By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal 

Youth festival at National Hockey Stadium Lahore and two T-20 cricket matches at Karachi’s National Stadium were the trend setting events. Both were a resounding success; radiating the real image of Pakistan, the world over. During the youth gala, thousands of cheerful boys and girls fascinated the viewers all over the world by their splendid performance. It demonstrated to the world that sky is the limit when it comes to the potential and capabilities of the Pakistani youth, and as indeed the Pakistani nation. Likewise, in both the T-20 matches ‘Pakistan All Star XI’ outplayed their rivals. More than the results, what mattered was that after a long spell, Pakistan played host to international cricketers. Over 35,000 cheering fans enjoyed the action on two evenings. Above all, there was no untoward incident during these mega sporting events.

Though organized by the Punjab government, the Youth Festival was a reflection of national aspirations. Chief Minister did a commendable job by giving a focus oriented vision for the event. His team also planned meticulously and executed it with fine precision. This youth festival was something different; not just a mundane ritual focused around photo session.

Initiative by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to mobilize the youth paid dividends; it brought honours to the country by setting or bettering over a dozen of World records. It was a well-organised healthy activity, which was spread over several months starting from district level and then culminating with a mass participation in a joyous mood.

Young boys and girls, during their media interviews, expressed immense love for the country and expressed their resolve to work with even greater zeal to make Pakistan a shining star in the comity of nations. They tried to build a softer image of Pakistan to the world, hoping that their efforts would be recognised by the international community. Though Pakistanis going through rough times, no one should underestimate Pakistan’s resilience.

Most impressive of the events were mass singing of the national anthem, formation of the world’s largest national flag and a human mosaic of the Lahore Fort. Also new world records were set in martial arts, plug wiring, fastest chess set up, pulling a truck by a moustache, fastest time for wearing a cricket kit, longest frog jump, football headers etc.

On the opening day of the festival 42,813 people in the National Hockey Stadium sang the national anthem together, smashing the previous record of 15,243 held by India. Patriotic emotions ran when thousands of participants joined in singing the national anthem.

After observing the attempt of making the largest human flag from different angles and heights, the Guinness World Record adjudicator declared: “It’s amazing, amazing display of unity of 24,200 people here in Lahore tonight…It was an amazing view and I am surprised to see the unity and great show of Pakistani youth. After going through the figures of 24,200, I declare it another World Record for Pakistan,” said Gareth. “The youth of Punjab ‘touched the sky’ with their efforts; they have been working day in and day out to enter the GWR books and I hope this will be written in golden words,” he added. Earlier record was set by 21,726 participants in Hong Kong in 2007. Pakistanis formed the world’s largest human flag to demonstrate that the nation is united under crisis and ready to steer the country out of crisis.

Moreover, 1936 students belonging to different schools in Punjab created the largest mosaic; these students made the image of historical Shahi Qila, thus bettering an American world record by 1458 people in South Carolina on 03 December, 2011. “What an incredible painting it was. I am happy to announce this, another Guinness World Record for Pakistan,” said Deaves. “Every single one of you holds this record,” he said.

Pakistan also set a record for breaking the maximum number of records in one day. Eight records were set in a single day. Pakistan has also made a record of holding and making 13 records in the shortest period. So many records have tumbled that it is difficult to keep track of all of them. Pakistani masses proved that they are peace loving people and have the strength to do anything.

Individual record setters also deserve national commendation for their initiative, skills and perseverance. Mohammad Mansha set a new record for making ‘chapattis’ (breads) – mixing, kneading, spinning and cooking three in three minutes and 14 seconds; 12 year old Mehek Gul took only 45 seconds to arrange the pieces on a chessboard with one hand. Ahmed Amin Bodla beat a record by landing 617 martial kicks on a punching bag in three minutes. Saddi Muhammad set a record by using his moustache to pull a 1.7 ton truck over a distance of 60.3 metres. Mohammad Nauman wired a household plug just in 35 seconds. Daniel Gill and Mohammad Rizwan set a record for heading a football between them, for 335 consecutive headers in three minutes 45 seconds. And, Ahmed Amin Bodla broke the 12 kicks shot of the world record created by an American, Meza.

Coming to cricket, under normal circumstances, the two Twenty20 matches wouldn’t have made any headlines. They were just exhibition matches featuring an International World XI involving former stars, retired from the game. Pakistan had become a recluse in the world of sports since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. It had triggered genuine fears about the future of sports in Pakistan. Hopefully, now the things will change for the better. Event also put a smile back on the faces of millions of cricket fans across the country.

PCB chairman voiced confidence that international matches will return to the country next year: “I think these matches, despite being private, are a good step and PCB supported and encouraged these matches and they generated a lot of enthusiasm from the fans, which is a good sign… “We are talking to two other boards as well… We have given them security plans and I am sure the day is not far when we have big time cricket.”

Pakistani youth has unique qualities and capabilities and they can perform wonders if enabling environment is provided to them.Pakistanis one of those lucky countries where youth is in majority. Cricket and other sports are important means of mobilizing and focusing their energies. Youth festival brought good name to the country and sent across a strong message all over the globe that Pakistanis are achievers and doers. This indeed helped in boosting the sagging morale of the nation. It was a refreshing break form headlines like bomb blasts, Taliban, drones etc, it is pleasure to see Pakistan returning to innocent pleasures.

Well done youngster, keep it up, nation is proud of you!

Writer is Consultant, Policy & Strategic Response, IPRI.
Email: Khalid3408@gmail.com