Pakistani Virat Kohli Fan Arrested For Flying Indian Flag
NEW DELHI: A Pakistani cricket fan was arrested by Okara’s cantonment area police and booked under Section 123-A of the Pakistan Penal Code and the more frequently invoked Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order.
The accused, Umar Daraz, is a tailor who was arrested after he was seen flying an Indian flag at his home in Pakistan’s Punjab Province. The maximum sentence under Section 123-A is ten years imprisonment, as the Section deals with an offence against Pakistan’s sovereignity. Section 16 of the MPO carries an additional sentence of three years imprisonment.
According to police, Daraz was arrested after he went "against the ideology of Pakistan" when he waved the flag at his house. The flag had been waved when India was playing Australia in Aidelaide, with Daraz intending to celebrate Indian cricketer Virat Kohli’s impressive knock of 90-not out, that put India in the position to end with a 37-run win in the first of three Twenty20 internationals against Australia.
Regional Police officer Faisal Rana was quoted by the media saying that Daraz had not realised that he was committing a crime. "Daraz initially told us that he is a true Pakistani but likes Kohli and never knew that was a crime," Rana said, adding that "His act is against our country's sovereignty and is against the ideology of Pakistan." “He said it was a mistake. Had he known there were consequences, he wouldn’t have done it,” added police official Mohammad Ismail.
To make matters worse, Daraz’ home was filled with pictures of Virat Kohli, prompting Rana to to comment, "He is a diehard fan of Kohli and there were big posters pasted on the walls of his house.”
“He told us that Virat Kohli is his favorite player, and he wanted to show his admiration,” said Aziz Cheema, a local police official in Okara, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. “So he hoisted an Indian flag on his rooftop. He is a tailor, and told us that he’d stitched the flag himself.”
An article in Dawn News notes that according to one version of events, the sight of an Indian flag in a Pakistani town did not go down well with neighbours, with a crowd quickly gathering around Daraz’s home. “Police are quoted as saying they had no option but to intervene — and intervene they did in a big way by getting a case registered against him. The state, apparently ‘influenced’ by the crowd protesting against the installation of the flag, is the complainant here,” notes an article by Asha’ar Rehman. “As part of a search for the motives behind Umar’s act, according to one bit of information from Okara, he appeared to some witnesses — including policemen — to bear a likeness to the dashing batsman.”
Daraz reportedly was quick to apologise and express regret regarding the incident.
At the time of writing, the 22 year old cricketing enthusiast is being held in Okara’s central prison, awaiting a court ruling on his case.
In the two cricket-mad countries, the sport is often used as a political tool, with India recently cancelling a bilateral series after protests from right-wing groups. The two are scheduled to play each other at the Asia Cup in Bangladesh next month, followed by a World T20 championship match in India in March.
Further, this is not the first time that an Indian or Pakistani has faced a backlash for sporting the other country’s flag. In 2014, 67 students at the Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh were suspended for celebrating a Pakistani cricket victory over India. The students were from Jammu and Kashmir, a state in India that Pakistan lays claim to.
Currently, ties between the two neighbours are at a high in the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in power, with the Indian PM even making a surprise visit to Pakistan to meet with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. How this is going to translate on the cricketing pitch remains to be seen…