Former goalkeeper for the women's national hockey team Syeda Sadia, who has accused the team's head coach, Saeed Khan, of harassment and assault, told Dawn.com on Tuesday that she will pursue a case against Khan independently as the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) seems unwilling to take any action against him.
"I will definitely pursue a case. When it comes down to my respect, I cannot tolerate it. I will not sit quietly," Sadia said speaking to Dawn.com over the phone on Monday.
Sadia, who also captains the Railways hockey team, has alleged that Khan harassed and assaulted her on the night of October 8.
Recalling the events of that night, Sadia said she had been attending a dinner being hosted for players at the hockey federation's facilities in Lahore when the team coach, who had been "glaring at her throughout the night", asked her to step outside the dining hall.
Once outside, Khan allegedly spoke to Sadia in a harsh tone and grabbed her dupatta (scarf). He allegedly raised his hand to hit her as well.
It was at this moment, Sadia said, that Tanzeela Aamer, secretary of the PHF's women's wing, walked out, saw the altercation, and stopped Khan from hitting her.
"Tanzeela ma'am then went back to the dinner. I ran back to my hostel room and he [Khan] followed me there," Sadia said.
Iqra Javed, another player on the hockey team, was in the room at the time, getting ready for the dinner.
Sadia alleged that once in the room, Khan grabbed her arm and threatened to ban her — and Iqra, when she tried to stop him — if they spoke out against him.
In her letter to the sports minister, she said Khan let her go because she physically resisted and tried to run.
"Then he forcefully took me back to the dinner. He told me to wash my face before I came down because I had been crying."
Sadia said she was highly distressed. When she returned to the dinner she barely ate and left for her brother's house immediately after.
She wrote to the Punjab Sports Minister, Jahangir Khanzada, and the PHF the day after the incident, detailing what happened and demanding that action be taken against Khan. A copy of that letter, dated October 9, is available with Dawn.com, with instructions from Khanzada for an inquiry into the matter to be completed within 10 days.
After that deadline lapsed without any action being taken, Sadia felt she should approach the media to present her case. She recorded a video statement to ask for help, which was circulated widely over the weekend.
The accused's version
Khan, who is currently in Brunei, has refuted the allegations against him.
“I’m not guilty at all and am ready to face any inquiry,” Khan had said at a press conference before leaving for Brunei.
“If I was guilty, I would’ve escaped from the camp,” he said. "She made these accusations out of frustration at being dropped from the team."
That narrative was seconded by Tanzeela Aamer, also present at the press conference, who said the former goalkeeper had accused the team coach of assault "because she was dropped from the team" selected to travel to Brunei.
Dropped from the team
Sadia also told Dawn.com said that two days before she was assaulted, she had approached Khan to ask him why she had not been selected for the team.
In response to her questions, Sadia claimed, Khan had given her his number and asked her to "call him at night".
She had mentioned the exchange in her complaint to PHF.
“I thought, ‘you are in front of me, why should I call you’, but I did not say anything," Sadia recalled while speaking to Dawn.com.
"I just felt it was not my destiny to be selected so I let it go." Sadia said, adding that she never ended up making the phone call.
An independent inquiry
The PHF's women's wing secretary has said there will be no inquiry into the allegations made by Sadia, insisting "they are baseless."
Speaking to Dawn.com, Tanzeela maintained that "there is absolutely no need for any inquiry into the matter."
"Why will we take action if someone is making false allegations?" Tanzeela said, denying that Sadia's version of the events of Oct 8 ever took place.
"That girl [Sadia] does not know anything. Do you think if something like this happened to one of our girls, we would just let it go?"
"I was there, nothing happened," Tanzeela repeated, before abruptly hanging up.
"A committee should be formed comprising people from outside the PHF. I will argue my case in front of them," Sadia insisted while speaking to Dawn.com.
Sadia said she wanted justice not only for herself, but also for Iqra Javed — her roommate — who had later corroborated Sadia's version of the alleged assault.
Iqra paid dearly for speaking in Sadia's support.
After she went on record to say that other female players who had refuted Sadia's allegations were not telling the truth, she was dropped from the national team — which is currently touring Brunei for the Women's Asia Challenge — on "disciplinary grounds".
Nageen Babar, who was originally travelling with the team as an umpire, was selected in Iqra’s place.
"Iqra is a close friend of Sadia and they hail from the same place," she offered by way of an explanation. "There can’t be any compromise on discipline," she said.
'Sadia was specifically targeted': Iqra's account
Speaking to Dawn.com on Tuesday, Iqra recalled that Sadia was "shivering and crying" when she came into the hostel room on Oct 8.
"I asked her what the matter was when I saw the state she was in. But immediately after, Khan entered the room and told me to back off," Iqra said. She added that Khan had asked her to leave the room but she refused to do so.
"I am telling you what I saw in the room," Iqra told Dawn.com. "I saw him grab her dupatta, her arm and then raise his hand at her."
"He then told her to wash her face before she came downstairs. I went downstairs with her to the dinner. Tanzeela Madam was there and she asked what was wrong, why we weren't eating," she recalled.
Iqra said that she does not know what had happened before Sadia and Khan came into the room except for what the former told her once the dinner was over.
She said Sadia told her that Khan had asked her to step out of the dining hall and asked her what she was doing there when she had not been selected for the team travelling to Brunei. Sadia had replied that the team manager had asked her and some other girls to stay behind to collect their money, Jawed said.
Jawed alleged that another player from the team had also witnessed what happened outside the dining hall between Khan and Sadia. She further corroborated Sadia's claim that Tanzeela, too, had witnessed the two arguing outside the hall.
"We do not know why she is refuting the allegations," Jawed wondered, recalling that Tanzeela had not witnessed what happened in the room as she was at the dinner.
Jawed also knew about the 'call me' incident. She said that when Sadia first told her that Khan had given her his number, they had laughed it off together. "We thought: 'What is he doing, he is the coach'."
"We did not know what he was thinking [...] that he would do this," she said.
"Sadia was specifically targetted," she said.
"They [the PHF] are using the players to protect themselves," Jawed alleged when asked about other players on the team refuting Sadia's allegations.
"I have been on the team for years and they dropped me [for standing up for Sadia]. How will any girl then speak up?"
"They know that the players come from small towns. This is their plan to protect themselves," she reflected.
When asked how she felt after being dropped from the squad, Jawed said that she was proud for having done the right thing.
"These are grave allegations. Sadia is the sole earner of her family, why would she make these accusations falsely, knowing the harm they will bring to her?"
"My only fault is that I spoke the truth."