6 October 2022
By Sher Nadir
GILGIT-BALTISTAN: Defying threats, pressures and all other obstacles women and girls of different ages and from different districts of Gilgit-Baltistan came together to participate in a three-day fair on Wednesday 5th September 2022.
The event initially termed ‘Women’s Sports Gala’ gathered much controversy after some religious clerics and political groups, including a GB cabinet member, termed it “un-Islamic” and “vulgar”.
The religious party, Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat even staged a shutter-down strike and protest against the women’s sports gala organized by the Gilgit-Baltistan government. Demonstrators protested by burning tires outside the Lalak Jan Stadium, Gilgit on Tuesday. They further warned the government to cancel the event or else protests will be held at a national level.
Food Minister Shams Lone, speaking against the event, argued that such a women’s sports festival was unacceptable as it went against the culture and values of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and of Islam. Other conservative groups had threatened to thwart the sports gala and called for mass agitation against the organizers and attendees.
Progressive political and social leaders of Gilgit-Baltistan, student organizations and human rights organizations called the protest against the event illegal and demanded that the government ensure women are treated with equality and are allowed to utilize public spaces for their activities.
Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid and other political leaders and stakeholders were able to successfully negotiate with the concerned parties to allow the event to take place by renaming it the ‘GB Women’s Fair 2022’ or “Meena Bazaar” and ensuring those opposed to it that “the programme will be conducted in accordance with Islamic values and local customs”.
The inaugural ceremony, open only to females, was attended by hundreds of women. A heavy contingent of female police officers was also deployed to provide security and prevent any unwanted incidents.
The three-day festival will feature many sporting events and competitions and will continue till October 7th at the Lalik Jan Stadium in Gilgit.
The GB Women’s Gala was organized by the Gilgit-Baltistan government to provide women and girls with a platform to participate in sports and showcase their skills and talents.
The teams represented various educational from Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, Ghizer, Baltistan and Astore.
Besides sports competitions, the fair also featured food and handicraft stalls and informational sessions on the environment, mental health and women’s issues.