Swat girls prevented from playing cricket match

SWAT: A group of Charbagh residents and some prayer leaders on Sunday intervened to halt a women cricket match at Charbagh Cricket Stadium.

They said girls participating in cricket was immodest and considered inappropriate in the locality.

Ayesha Ayaz, a 12-year-old budding athlete, had tal(en the initiative to arrange the match among girls hailing from Babuzai and Kabal tehsils.

However, before the commencement of game, several prayer leaders and elders arrived at the venue and prevented the girls from participating in it.

`When the girls from different areas gathered on the ground for the match, some religious people came and angrily forbade the players and organisers to do so. They were yelling and shouting and saying it wasimmodest for girls to play cricket in the open ground and we will never allow them to do so,` said Saeed Iqbal, an eyewitness.

Later, he added, the imams contacted the local councilor, Ihsanullah Kaki, who also requested the match organisers and female players to leave the area.

Ayaz Naik, one of the organisers, said many female cricket players in Swat wanted to play cricket professionally.

`Many girls contacted us to organise cricket matches for them and make a district cricket team to play first class matches,` he said, adding that he, his daughter Ayesha Ayaz, and some professional players organised the match at Charbagh Cricket Stadium because construction work was underway at the stadium in Mingora.

He said it was shocking for the girls and organisers when they were stopped from playing cricketin their area.

Local players Humaira Ahmad and Sapna said they and their friends were excited about the match, but when they reached the ground, the locals did not allow them to play.

`Our enthusiasm dwindled as we arrived at the venue and encountered individuals who prevented us from participating in thegame. It`s puzzling why some men have reservations about female participation in sports because taking part in sports is our fundamental right, and we aspire to play at a higher level,` they said.

Charbagh Tehsil Chairman Ihsanullah Kaki was contacted by the locals, who endorsed their decision and asked the organisers and players to leave the place.

`The security conditions within the Charbagh tehsil are currently unstable due to the presence of individuals with firearms, who are often spotted in various locations.

These individuals 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, adding they had also discussed the presence of unidentiñed persons with the police.

He said people of Charbagh were not against the female cricket match, but presently the security situation was unstable so they stood against the women`s cricket match. `If they had informed us in advance, we would have organised the match in a ground with boundary walls,` he pointed out.

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