“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Basically it was very confusing, so we decided to party.

And what a grand party it was. For half a day, there were no cares in the world. A people, tired of bad news, tired of failures and tragedies, tales of corruption and thievery, load shedding and undrinkable water, threw their cares to the wind and just had fun. And how wonderful that was. For that half a day they were united, they sang together, they raised slogans of Pakistan Zindabad; the 25,000 in the stadium had an amazing experience, many had goosebumps – it was so emotional. The government was determined to provide a slice of happiness to its people and left no stone unturned to make this mammoth celebration possible. The whole city was at a standstill, gas, schools, hotels in the vicinity were closed, small time vendors were told to take a happy hike, the Pak Army, Rangers, Police were called in. Government ministers personally organized shuttle buses (yes so touching and so impressive), the Prime Minister hovered above in a helicopter like a concerned parent and the public flocked to the stadium in droves (let’s ignore the fact that the tickets were rather pricey and most people could not afford them). Those who couldn’t come, watched the party on television and shared in the festivity. It was the best present ever, to a people starved of happiness. And not to forget the world. The world saw that ever-elusive ‘soft image’. It saw a people singing and dancing and playing cricket. They said we showed them the real Pakistan.

The PSL itself! What a fantastic tournament! Kudos to the organizers. It generated so much interest. And the fact that serendipitously, Quetta and Peshawar, the two smaller provinces, made it to the final was a like a divine present. The people of both provinces were so invested in their teams. Quetta was the favorite, having beaten Peshawar in that thrilling play-off. The playing field was level for all the teams and Quetta was not only holding its own but giving its people something to be genuinely proud of. A final between the two full teams, irrespective of who won would have been a cricketing delight. Large screens were put up all over Quetta. The hopes of an entire province were pinned to their team. But because we were proving a point, and the party was more important than the damn game we instead had a one-sided, lame final, Quetta fielding a depleted side. They said it didn’t matter. Cricket won.

The wonderful foreign players who braved the dangers and risks and still agreed to come – how can one thank them enough? One trusts they have been adequately compensated monetarily but no money could express the gratitude of a fun-starved nation. The country is desperate to have international cricket back again. And this foolproof, iron clad, national armed forces-backed operation must have been such a reassuring experience for the kind foreigners who bravely ventured to come. Surely other international teams would have seen what a conducive and safe environment we can create when we put the might of the State behind a cricket match, which is after all among the top priorities for our people. They said this heralds the return of international cricket to Pakistan.

The best thing, however, was how the authorities hit terrorism for a six with one mighty swing of the bat. The terrorists were left standing in awe, literally at silly point. How they must have gnashed their teeth and wrung their hands at our boldness. The game was dedicated to the ones who had died in the Lahore and Sehwan blasts. One can imagine how grateful the families must have felt. That even before the traditional forty days of mourning were over, our brave nation was defying the forces of terror and sending a message of strength, courage and resilience. Our government and security forces showed an iron resolve and their firm commitment to the cause of rooting out terrorism. No expense was too much, no effort great enough. Even the National Action Plan, was put on hold. Compassion and sensitivity were the order of the day. The people and the State stood in solidarity with the victims, for that half-day. The more they sang, the more fun they had, the better they felt for taking part in such a noble, brave endeavor. The patriotism, the courage, the defying death to come and be counted bravely in the most heavily guarded bunker in the country, leaving their insecure homes and neighborhoods, took some serious guts. It rightly gave people goosebumps. Such patriotic fervor, such empathy for the fallen. We never forgave Imran Khan for getting married the month after APS, but surely he too was just sending a message of resilience. We don’t allow the damn terrorists to steal our joys, to change our way of life. We are a brave people. In fact, the icing on the cake was the dhamal. While the victims of the Sehwan blast were still in the ill equipped hospitals, while families struggled to survive without breadwinners, we showed our solidarity by dancing the dhamal in Gaddafi stadium. They said we sent a strong signal to terrorists. They said Pakistan won.

Did it? Really? Ask one family who has lost someone to terrorism. Ask them if courage means going to a cricket match or getting up every morning and sending a child to school after having lost one already. Ask them if they appreciated being told to put away their grief because the nation, rather than doing anything meaningful for them, wanted to dance to show resilience and solidarity. Ask the terrorists if this inane, symbolic grandstanding scared them.

It was fine to have a party. It was fine to be happy. One prays that this can bring back international cricket too. Exhibition matches in multiple cities, between the local players of the two teams in the final, with free entry, could have been a way of celebrating cricket and PSL. And yes it was celebrating a game that the people of Pakistan love. Period. Please let’s not pretend it was for the victims of terrorism. That’s insensitive and callous. Please let’s have as many festivals and cricket matches as we want, just not in their name.