A sudden marriage announcement between Pakistani cricket star Shoaib Malik and Indian Tennis queen Sania Mirza received mixed reactions of cynicism and pleasure in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.
Enthusiasts in both Pakistan and Indian expressed joy over the news considering it another kind of cricket diplomacy that could bring some thaw in the tense relations between the nuclear arch-rivals.
Hindu extremists, on the other hand, reacted sharply to the announcement, holding angry protests, burning Sania’s posters and vowing to disrupt the marriage, considering it a shame and dishonor for India.
The protestors led by Hindu radical Siv Sena threatened “to teach Sania a lesson” for preferring a Pakistani over any Indian, according to media reports.
The proposed wedding, however, was seen by some as happy news that could ease a jittery relationship between the two nuclear foes, especially following two recent bitter disputes over water resources and cricket.
Pakistan has been outraged at India’s decision to build dozens of dams on rivers flowing towards Pakistan. Besides, a failure by Indian Premier League managers to bid for talented Pakistan cricketers at a player’s auction in India caused huge uproar among the cricket world in Pakistan.
Interestingly, cricket has a history of playing a vital role in defusing tension between the two countries in the past. The term ‘cricket diplomacy’ became known to the world when, during the mid 80’s, General Ziaul Haq visited India uninvited to see a cricket match, at a time when large numbers of Indian army was lined up against Pakistani borders in the garb of war games.
Besides, a brief marriage between another Pakistani cricket star Mohsin Khan with a heroine of Indian cinema, Reena Roy, also turned over a pleasant leaf in the bilateral relations. Another brief wedding between Pakistani film star Javed Sheikh and Indian actress and playback singer Salma Agha was a memorable event for millions of people on both sides.
Sania Mirza has appeared more nationalistic on the media ever since the news of her marriage broke, as she said she would always support India during any Pak-Indian cricket match. Besides, she said the couple had planned to live in Dubai rather than in Pakistan.
Yet, the Shiv Sena and other Hindu extremists have cast shadows over the otherwise delightful plans of the couple.
Doubts over the marriage plans were also fueled by reports of a passed relationship of Malik with Indian girl Aisha Siddiqi. Malik allegedly married Siddiqi and then dumped her in 2003.
Shoaib had once admitted his relationship with Siddiqi but later on he and his family denied that any such marriage ever took place.
Alerted by the news of proposed Shoaib-Sania wedding, the Siddiqi family has held a press conference denouncing Malik for disowning a lawful marriage to their daughter, and demanding that he must give legal her divorce before proceeding to marry Mirza.
The Siddiqi family showed the media an alleged copy of Shoaib- Siddiqi marriage certificate, warning that they could go to court for legal action.
Siddiqi’s father Mohammad Ali Siddiqi also demanded that if Shoaib continued to deny his wedding with Aisha, then his relation with Aisha should be treated as “adultery” and he should be punished according to the Islamic law for that.