Militancy seems to have got a new poster boy to take over from Mumtaz Qadri, the police guard who killed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, in the shape of Mevlut Mert Altintas, the riot policeman who gunned down the Russian Ambassador to Ankara, Andrei Karlov.

Altintas’ boss declared that he belonged to the Gulen Network. Now though Qadri has been tried, sentenced and hanged, this sheds new light on him. Maybe he too was a Gulenist. Maybe he went to a Gulen school. Maybe having them shut down and their Turkish teachers turfed out of the country was a favour to Pakistan from Turkey, not the other way around. I know Turkey has been cosying up to Russia, so the ambassador’s assassination would work against that, but ‘Gulenist’ doesn’t quite have the ring to it that ‘Trotskyite’, ‘imperialist agent’ or ‘enemy of the people’ had. Those were all phrases that belong to its Soviet past, and were used to great effect in the show trials of the 1930s, when the best and the brightest of the Communist Party were tried for their lives during the Great Purge. Well, Turkey seems to be having its own Great Purge now, what with so many being then thrown out after the recent coup attempt.

One place where a Great Purge is being carefully avoided is the Pakistan cricket team, which came within 60 runs of winning the Brisbane Test. Though they lost, memories were revived of the Melbourne Test 37 years ago, when Sarfraz Nawaz’s heroics, eight wickets for one run, to give him final figures of 9 for 86, gave Pakistan a wildly improbable victory. True, that was an Australian team gutted by the Packer rebellion, but it was still a famous victory. Still, this was a brave performance, and one hopes the team does better in the Boxing Day Test starting today. In fact, the reader of these notes will have me at a disadvantage, for the first day’s play will have set the pace, and by the time these notes are read, the way the match will go might well be set.

Aussies seem to want their fun, and the Boxing Day Test tradition is ancient. OK, people are expected to stay home in droves on Christmas Day, but having nothing to do on Boxing Day, they turn up at the ground. Well, not having even one Christian in their midst, the Pakistan team has a bit of an advantage on the first day, because the Australian team has had to choose between being ready to play, and being hung over after celebrating Christmas. When the Boxing Day Test starts against an England or South Africa team, both sides have been celebrating the day before, but one hopes that has not been the case with the Pakistan team. True, they have no tradition of celebrating at home, but being Pakistanis, they may believe in the saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Rome is not a very safe place these days. Well, Italy, for Anis Amri, who killed nine people in Berlin by ramming a truck on them, was shot dead in Milan by the police, not in Rome. Unlike the Turkish copper, Altintas, the Italian cops didn’t target any diplomat.

I hope he’s the right suspect. Remember, the first one was some poor Pakistani, who was released after questioning. Like Amri, he was an asylum applicant. Oh right, that must be why they got confused.

One person who didn’t celebrate Christmas abroad was PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari, even though his return from Dubai was preceded by raids on his friend Anwar Majeed’s house and office. An obvious conspiracy to make sure that the former President didn’t celebrate the New Year in a befitting manner. Whatever the reason, being Asif Zardari’s friend is not easy, not with the Rangers in town. Just ask Dr Asim Hussain. I’m surprised they haven’t thrown the Baldia Town Factory fire at him. Well, give Bhola time. He’s admitted his own guilt, and will begin naming people behind it soon. He didn’t come from Dubai just to carry the can alone, did he?

Well, Christmas is over, and the New Year approaches. There’s no rain yet, so we’re left to tremble in the cold, sniffling, occasionally wiping our stuffy noses. We’re now desperate in awaiting the rain, which is the only way there will be some relief. But the weather forecasts are all gloomy.