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After taking over reins in Pakistan, Imran may not remain army’s poodle

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Imran Khan

Even the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry. If the Pakistan army wanted Imran Khan to score a runaway victory in the elections, it will be disappointed. If an inability to reach the halfway mark forces the former cricketer and international playboy to constitute a coalition, the already confused scene in Pakistan will become more muddled.

The reason is that Imran cannot have any truck with either his bete noire, Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League or with Bilawal Bhutto’s People’s Party. He will have to depend, therefore, on the Independents to form a government.

But for a person who has had no experience of governance, a khichdi or hodge-podge ministry will have a hard time finding answers to the country’s myriad problems — an economy in a shambles, shortage of electricity and even water and, the most contentious of all, terrorism, which has made it a virtual pariah in the eyes of the world.

Will Taliban Khan, as Imran’s critics have called him because of his supposed soft corner for jihadis, be equal to the task? If he wanted among his putative supporters the party of the mastermind of the Mumbai massacre of November 26, 1908, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, he must have been disappointed to learn that the latter’s Allah-o-Akbar party has fared poorly in the polls.

This failure is in keeping with Pakistan’s electoral tradition of keeping out the so-called Islam-pasand parties — or the outfits known for their avowed love for religion — at a safe distance from the legislatures. The Jamaat-e-Islami, for instance, the fountain head of religions extremism, secured a bare two per cent of the votes in 2013. The Pakistan army’s hope, therefore, of “mainstreaming” the militants has been dashed.

In contrast, the electoral snub for Saeed can be seen as a sign that Pakistan’s heart remains in the right place, even if that is not always evident to Indians because of its conversion into a haven for terrorists under the tutelage of the pathologically anti-Indian army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Although Imran criticised Nawaz Sharif’s linking of the 26/11 outrage in Mumbai to Pakistan, that did not boost Saeed’s prospects.

For the Pakistan army, Imran’s stumbling just before breasting the winning tape cannot but be disquieting. Although Rawalpindi, where the army headquarters are located, will be in overall control over the country’s foreign policy (as also the domestic scene) as always, it still likes a civilian to be the formal head of the government to tell the world about the country’s democratic credentials.

Imran may be able to play that role even at the head of a coalition. But he is likely to be somewhat hamstrung, especially in the face of criticism by Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League, which is now headed by the former (and currently jailed) prime minister’s brother, Shahbaz, and also by the Pakistan People’s Party.

The army’s relief, therefore, of having succeeded with a little help from the judiciary to oust the supposedly pro-Indian Nawaz Sharif will only be partial. It will also be concerned about how reliable a puppet Imran will turn out to be. Will the swashbuckling hero of cricket and now of politics, who has been accused of being a drug addict by one of his former wives, scrupulously follow the script written for him by the army ?

It is known that once a person ascends to the throne, he tends to develop a mind of his own. In view of Imran’s extrovert and flamboyant personality, it is difficult to believe that he will be the army’s poodle all the time, especially when his interactions with the world leaders will tell him that Pakistan’s reputation is not as pristine as he would like it to be and that India’s case on terrorism is widely accepted.

Besides, the army will remember that Nawaz Sharif, too, was once its favourite till his business instincts told him that endless enmity with India will not benefit Pakistan even if such a state of affairs is indispensable for the army if it wants to retain its stranglehold on the country’s politics and society.

India, therefore, will have to tread carefully with the new dispensation across its western border. Any summary rejection of Imran as a friend of the army and of terrorists will be inadvisable even if his initial observations on Kashmir, for instance, tend to portray him as a hawk. That may be more for domestic consumption in Pakistan than a long-term view.

The caution on India’s part is all the more necessary because the political scene in the country is on the verge of change with several elections in the states and a general election due to take place within the next 12 months. Therefore, the Pakistan “desk” in the external affairs ministry will have to keep its options on hold.

(Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Obituary – Ex-Aus batsman Dean Jones had a love affair with India

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Dean Jones

For some strange reason, a 51-second video clip of Dean Jones being bowled neck and crop for a duck by the legendary Kapil Dev in a Test against Australia went viral on Wednesday, with a commentator uttering the words “that’s the end of Dean Jones”. And, on Thursday Jones died of a cardiac arrest, aged 59 years and 184 days, in Mumbai.

Jones, who was in India to honour his contract with a broadcaster for the IPL, was close to many Indian players, like Kapil Dev and Dilip Vengsarkar, and was a regular visitor to India for cricket-related work.

A top order batsman, Jones, who was part of the second Tied Test in which he scored his maiden double century in 1986 in Madras, played 52 Tests and 164 ODIs between 1984 and 1994. He was a gutsy batsman and wasn’t scared of stepping out to play speedsters. His running between the wickets was very brisk. Jones is perhaps best known for his 210 in the Tied Test, his maiden double century at that level — an innings after which he was taken to a hospital and was put on a saline drip after he was dehydrated during his eight-and-a-half hours at the crease in hot and humid Madras, as Chennai was then called.”

A day that changed my life forever,” Jones tweeted on September 19, on the 34th anniversary of the Tied Test. Another tweet of his that day read:

“This Test was the Renaissance for Australian cricket. It was our Mt Everest moment. Under AB [Border] we started to believe that we can compete against the best. Great friendships started with the Indians. Our Journey had just begun!” Indeed, Jones’s friendship with Indians had well and truly begun in 1987, and some of his friends, like Kapil Dev, were in the team that played at Chepauk. India proved lucky for Jones as he was part of Allan Border’s team that won Australia their first ever World Cup, in 1987 at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. After retirement, Jones started getting TV work in India and was nicknamed ‘Professor Deano’. He even named his twitter handle @ProfDeano. Jones’s love affair with India continued both on and off the field. In Test cricket, although he played only three matches on Indian soil, his average here — 92.

75 — was the highest of the six countries he had played in. He played 18 ODIs in India and tallied 719 runs at 44.

94. The Aussie once also played alongside Indians in unofficial cricket. When a World XI gathered in England to celebrate the bicentenary of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1987, former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar partnered Jones in a game against Gloucestershire in Bristol.”

He was a very nice, jovial person. I was shocked when I heard this news today. I was absolutely devastated. Of course, we played against each other, representing India and Australia. We also played together once. It was one of the three matches played before the main five-day game between the MCC and Rest of the World XI at Lord’s in London. Dean and I had a 200-odd-run partnership. I scored 171 and he scored 70-odd in that match,” Vengsarkar told IANS. “Of course, I knew him very well. When he used to come to Mumbai for commentary etc, sometimes we used to meet. He was a good friend. And he used to play golf also. So, I was surprised that he collapsed and died today. It’s absolutely shocking,” he said. In mid-2000s, Jones also applied for the India coach’s job. Although he didn’t get the job, he became coach of the Islamabad franchise in the maiden Pakistan Super League in 2016 and guided the team to the title.

Jones played a prominent role in the revival of Australian cricket in late 1980s, especially during the 1987 World Cup and the 1989 Ashes Test series.

He went on to captain Victoria and Derbyshire. At times, Jones was too outspoken. As a commentator, he slipped a couple of times. In 2006, he called South Africa cricketer Hashim Amla a “terrorist”, a comment for which he had to pay a penalty. But he was accepted back into the commentary box while Amla forgave him. On Thursday morning, Jones reportedly greeted everyone when he was at the breakfast table in the hotel where he was staying in Mumbai. “When he went for breakfast, he was jovial and said ‘good morning boys, hope everything is fine’ to people present there,” a hotel source told IANS.

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali

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Obituary – MoS Railway Angadi will be remembered for warm gesture, smile

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Suresh Angadi,

New Delhi, Sep 23 : Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi, who passed away on Wednesday evening at a hospital here where he was being treated for Covid-19 will always be known for a big smile and warm gestures by his colleagues and friends.

Angadi was made the Minister of State for Railways in May last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after his appointment as MoS for Railways, he knew that he has to meet the expectations of PM Modi to improve the train services.

During the inaugural run of second Vande Bharat Express train between New Delhi to Katra on October 4 last year, just two months after the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, he travelled in train with media persons to give a message that the government is standing with the people of J&K for the overall development of the region.

There were around 80 media persons along including the camerapersons to cover the inaugural run of the Vande Bharat Express.

During the trip, Angadi kept on interacting with the media about the plans of the Railway Ministry to bring development in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He gave interviews for four consecutive hours without any break and assured that he answered all the tough questions posed to him.

Speaking to IANS on the same trip, Angadi had said, the Indian Railways, which has witnessed delays in completion of several important projects, was aiming to finish all of them by 2022, on the occasion of 75th Independence Day.

He had also said that the national transporter sees the option of allowing private operators to run trains as an opportunity to provide world class services.

Angadi had said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that all the pending projects and works be completed by 2022. We are focusing on completing pending works, like doubling and tripling of tracks, electrification, installation of CCTVs and signalling system upgrade.”

“New projects will be taken up only after completing them,” Angadi said.

He also favoured giving trains to private operators, and cited the example of private TV channels and said, “The entry of private players will generate more jobs and investment opportunities. In the long run, a lot of development will follow due to the competition.”

In countries like China trains run at 400 kmph. But in India trains were not running even at 160 kmph, he said.

“To compete with the world, we have to opt for investment from many sources. When a private company or people comes and invests in railways, it will create opportunities to develop economy,” he had said.

The railways had last year proposed to corporatise Rae Bareli Modern Rail Coach factory in UP.

On opposition of the Congress and other parties to corporatisation and privatisation of railways’ manufacturing units, the Minister said, “The Congress never thought about development. It has always opposed development.”

“We have not got to think of the Congress, but development and competition, and let the economy grow and create employment opportunities,” Angadi said.

Citing examples, he had said, the national highways remained undeveloped till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took it up and today even foreign countries were appreciating them.

Angadi in the railway ministry was also known as one of the most punctual minister. He always came to the ministry on time and ensured that the press briefing started on time.

Angadi represented Belagavi constituency of Karnataka in Lok Sabha.

He first won from the seat in 2004 and remained undefeated from the seat till 2019.

He was also known as a media man, who always remained responsive to the queries of media even late in night.

Following the news of gis death, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Deeply anguished at the unfortunate demise of Suresh Angadiji. He was like my brother. Words fall short to describe his commitment and dedication towards the people. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this hour of need. Om Shanti.”

Angadi Angadi admitted at AIIMS on September 11 after testing positive for Covid-19. He breathed his last on Wednesday evening.

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It was all about being ruthless: MI skipper Rohit Sharma

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Rohit Sharma

Abu Dhabi, Sep 24 : Rohit Sharma, on Wednesday, returned to his usual, elegant self with a masterful innings to lead Mumbai Indians to a 49-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Rohit scored 80 off 54 as MI scored 195/5. In reply, KKR managed to score 146/9.

Interestingly, this marked MI’s first ever victory in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having lost all of their matches in 2014 when a part of the group stage was played in the UAE.

“It was only two players from the 2014 squad. It was all about how we executed our plans today, we never let it go. We were in good position throughout the game but it was all about being ruthless, getting as many (runs) as possible. We knew the wicket was good and dew was coming down,” said Rohit in the post-match presentation ceremony in which he was declared Player of the Match.

As the KKR bowlers fumbled with their line and length and gave Rohit short deliveries, the MI captain replied with his trade mark pull shots to deposit the ball over the boundary.

“I back myself to play (the pull shots), love playing it and practiced it quite a bit. Pretty glad it came out well, they were all good (laughs), can’t pick one. I haven’t played a lot of cricket in the last six months time and was looking to spend some time in the middle; it didn’t come out well in the first innings but glad to have done it tonight,” he said.

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