Residents and clerics have barred girls in Swat’s Charbagh from playing cricket at the tehsil’s stadium, saying that women’s participation in sports was considered “immodest” and “inappropriate” in the locality.
Ayesha Ayaz, Pakistan’s youngest taekwondo athlete, arranged a cricket match at the Charbagh Cricket Stadium today for girls from the Babuzai and Kabal tehsil of Swat.
However, before the game commenced, several clerics from nearby mosques and a group of elders reached the venue and stopped the girls from playing.
“When the girls gathered at the stadium, some religious people came and angrily forbade the girls and organisers from playing cricket,” Saeed Iqbal, an eye witness, told Dawn.com.
He added that the men yelled at the girls and said it was immodest for them to play cricket in an open ground.
Iqbal added that the clerics later reached out to the local councilor, Ihsanullah Kaki, who then asked the girls to vacate the stadium.
Ayaz Naik, one of the organisers, said girls in Swat wanted to play cricket professionally. “They reached out to us recently and asked us to organise cricket matches for them in the district. They wanted us to form district-level crickets teams as well.”
He added that his daughter Ayesha and other professional cricket players organised a match in Charbagh today as construction work was under way at the stadium in Mingora, which is located at a 12km distance from Charbagh.
Naik said the girls and organisers were shocked when locals, especially religious leaders, came to the ground and stopped them from playing cricket.
Humaira Ahmad, a cricket enthusiast and resident of Swat, expressed how she and her friends were disappointed at the behaviour of the locals.
“It’s puzzling why some men have reservations about female participation in sports when it is our fundamental right,” Humaira said, adding that she aspired to play for the country one day.
Meanwhile, Ihsanullah Kaki, the tehsil chairman of Charbagh, said the girls were barred from playing due to security conditions.
“The security conditions within Charbagh tehsil are currently unstable due to the presence of individuals and suspected firearms, who are often spotted in various locations.
“These individuals also send messages to local residents, demanding money and issuing threats. Those residing near the cricket ground are hesitant to venture outside their homes at night as they fear the presence of militants,” he told Dawn.com.
Kaki added that the locals had also discussed the security concerns with police.
“If they had informed us in advance, we would have organised the match for the girls in a ground with boundary walls,” he added.