This report is supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives
October 4, 2023
By Arshad Mohmand
Two days after a group of elders in Charbagh tehsil barred women cricketers from playing in the area, the athletes and match organizers, with the support of the district administration, held a 10-over match in the sports ground of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Kabal tehsil.
The match, which was organized by Pakistan’s youngest female taekwondo champion Ayesha Ayaz, saw Mingora women’s team beat Kabal with a seven-run lead.
On the ban on women’s participation in sports by Charbagh’s elders, expressed disappointment in discriminatory attitudes.
“Why do they only have problems when it’s girls who are playing? Why did they disqualify us? All the girls were not only disheartened but are now also fearful,” she lamented.
According to Charbagh residents, on the day of the match on October 1, a group comprising people affiliated with religious parties and local elders arrived at the field where the female cricketers had gathered for warm-ups. The group issued a strong protest, following which the match was subsequently stopped from taking place.
Local journalist Mian Saeed, who was present on the day to cover the event, said the girls had been extremely excited before.
According to eyewitness and local journalist Mian Saeed, before the match, the girls were engaged in practice in an enthusiastic manner.
“Many of the objecting elders were associated with the Jamiat Ullema-e-Islam. They said that girls cannot play cricket in front of males,”
Between 2007 and 2008, Swat’s Charbagh tehsil was seized by the Taliban, who imposed a complete ban on women and girls’ education, participation in sports, and freedom of movement.
Tabassum Adnan, a social activist working for women’s rights, says that in recent years there has been a resurgence in incidents that harkened back to the oppressive regime of the Taliban, a development that is causing fear and panic among local women and girls.
“Today they imposed a ban on girls’ cricket, tomorrow they will impose other restrictions. They may be forced to stay indoors and deprived of attaining education or getting jobs,” she told Voicepk.net. “If educated women are made to stay within their homes, then what would have been the point of going through all the trouble of getting educated in the first place?”
In addition to the October 1 women’s cricket match, local religious leaders and elders have also placed a pre-emptive ban on a musical concert originally slated for October 7 and 8 in Kalam. Experts say that such incidents are symptoms of a resurgence in extremism.
Senior journalist Fazal Khaliq told Voicepk.net that as of late, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants are being spotted in several parts of Swat, some of whom are openly engaging in militant activities.
“There has indeed been some fallout [from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan]. Whether we refer to the Afghan Taliban or the Pakistan Taliban, they are technically one group because the Pakistani Taliban and their creators have fought alongside the Afghan Taliban for the past two decades,” he explains. “They have helped each other, they have very friendly relations… How can we assume they are two separate entities?”
Charbagh Assistant Commissioner (AC) Muhammad Yar Khan claims that there is complete peace in Swat, for which there will be no compromise.
“Swat’s people are intelligent. It is a peaceful place. We invite all to engage in tourism and positive activities here,”
It is to be noted that AC Yar Khan earlier told Arab News that the match was not canceled due to objections by the local elders over apparent immodesty, but rather due to “security reasons in the locality and because the organizers had not taken the administration in confidence to provide any security”.
Malakand Division had also previously been gripped by terrorism, but after years of peace, militant activity has once again reared its head however the locals have responded with anti-terrorism and anti-extremism protest rallies and jirgas.