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Cricket bat symbol draws children into Pakistan's politics

By NIZAM UDDIN, written for UPI.com   |   May 10, 2013 at 11:39 PM   |   Comments

PESHAWAR, May 11 (UPI Next) -- The cricket bat has become a potent symbol, drawing children into the political process, in the lead-up to Pakistan's planned elections Saturday.

Pakistani political parties use election symbols and the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf party, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, chose the cricket bat.

The cricket bat is among 144 election symbols allotted by the Election Commission of Pakistan to parties and independent candidates. Others include pictures of a book, arrow, lantern, tiger, kite and scale.

"Election symbols play a key role in countries like Pakistan, where literacy rates are low and where multi-party system exists," Layaq Zada, head of Radio Pakistan in Peshawar, said. "The voters better recognize their candidates and parties through these symbols."

In the past, he said, Khan's PTI used the lota, a round brass water vessel, as an election symbol, but the symbol is popularly disliked, so the PTI fared poorly.

The PTI then asked to use a scale as an election symbol, with the cricket bat as its second choice. The scale image had been given to Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious political party, Ishfaq Ali, a PTI activist from the Murree area of Punjab, said, so the PTI got the cricket bat.

The bat has now become popular with Pakistani children. The PTI started running television commercials with children running down fields holding cricket bats.

Cricket is very popular sport in Peshawar's streets and across Pakistan, no more so than for children, and before long, the wooden bat made politics and political figures popular for the first time among Peshawar children, generally ignorant of politics.

Peshawar's narrow streets are often crowded in the afternoon with children playing cricket, wickets drawn in chalk on walls and a single bat and ball passed among seven to eight children.

These days children discuss political figures because they see the cricket bat on posters and television shows, and in public gatherings.

On Dhaki Nalbandi Street, in Peshawar, where a December suicide attack killed Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a member of the provincial assembly and senior minister for local government and rural development of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, children put up posters with the bat printed on it.

"For the children, the symbol of the bat posted on walls, hanging in the street, is just fun and more compelling than other symbols," Iftikhar Ahmed, a professor of mathematics at Peshawar's Government College, and the father of three boys, said.

His son, he said, took political posters into his bedroom and hung them up, even though he is only 12 years old.

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