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Najam You See Him, Najam You Don’t

Najam You See Him, Najam You Don’t

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 serves better barbecued meats like this place.

I’ve written in an earlier journal that having an allotted appointment rarely means that it will occur. It is something that I’m not used to and I find it at times frustrating.

Today the 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 Wagah border. Both would have been extremely cool things to do, but from a production perspective, neither come close to an interview with Najam.

We arrived at the PCB at around 2.45pm.

The PCB marketing honchos led us into a waiting room.

 At the waiting room

At the waiting room

“Najam isn’t here yet. Let's have the interview with the Chief Curator before the chairman's interview?”

“Sure. Why not.”

The PCB Headquarters reside at the Gaddafi Stadium. We were ushered down into a basement where Agha Zahid was enjoying some tea.

 Interviewing Agha Zahid

Interviewing Agha Zahid

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 that must be met.

We decided 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 cricket means to Pakistan.

“Love, passion and pride.”

We bring out a drone to film the ground from the air. Via an iPhone connected to an antenna, the crew do this with a lot of 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.

 The sight screen

The sight screen

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 is under the weather and won't be able to meet today. The good news is that he has invited us to his place in two days’ time. The bad news is that we plan to be in another city at that time, interviewing somebody else. The good news is that we can split our camera crews up and do both. The bad news is that there's still a chance neither interview will happen.

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 barbecued meats. This is so good.

I had a list of questions prepared for Najam that I throw at Emmad instead. He’s a savvy and intelligent 30-something year old. The conversation is at times intense as I probe into the PCB’s role as custodian of the game in Pakistan.

 The groundsman at Gaddafi

The groundsman at Gaddafi

Emmad plays with a straight bat at one question. The rest he tackles head on, helping me solidify my view that nothing 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.

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?

 Site of the blast

Site of the blast

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, there are still pockets of localized terrorism.

I’m struggling to piece this puzzle together. 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.

The Dennis Does Pakistan project would not have been possible without the support of Pakistan Cables. Follow the project here:

Dennis Does Pakistan