Saturday, April 13, 2024

MILLMAN: Zaman’s courage deserves the world’s support


HAVING had a couple of days to consider the fall out of the sad news that one of the greatest players of all time, Qamar Zaman, has found it necessary to cancel junior events in Pakistan due to the insidious presence of age fixing, I feel more able to comment.

First and foremost, I think it is almost impossible for those of us who are unfamiliar with the day-to-day culture of Pakistan to fathom how difficult it must have been for Qamar to make that pronouncement.

In a society where loss of face can be a life-changing issue, where people are shunned or even physically attacked for nothing more than associating with a boyfriend or girlfriend from a different strata of society, and where secret groups often threaten violence for what we perceive to be perfectly acceptable behaviour, Qamar Zaman has taken a stand for the benefit of Pakistan squash and therefore for all of us in the squash world.

This is a difficult situation for Zaman and he has probably left himself open to the chance of backlash or even alienation from the Pakistan Federation and those people who have been called out by his brave decision to bring an end to something that has been talked about anecdotally for years.

Since the time that the Khans finally managed to emerge from India/Pakistan in the late fifties and early sixties, and also when the internal politics of Pakistan squash finally allowed multiple Pakistani players to join the international squash scene, rather than just a chosen few, the world of squash was enhanced as perhaps it had never been before and perhaps never will again in such a continuous burst of incredible talent.

Jonah Barrington (centre) launches a worldwide tour with Qamar Zaman (right)
Jonah Barrington (centre) launches a worldwide tour with Qamar Zaman (right)

The family and group expertise that was released through Hashim, Azam Roshan and Nazrullah in the international community, and again by Hashim, Sharif, Charlie and Sam in the USA and Canada, must not be undervalued.

In addition, the competition to gain entry to the outside world, that seemed to hold Mo Yasin back from leaving India/Pakistan, may have positively contributed to the extraordinary development of the rivalry and development of two of the greatest Pakistanis of the modern era, Jahangir from one Khan clan and Jansher from another.

And ask Jonah Barrington where he would have been without Azam and Nazrullah? And where would we all be if Jonah hadn’t become the Beatle-like rock star squash player of the late sixties and seventies and brought Squash into the public eye?

Who would Geoff Hunt have been without Qamar, Hiddy Jahan , Mohibullah Khan,Jonah and Jahangir? And did Torsam help or hinder the Australian drive to excellence that developed into Jahangir’s great rivalry with Chris Dittmar and Rodney Martin?

Recently we haven’t seen the same presence from this great nation and we are the worse for it.

I hope that I have made my point clear. Squash would not be squash without Pakistan. Of course, Egypt and England are strong, but if the same stream of Pakistani players had continued to strengthen the world rankings as in the days of yore, how much better would everyone be?

And now Qamar has been put in this very difficult situation. We of the global squash community must loudly express our admiration and support for Qamar Zaman’s bold step. And if the Pakistan Federation should magnanimously recognise Zaman’s leadership in this matter – we should applaud them too.

Through him Pakistan can right its own wrongs – without judgement from those of us on the outside who know nothing of the day-to-day stresses of a culture so clearly different from the ones in which most of us live.

Then perhaps that great squash nation, arguably the greatest of all nations in the history of the game, can begin to rise again. And, in doing so, from some village outside Peshawar, or a street in Karachi, produce some boys and hopefully girls who are the like of Hashim or Hiddy, Mohibullah or Azam, Yasin or Jansher, Jahangir or even of that master of deception and wizard of the game himself, Qamar Zaman.

I for one, hope so. We will all be the richer for it.


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