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Watching a private Pakistani Urdu television channel known for being a trendsetter in breaking news -- no matter right or wrong -- I was struck by images of some Hindu children gathered in their temple (one of only a few left in Pakistan) and praying before their deities for the success of the Pakistani cricket team in today's semi-final match against India in the World Cup.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani will watch the match in India's Punjab Province with his counterpart, Manmohan Singh. The move -- not the first and surely not the last -- is seen as part of confidence-building measures between the two neighbors who have consistently failed to win each other’s trust over the past six decades.

To me, no one will pray more fervently for the success of the Pakistani side than those Hindu children I saw on TV. For them, the fate of the Pakistani team is seen as a matter of life and death.

They must pray and join the hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who involve God in everything ranging from cricket to politics to social affairs and war and peace. Failure to pray may result in the Hindus being dubbed as ''unpatriotic'' -- luckily, blasphemy laws can’t be applied in this case.

But what if Pakistan loses?

The mullahs gathering in mosques and madrasahs, as shown by the 24/7 Pakistani media, will simplistically call it the ''will of God." But what will be the fate of those Hindus praying for success? The mullahs may ask them why their gods and goddesses failed to hear their prayers.

Besides smashing their television sets -- which the clergy describe as, among other things, "the voice of Satan" -- the mullahs can also turn upon the Hindus for the failures of their gods and goddesses to return their prayers.

Nothing can be ruled out in a country where a sitting governor, a federal minister, and a two-time prime minister can be executed in broad daylight -- not in a remote village in the tribal belt but in the well-guarded and well-managed cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

One wonders if there is really any need of involving god when the matter is straightforwardly related to team spirit and skills. Or, if God’s help is to be sought for victory anyway, then Pakistani players need not work hard in batting or fielding. Instead, they should relax on the lush green field and wait for the miracle that would be the ''infidels'' returning dejectedly to the pavilion one by one without scoring a run.

To make things even easier, cash-strapped Pakistan need not spend millions of rupees on the players. Instead, the selectors should pick 11 people from remote villages without any regard for age, health, or even eyesight (Mullah Omar need not be excluded), drop them on the ground, and let God do the rest with the help of the prayers of 180 million adoring fans.

Besides winning the match, such a move from the Pakistani government would help them win the trust of the Taliban, whose trust in God is so firm that they never bat an eyelid while butchering scores of innocent citizens in suicide attacks in their holy war.

As the Hindu children were bowing before their deities in Mardan, the Pakistani government organized a prayer ceremony at the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. The mosque, like hundreds of Wahhabi seminaries, was constructed with money from Saudi Arabia and is often used by VIPs for their ''VIP'' prayers.

Potential divine interventions aside, I hope this event can serve as a catalyst for better relations between Pakistan and India. Lord knows we need it.

-- Daud Khattak

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