This piece isn’t about the PSL. Well it is, but not about the cricket. The cricket was lukewarm. Quetta, who were undermanned by foreign players who didn’t have the stones of Darren Sammy, hardly put up a fight. I was a lonely Gladiators pall bearer in the ocean of Zalmi acolytes. The closing ceremony was too long, a handout to washed up musicians who can’t get a concert on their own. But the organisation was superb, the first wave of blockades were miles away from the ground so spectators had to sit on Metro buses to get to the stadium. The checking was so thorough I would have confessed to anything by the 10th frisking.

But this piece is not about the match or the mirth or what it meant for Lahore other than stopping people from getting to their homes near the airport. It was a grand occasion, I loved the drone camera, I loved the dhols in the crowd, I loved the abuse hurled at Kamran Akmal (mostly from me), but it’s unlikely to bring international cricket back to Pakistan and no terrorists were harmed in the making of this spectacle.

This piece is about women in public spaces.


####Forget everything else — PSL’s greatest success was in getting women back into public spaces

At one point there was a lull in the thwacking of the cricket ball and the thumping of the dhol, and I looked down upon the mass of people below me (I can’t sit due to an injured abdomen, so I was standing at the back with an amicable constable from the lady police named Uzma Yasin), and as I looked down I noticed women occupying a public space, in Pakistan, surrounded by men.

One woman was perched on top of a divider. Young girls were running around waving flags. Women of all age were jumping up and down for the Mexican wave, and holding up placards of 4s and 6s when Quetta was bowling. They didn’t get much chance when they were batting.

I saw men ogling at something else than just women, for a change. And it felt ... very normal. Just the way things should be. Perhaps a woman’s experience of this match was entirely different, I can’t presume to tell their stories. But for me it was a welcome change to see women out and about in a public space, and at least visibly looking comfortable.

I think by and large it was due to the deployment of Lahore’s lady police force.

They were on crowd control duty while the male police sat on the top rows watching the match. It makes a hell of a difference when you empower women to orchestrate a crowd rather than men. But what I want to know is: where are all these policewomen when there isn’t a city-wide lockdown so Najam Sethi can make a speech.

Why aren’t they deployed in bazaars? Why aren’t they deployed at dhabas where portly policemen manspread, eat and barf? You’ve seen the policemen deployed at Lakshmi Chowk — they sit on the street side to inhale karrahi and get their shoulders massaged by the young boys with chiming vials of oil.


#### I think by and large it was due to the deployment of Lahore’s lady police force. They were on crowd control duty while the male police sat on the top rows watching the match. It makes a hell of a difference when you empower women to orchestrate a crowd rather than men.

Why on earth would women go and eat at such a place where ‘protection’ is part of the problem? So rude, lazy and unfit that Shahbaz Sharif had to issue an official order for them to run around in public parks and lose weight.

Lakshmi is one of the best places to eat in Lahore, and like every other place it has a family hall in the attic where women are tucked away. Away from the experience of watching a karrahi being made, smelling the salts and peppers, basking in the aroma, throwing scraps to stray cats.

Why can’t these policemen be forcibly enrolled into the 42-day challenge, and the policewomen given the van to patrol these dhabas? A woman in a uniform and even a mere stick to wield is enough of a statement to change the atmosphere of a public space.

Women protection bills are fine but a piece of legislative paper can’t go out on the streets and protect women. Women can go out on the streets and protect women. If so much money can be spent on the Dolphin special force with their heavy bikes and BDSM leather uniforms why can’t we get a bigger, more visible, baton-wielding lady police force?

Constable Uzma Yasin had 10 years of experience in the force and said she had manhandled many street harassers and hecklers. She was lean and tall and had the air of someone who could slap the back of a man’s head just passing by, reason be damned.

More like her please.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2017

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