that stuns all.

And while there may be separation from the beloved, we have never been more in love.


Shift as many meetings with the beloved to a nearby desert but what thrill lies in that? There is no home away from home. What beauty is there in this rendezvous with the beloved at places that belong to neither of us?

Yet every win is a promise of loyalty fulfilled for the beloved; an affirmation of our resolve that our love will overcome the pain of this exile, this separation. It will triumph.

Every single time I cross Liberty Roundabout, I wonder at the irony of the place; this is where, for years, celebrations have converged in the city to the thaap of the dhol, to the beat of the bhangra, and yet this is the place where it all ended in March 2009 by the chilling sound of shots.

This is where the tragedy began. Yet today this is where the jashan of the ishq again surfaced.

They say ishq is also ibadat, and indeed it is.

Cricket has never been just a game in Pakistan. It has been a nation’s beloved; it has been a people’s religion. This is a religion truly shared across the country, surpassing all others. Go out tonight and see how the roads and streets are jammed with throngs of its followers, from the thailay wallas to the jeep wallas, from those on the motorcycles to those on foot, from the young to the old, engaging in the ritual of joy, of celebration, of worship.

No wonder today feels like Eid before Eid.
Is this how the renewal of the vows of love with a separated beloved feels?

How incredible is it that a team that hasn’t played on home ground since 2009, that hasn’t seen home crowds since years, that ranked at the bottom of the table and were no one’s favorites; were torn by weaknesses, lack of resources, and heaps of problems, rose to become the first in the finals and beat traditional rivals and become the champions with such brilliance, with such confidence, with such class?

There has been stumbling, there has been staggering, there has been faltering, there has been fumbling, but they have shown there is always more to them than this, if they will.

I think of the tragic romances again, and I see what happened today and I know this romance will never be tragic. It will live to be told to generations. We will endure, we will overcome, we have persevered, we haven’t given up; we can, we have and we will triumph. And so will it.

The reunion is inevitable.

We come from the land of Sassi and Punno, Heer and Ranjha, Sohni and Mahiwal. And while our beloved may be exiled from home, while we remain in separation, we have never been more in love.

What happened today was ishq.

And what happened today wasn’t surreal, it was only Pakistan.


-Hafsa Khawaja

*Later published on PCB Blogs.

14 comments on “Ishq, Ibadat aur Pakistan

  1. Zawar Hakeem says:

    Hello there Hafsa! It’s been long…. A big congratulations to you and to all our fellow Pakistanis! Indeed it surely feels like Eid…. hoping for a wonderful future in cricket for Pakistan. ☺

  2. Hammad ahmed says:

    Great writing!

  3. Gunjan sharma says:

    Fabulous article, being an Indian strangely I was actually happy that Pakistan won.. we got too cocky too overconfident and our jingoistic news channels started celebrating even before the first ball was bowled.
    This victory was romantic , this victory and the happiness it gave to the people of Pakistan was special. Truly a David vs Goliath version of cricket!

    • Thank you for reading Gunjan, and thank you for having the heart of a true cricket fan to appreciate our win!
      I think a lot of people, including Pakistanis and even some of my Indian friends, believe that the Indian team’s over-confidence essentially led to their defeat. I do hope though that Pakistan and India can have a bilateral series in the near future, it would make for great cricket!

  4. Sarwat AJ says:

    Surely its one of those charms that keeps life humming. There must be things like this.

  5. Vikram says:

    Here via Ammar Rashid’s twitter line. Brilliantly written piece.

    Ram Guha once said that cricket is more popular in India than any sport has ever been in any country. Perhaps he is correct. But I would say that no fandom has loved their sports team more intensely than Pakistanis have loved the Pakistan team. There really seems to be more than a hint of romance in the relationship, which leads to writing like this and the other pieces we see by Osman Samiuddin, Ahmer Naqvi and others.

    May Pakistan cricket live and prosper for years to come.

    • Hi Vikram, thank you so much for reading and these absolutely wonderful words!

      I was just thinking a while back actually how our reaction would’ve been had Pakistan lost, and obviously there would’ve been sorrow and rage but I know that in less than no time we would’ve bounced back to backing them; because as someone else put it in a post earlier today, cricket is sometimes all we have and it truly is an ishq, a mazhab, an ibadat.

      On a related note, as I wrote to someone else from India who commented on this post too, I am really hoping for there to be an India-Pakistan bilateral series in the near future. Cricket has so often transcended politics and so much more, and considering its significance for both nations, it certainly should not get mired in this mess and emerge to eclipse it. Reminds me of this great piece by Harsha Bhogle from 2004 on his visit to Lahore:

      • Vikram says:

        Thanks Hafsa. I read the other comment from India. Would just like to say that Indian team was not over confident. It was clear that Pakistan was on a roll, and had just comprehensively defeated favourites England, plus it was a final.

        If there was any factor responsible for India’s performance, it was probably the sheer number of games some of these guys have played over the last eight months. There were a lot of close, tightly contested games including IPL playoffs recently where many of these players played. It is possible that they just couldnt psyche themselves up for yet another high pressure game.

  6. Muhammad Ali says:

    Amazing writeup hafsa!!

  7. Huzaifa says:

    Beautifully put! Although it’s been 3 years now.We won it again today!

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