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In Aleppo, dreaming of home but finding only rubble

It’s the winter of 1978 and Pakistan and India head for an ODI decider in Sahiwal.

Pakistan posts 205 runs in 40 overs. In response , India cruises to 183/2. They require 23 runs in the last three overs, as Sarfraz Nawaz runs to bowl to a six-feet-tall Anshuman Gaekwad, who is batting on 78 runs.

The ball is short and goes high over Gaekwad’s head, and straight into Wasim Bari’s gloves. All eyes are on Pakistani umpires Javed Akhtar and Khizer Hayat, but they remain unmoved.

Sarfraz repeats the act on the following three deliveries. Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi is furious, and he waves to his batsmen to return to the pavilion.

This became the first ever ODI to be conceded. The next one took another 22 years, when England’s Alec Stewart cited pitch invasion and walked off Headingly, Leeds. Pakistan needed 4 runs off 61 balls to win that match.

Pakistan won the 1978 series against India 2-1 and Sahiwal never hosted another international game.
Pakistan’s first cricketing ruffian

It is hard to imagine that the unruly enactment by Sarfraz was without the consent of his captain Mushtaq Muhammad, or the complicity of Pakistani umpires. Whatever the case, it was Sarfraz who volunteered to become Pakistan’s first cricketing ruffian.

In fact, he thrived on his bad boy image and basked in the glory of an outlaw, a reputation that would forever stick to him.

As a kid, Sarfraz never considered playing cricket. At 17, he joined his family business and was involved in the construction of the cricket ground wall at Lahore’s Government College.

Explore: Pakistan cricket: A class, ethnic and sectarian history

But the 1965 war broke out and the construction was halted. Sarfraz joined a group of boys playing cricket on that same facility — and the rest, as they say, is history.

He made his first-class debut in 1967 and was picked for a county stint, before making his international debut in 1969.

His predacious swing in the nets had impressed Roger Prideaux, a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) touring side and captain of Northamptonshire.

Sarfraz blossomed under Mushtaq Muhammad’s captaincy, as the latter was altering Pakistani cricket’s psyche in the mid-70s.

Breaking away from his predecessors by bringing an aggressive and combative style of play, Sarfraz was becoming the perfect spearhead of this new Pakistani outlook.

In 1975, during the pre-helmet era, when Australia’s Jeff Thomson hurled a bouncer at Sarfraz in a game at Northampton, Sarfraz shouted back, “There is a grave vacant in the local cemetery”.

When Thomson came out to bat, Sarfraz dismissed him off a bouncer. At the time, Mushtaq was Sarfraz’s teammate at Northants and soon to be his captain.

In 1976, Pakistan embarked on a historic, year-long twin tour of Australia and West Indies. Mushtaq had realised that to beat Australia down under, Pakistan had to play on an even keel. Sledging was as important as cricketing skills to counter the Aussies.

Related: Of highs and lows: How Pakistani cricket changed forever

Pakistan had been beaten and bruised throughout the tour as they went into the final Test at Sydney.

Dennis Lillee, in his book Menace, recalls that he faced a Pakistani side with “a much tougher attitude, more aggressive in every area.”

Lillee and Gilmour fired bouncers and verbal abuses at the Pakistani batsmen. One of Lillee’s deliveries struck Sarfraz hard in the ribcage. He threw away his bat, walked to the leg-umpire to complain to him in an x-rated rant.

When Pakistan came to bowl, it was payback time. Imran Khan and Sarfraz brought out their own symphony of sweet chin music.

Mushtaq placed 19-year-old Javed Miandad at silly point, where he kept repeating to the batsmen, “Now he will kill you”, as Sarfraz and Imran bowled. Miandad would then sing songs from Urdu films.

Lillee complained, and the umpire warned Mushtaq of excessive aggression, but Mushtaq gave it a cold shoulder.

Imran and Sarfraz shared 18 wickets in the game, as Pakistan recorded their first win on Australian soil.

Later that year, Mushtaq joined five other Pakistani players to play for Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (WSC) in Australia.
Forays in politics, commentary

Sarfraz was the first to start the trend of multiple retirements in Pakistan cricket. He became an outspoken commentator and critic once he finally retired in 1984.

Read more: Pakistan’s only cricket museum — Guarding the wicket for the Gentleman’s Game

He was a member of parliament under Ziaul Haq’s rule in 1985. He also served as vice chairman of the Punjab Sports Board under then chief minister Nawaz Sharif, who was also chairman of the board.

Later on, Sarfraz contested the election with a PPP ticket during Benazir Bhutto’s comeback trail in 1988. In 2011, he joined MQM.

WASHINGTON: With the arrival of a vanguard team in the US capital on Sunday, Pakistan launched a major diplomatic campaign to establish early ties with the Trump administration.

Some media reports claim that as part of these efforts, Pakistan is also considering the possibility of sending Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend US President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural ceremony on Jan 20.

Officials at the Pakistan Embassy, however, say that while Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi’s visit to the United States is the first of several planned in the early days of the Trump administration, it’s “still too early to talk about the PM’s visit”.

Mr Fatemi, who begins his official engagements in Washington on Monday, will also visit New York early next week for meetings with members of the Trump transition team. In Washington, Mr Fatemi will meet members of the new US Congress, elected last month, and officials of the outgoing Obama administration.

Kafa Jawish hadn’t slept in days, daydreaming of seeing her home in east Aleppo for the first time in four years, but when she arrived she found little more than rubble.

The 36-year-old was among hundreds of Syrians returning to east Aleppo in recent days after the army recaptured large swathes of the city from rebels and encouraged residents to visit neighbourhoods and homes they left years earlier.

She could barely contain her excitement as she sat on a government bus heading to her neighbourhood of Haydariya in northeast Aleppo, recaptured by the army earlier in the week.
Kefa Jawish (R) and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed check their house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya neighbourhood. ─ AFP

“I left my house four years ago and I’m just so happy to be going to see it, I haven’t slept for three days because I’m so excited,” she told AFP as the bus wound its way from western Aleppo.

“I want to ululate with happiness when I see my house safe and sound,” she said, dressed warmly in a black coat and headscarf that framed her smiling face.

Stuffed into a bus crowded with other passengers, she and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed discussed their plans to return home, after years living in the Syriac Quarter in central Aleppo.
Tajeddin Ahmed takes a picture of his wife Kefa Jawish walking past burnt-out cars as they head to check their house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya neighbourhood. ─ AFP

“I’m going to go back to living in my house no matter what condition it’s in,” she said firmly.

“We’re tired of paying rent, we miss our house and our families and our neighbours.”

The couple fled Haydariya in July 2012, when rebels entered the city, leaving at dawn one morning without any of their belongings and moving into the ancient Syrian Quarter.
Kefa Jawish (L) and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed take pictures of a heavily damaged street as they head to check their house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya neighbourhood. ─ AFP

More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced internally or abroad by the conflict that began with anti-government protests in March 2011 before spiralling into a war that has killed over 300,000 people.
Shocking destruction

“I want to go back to the house that I lived in with my family and go back to living together safely and happily,” said Ahmed, 45.

“I’m really hoping we’ll find the house in good shape.”

His phone rang as they talked: an old neighbour who couldn’t leave work asked Ahmed to check on his house too.
Kefa Jawish takes pictures of the rubble as she heads with her husband Tajeddin Ahmed to check their house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya. ─ AFP

As the bus set out, Jawish expressed hope that her neighbourhood might be relatively untouched, reasoning it was far from the frontlines that saw the worst fighting.

East Aleppo has seen some of the worst violence of the war, and has been pounded by the army since it began an operation to recapture the city in mid-November.

As the bus edged closer to Haydariya, Jawish’s smile dropped away, and she and Ahmed fell silent. Along the road, buildings were partially or fully collapsed, windows long blown out and furnishings destroyed or looted.
Kefa Jawish walks past burnt-out cars as she heads with her husband to check their house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya. ─ AFP

The route itself was cratered in places, and the bus bounced as Ahmed stared grimly out of the window, murmuring prayers.

Jawish tried to pick out places that held memories, spotting an area she used to picnic with her husband. Growing impatient with the bus’s slow, careful progress, she tried in vain to convince her husband to get out and walk the rest of the way so she could get to her house quicker.

But when they finally arrived, she burst into tears at the sight of their building, parts of the length of one side of it completely gone, leaving the inside exposed to the elements.
Old life ‘a memory’

Most of the windows were blown out, along with their frames, the front door was missing and a stack of broken tiles was piled up in the doorway.

Unable to enter the damaged building, the couple stood on tiptoes to peer in through a ground floor window at their old apartment.
Kefa Jawish (L) and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed look a destroyed building in the Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya neighbourhood. ─ AFP

“We were so optimistic, I thought I was going to ululate when we arrived, but now we’ve found it like this, uninhabitable,” she said tearfully.

“We spent years working to make a home, buying things for it, bit by bit, until we had a washing machine and a fridge, and now there’s nothing in it and the house is destroyed. Oh God.”

She described the concerts that once took place at their house, with people playing the lute and singing.
Kefa Jawish (R) peers in the window of her house while her husband Tajeddin Ahmed waves as they check their home for the first time in four years. ─ AFP

“When I look at the house I remember all those beautiful moments.”

Ahmed appeared stunned as he looked on, repeating over and over: “Thank God for our health and wellbeing.”

“We sacrificed so much to make this house our home, how will we start over again?” Jawish asked.
Kefa Jawish (R) and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed check their house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya. ─ AFP

“I know that our relatives will all be in the same situation as us, who will help us?”

The couple left to walk through the neighbourhood, checking on the homes of their neighbours, all similarly damaged and gutted.

Their old life, Jawish said, “has become just a memory”.
Kefa Jawish (L) and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed walk among the ruins of a destroyed mosque in Aleppo’s Hanano district. ─ AFP

Kefa Jawish reacts as she walks down a damaged street on her way to check her house for the first time in four years in Aleppo’s northeastern Haydariya neighbourhood. ─ AFP

Kefa Jawish (R) and her husband Tajeddin Ahmed walk among the ruins of a destroyed mosque in Aleppo’s Hanano district. ─ AFP

courtesy: dawn news

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