Iftikhar Arif, the famous intellectual and poet penned a very famous poem titled “Barhwan Khilari” (The 12th Man). He talks about the relationship of the player with his sport and how a 12th Man watches the game from the side lines hoping and praying for an accident which may not happen till the final whistle blows and the game is over. He calls himself a ‘Barhwan Khilari’ and hope to attain some legitimacy without ever playing a major innings. My brother thinks that a ‘Railu Katta’ (jack of all trades and master of none) also qualifies as the 12th Man though he never poses to be a main player (Barhwa Khilari).

Kaptaan has redefined the role of ‘Barhwan Khilaris’ by surrounding himself with a team of them. These 12th Men of politics have now entered the arena as a team under the leadership of the ablest Kaptaan ever to play an innings for which they have no background or experience. While their innocent workers are arrested they helplessly stand and complain and do nothing. At least they can offer arrest to show solidarity with their team or stand in front of the inmate vans to stop them from being carried away. Even Gandhi protested through his hunger strikes, which he termed passive resistance. Active or passive a protestor cannot/should not offer arrest without a big bang for the movement to continue and spark more protests.

In 2007, during the lawyers movement, a march to the Chief Justice house in Islamabad was decided on. There was a Lawyers convention after which the group decided to move towards the Marriott Hotel. For this the PTI delegation was led by Comrade Ahsan Rashid, Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) was organised by Hamid Zaman while Prof. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar was representing the progressives. When we reached the Chief Justice house we were welcomed with the water cannon, by lying low we survived. Then came the tear gas, the canisters were thrown back and the finally Police got ready for Lathi Charge, it brought back memories of our college days. The progressive activist Prof. Aasim took charge and urged the protestors to charge the law enforcers as they were outnumbered. I agreed with him but wished I was a decade younger to attack, as it is always a battle of nerves and a test of leadership. The conflict raged for hours myself and Mansoor Ali Shah (Now Justice) saved our skin by moving into the back lanes of Islamabad.

Lawyers movement was ably led by Comrade Aitzaz Ahsan. He was then put under house arrest in Zaman Park very close to Kaptaan’s family home. But he remained defiant. His residence became the nucleus of agitation. The protests continued unabated under his guidance. Comrade Aitzaz is a battle-hardened activist. From the MRD Movement against Zia to the uprising during Musharraf’s regime, he was a key player. The opposition TOR’s for Panama Leaks were also prepared by him, which have been approved by the Senate and will perhaps be the basis for the settlement of the current conflict. He advised Kaptaan to lead his movement from Peshawar instead of Bani Gala, where he and his team had been confined.

In his cricketing days Kaptaan must have dealt with 12th Men now he is amongst them in politics. Mian Nawaz Sharif (MNS) is unique in many ways he has always been a 12th Man of both cricket and politics his specialty being wealth generation. While the Sharif Empire has grown manifold his performance on both the grounds has been marginal. He batted with the help of umpires and was launched into leadership role by Zia and his coterie of mediocre generals. Once in power he was able to create his own establishment that can manipulate elections and cover his tracks of corruption. They never claim to be honest but always challenge their opponents to prove their dishonesty in a court of law, which they can influence.

Pakistan is in the grip of ‘Barhwan Khilari’s’ that is why the recession never ends. Kaptaan remains the only ‘Bara Khilari’ in the field. Now that the match has been drawn for the time being, as a good Kaptaan he must focus on rebuilding his team and organizing his party at the grass root level. It is time to unburden the 12th men that surround him and were hiding behind him in Bani Gala’ while the workers were braving the storm. Only Pervez Khattak showed resilience and grit of leadership.

I strongly believe that Lahore is the battle ground to dismantle Takht-e-Lahore. The unlawful resistance that the workers had to face was organised and sent from this evil empire which is located in the capital of Punjab and not the federation. Iftikhar Arif is right, the ‘Barhwan Khilari’ always prays for an accident to happen thereby providing him with an opportunity to play his innings. Unfortunately in Pakistan incidents have been engineered to launch the 12th Man, this practice has to stop if matches have to be won otherwise Kaptaan’s political innings will be seriously jeopardised.