GILGIT: Despite a controversy surrounding the event, a three-day women’s sporting gala — renamed the ‘GB Women’s Fair 2022’ at the last minute — saw girls from across Gilgit-Baltistan competing in a variety of sporting events.
The event, which kicked off at the Lalik Jan Stadium on Wednesday, was a women-only affair and not even male officials were allowed to enter the venue.
The event began with a march-past of the participants, who hailed from various educational institutions in Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, Ghizer, etc. However, teams from Baltistan division and Astore did not manage to make it on the first day as the Juglot-Skardu road remained blocked.
The fair also featured stalls and informational installations regarding environmental issues and climate change, mental health and hygiene, handicrafts and entrepreneurship were also on offer.
Govt changes name of event in bid to appease religious groups protesting ‘promotion of vulgarity’
Meanwhile, sessions on health issues were also held, where experts briefed participants on the dangers of breast cancer and other diseases, and how to avoid or detect them.
The event was organised by the GB government, with the support of opposition parties. However, it faced opposition from conservative elements and religious groups, who objected to the event on the basis that it was against “Islamic and cultural values” and staged demonstrations in the run-up to Wednesday’s festivities.
In order to ensure participants’ security, women police constables were also deployed at the venue.
Local religious leaders from different sects had called for mass agitation, accusing the government and administration of spreading “vulgarity” by organising a sports event for women.
However, GB government officials and ministers held negotiations with religious leaders in Gilgit in a bid to convince them to let the event go ahead as planned.
Late on Tuesday night, a tweet from the GB chief secretary’s official Twitter account revealed that the event had been changed to a ‘women’s meena bazaar’ on the directives of the GB chief minister.
The message assured all concerned that “the programme will be conducted in accordance with Islamic values and local customs”.
When contacted, GB Chief Secretary Mohyuddin Ahmed Wani told Dawn that only the name of the event was changed, but everything else had happened as planned.
However, a GB government official told Dawn on condition of anonymity that local religious groups were opposing the event and the government had tried to negotiate with them to let the event proceed as planned.
The official pointed out that the government had not caved in to regressive elements and did not cancel the event, despite pressure from religious groups.
One of the organisers told Dawn that from management to security, all participants and guests were women. She said that while the controversy surrounding the gala had forced some women and girls to stay away, most participants joined the festivities with great zeal and vigour.
She said the management was not aware of any changes to the event, since everything went according to plan.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022