Bread and circuses is a phrase coined by the Roman writer, Juvenal and it means “something, as extravagant entertainment, offered as an expedient means of pacifying discontent or diverting attention from a source of grievance.” This phrase has been stuck in my mind ever since PCB decided to hold the final in Lahore to bring “cricket home and show the world Pakistan is a safe place for cricket.”

Cricket is in the very soul of this nation and one of the few things that unites a nation of 180 million like no other. It isn’t surprising that the state is using the event to hide its own shortcomings for the short term and as John Keynes said, “we are all dead in the long run.” The PCB had started playing with the emotions of the fans even before the current PSL season started by toying with the idea of the final in Lahore and promising an extravagant spectacle. The idea seemed to be a pipedream with the board playing coy, and it wasn’t till the tragedy at the Mall Road in Lahore that things took a surprising turn when on social media the blame was laid on India’s feet – the reasoning being that it wanted to prevent the PSL final from taking place in Lahore. Days later, the shrine of Laal Shahbaz Qalandar was the site of the largest tragedy in the country after APS as over 80 people lost their lives with over 24 children between the ages of 3 and 8, hundreds lay injured. That week alone saw the deaths of over a 100 people and majority of it was linked to India and PSL.

The state wanting to silence the populace went into full swing as it promised foolproof security to the players and vowed to hold the final in Lahore – the consequences be damned. The people were bought with the promise that it will show the world that Pakistan is a secure and peaceful place. Those who questioned the rationale behind this idea have been called traitors and whatnot with the final taking on the flavor of a political jalsa. Imran Khan, who previously was supportive of the idea, switched stances after the horrifying attacks and was vilified by the ruling party, fans and PCB. After the foreign players representing Quetta pulled out citing the attacks, Najam Sethi and the ruling party were handed a PR goldmine and they went on the offensive laying the blame on Imran Khan’s feet. People forgot the tragedies and focused on the statement by a politician correctly questioning the outlandish idea.

The fans too went on the offensive and started abusing the foreign players for pulling out while claiming that Pakistan is a safe and peaceful country.  Only a few days prior to this everyone was praising KP, enjoying the videos of Luke Wright, Mills, Billings singing Pakistani songs, performing the bhangra and dressing up in shalwar kameez.  Funny world we live in, where people not wanting to risk their lives are threatened by people claiming to be peaceful. The fans don’t understand the sad reality that we have gotten used to the bomb blasts and other security failures because we live here; the cricketers don't. All they hear about Pakistan is from social media and the news add to the fact that we don’t exactly have the best PR image. They have a right to be wary; they are doing what they think is best for them and their families. There was no need to go around abusing them while also asking them to play the final in Lahore. All of them were given a choice of going or not going, and it is their right to pick whatever they think was the best for them. Show them the respect and love that you have been giving them; thank you.

The PCB has drafted a few has-been and never-been foreign players to compensate for the players that have pulled out because the show must go on. The final will take in place with the Qaddafi Stadium being turned into a huge carnival, while the rest of the city will be under lockdown with security personnel numbering thousands, helicopters hovering in the air, mobile jammers in place, shops being closed and roads being closed. The teams will be bundled to and from the stadium with a security escort that is said to rival than the one given to the President just to show the world that we are peaceful, safe, loving and – let us not forget – a resilient nation. Only resilient nations can hold sporting spectacles on the dead bodies of its own population and forgetting to question the state about its failure to protect them because bread and circuses.