KARACHI: Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan has made cricket history by qualifying for the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy, the country’s premier first-class tournament, for the first time.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) team won all three matches in the qualifying rounds and earned one of the two qualifying spots for the regions in the main round of the Trophy starting on Oct 26.

“It’s a great achievement for our region which has been hit by terrorism but since the military operation interest in cricket has increased manifold,” Noor-ul-Haq, president of Fata cricket region told AFP.

Fata, which was given cricket region status only in 2013, beat Abbottabad by nine wickets, Faisalabad by ten wickets and a much fancied Karachi team by 81 runs.

Armed unrest in Pakistan began after the US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001 which led to a spillover of terrorists across the border and a surge in recruitment for Pakistani militant groups in tribal areas.

Noor said the promotion will help cricket on the frontier a great deal.

“Cricket is a very popular game in Fata and this promotion in the main rounds will help us attract more sponsorships and build more facilities for the game,” said Noor.

He further said boys in the tribal and adjoining areas now love to play cricket.

“There were times when boys were reluctant to come to the ground but after the operation by security forces they now feel safe in playing the game which has made a difference,” Noor said.

In June last year the Pakistani military launched an extensive operation in North Waziristan tribal area against Taliban militants.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2015

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