What to do with Gaddafi Stadium?
Alright, the Lahoris can keep their Charing Crosses and Mayo Gardens, the Bharat Nagars and the Ram Galis, because they belong to the city`s memory, they argue. The past invariably seeps into the present of this most glorious of our historical cities, but surely keeping the coveted cricket ground named after Qadhafi will bring Lahore no glory now.
Let`s face it; many thought it did back in February 1974 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, with the Libyan revolutionary in tow, had rechristened the stadium, and for good reason. Col Muammar Qadhafi, although seen as anathema by the monarchs in the Muslim world, was presented as a benefactor of Pakistan by Mr Bhutto.
Those were days as heady as the strong contradictions they presented. Here was Pakistan`s first democratically elected prime minister feasting heads and representatives of some 37 Muslim states, mostly autocrats. The summit brought together leaders whose politics at the height of the Cold War were as far apart as those of the Shah of Iran and Yasser Arafat. Indeed, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman also came to Lahore after Mr Bhutto recognised Bangladesh.
There were absolute monarchs, pro-US and pro-Soviet Union leaders at the 1974 OIC summit: newly-rich Arab sheikhs and popular revolutionaries like Hafez al Assad of Syria, Houari Boumedienne of Algeria, Yasser Arafat of the PLO, together with American-backed monarchs like Mohammed Reza Shah Pehlavi of Iran and King Hussein of Jordan. That they all rallied behind Mr Bhutto`s call for Muslim unity while working at cross purposes in their respective domains, was no less a tribute to ZAB`s charisma.
India responded perhaps to this show of solidarity behind Mr Bhutto by conducting its first nuclear test in May 1974. Bhutto was quick to respond by vowing to expedite work on Pakistan`s own nuclear programme because he could count on financial assistance from his rich Muslim friends. Libya was among the countries that threw open their doors to Pakistani professionals and workers alike after the OIC moot.
Bhutto had traded in the Lahore Stadium for Libya`s financial assistance to his government, and many more jobs for Pakistanis than the sheer number of people who had greeted Qadhafi at the very stadium just months ago.
Most of the world`s Muslim leadership at the time had been converted to the cause of Pakistan. In the process, Lahore`s Charing Cross was rechristened Faisal Chowk (after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia); however, the name never stuck; Lyallpur too was renamed Faisalabad. Gaddafi Stadium stayed firmly as Gaddafi Stadium, despite the Libyan autocrat`s open hostility to Pakistan during the Ziaul Haq years.
Remember the Libyan trade commission in Pakistan was linked to anti-state activities in the 1980s? And Tripoli was the choice destination of Al Zulfikar hijackers who demanded that their jailed friends be delivered to Libya to end the 13-day PIA plane hijack drama in 1981? The prisoners were delivered to Damascus only after Qadhafi abruptly changed his mind as the plane carrying them was in mid-air.
Hundreds of Pakistanis expats were sent packing from Libya in the 1980s; yet, somehow, the petrodollars kept flowing in from Tripoli, not into the government exchequer but to individuals, all the same. Libya, together with Saddam Hussein`s Iraq, supported certain, mainly Barelvi, religious parties and outfits as a counterweight to Saudi money coming in to fund the CIA-backed Afghan jihad; and then there was the A.Q. Khan connection on the transfer of nuclear technology. Somebody there too made good money from Qadhafi, which perhaps was enough to keep the Libyan dictator honoured with his name attached to Pakistan`s premier cricket ground.
But now, as Qadhafi takes on his own people in the most ruthless way, it`s time he also lost the stadium named after him because he`s lost touch with the nation he once claimed to lead. Remember the Shahrah-i-Pehlavis in Quetta and Karachi also lost their names just as the Iranian revolution of 1979 triumphed, and the Shah of Iran fled Tehran. Dawn Lahori`s Notebook Gowalmandi Gwalmandi n
I am sure my former editor in Lahore, Mr Zafar Iqbal Mirza (Zim), whose inimitable remains a very popular column, would not object reverting to `Lahore Stadium` from `Gaddafi Stadium`. It is not after all (as spelled by the colonial rulers), which he would not allow changing to a more vernacular, . “It`s our heritage, you can`t change it,” he would insist.