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ISLAMABAD, April 4: It is truly a season of change. Even madressah activities have come a long way from the Hafsa Brigade days.

It was a sporting change for the religious schools’ students when a week-long Bainul Madaris Cricket Floodlight Tournament opened here on Friday at the Embassy Road cricket ground.

Enthusiastic madressah students thronging the ground in their skull caps and turbans - some with sprouting beards - presented a pleasant sight. Many passersby stopped to watch and cheer the change - from dandas to cricket bats in their hands.

Twenty-four madressahs of Islamabad and Rawalpindi are competing in the tournament organised by the Capital Development Authority. That the participating madressahs belong to different sects and have found harmony in sports itself was a pleasant surprise.

Madressahs are certainly going soft - the matches are being played with a tennis ball and in track suits instead of shalwar-kameez.

But when it came to cheering the players, and celebrating a shot and the final win, it was all “Islamic” - no clapping, only slogans such as “Ya Ali Madad”, “Ghulam Hain, Rasul Kay”.

Some Lal Masjid madressah students there said they came against the wishes of their teachers who had declared the event ”unIslamic” because it was being covered by television channels.

Col (retired) Naushad Ali, an official of the Pakistan Cricket Board, was the chief guest in the opening match between Darul Hujjat and Qutub Shaheed madressahs which was won by the former.