Arrow from Pashtun woman archer pierces the patriarchy

Special Arrow from Pashtun woman archer pierces the patriarchy
Sara Khan shows arrow marks to her students at Peshawar Sports Complex on Dec. 24, 2019. (AN Photo)
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Updated 29 December 2019
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Arrow from Pashtun woman archer pierces the patriarchy

Arrow from Pashtun woman archer pierces the patriarchy
  • Marksmanship is proof of manliness and an integral part of Pashtun tradition
  • Urdu literature graduate Sara Khan founded the first archery school in KP

PESHAWAR: In Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, Mukha, a traditional archery sport, has for centuries engaged men of all ages and backgrounds. 

But among the archers touting their manliness and accuracy, one Pashtun woman with a bow and arrow has successfully aimed to overthrow the male-dominated tradition of the sport. 

“Archery is a technical sport, it needs focus and calmness,” Sara Khan, who founded the first archery school in the province in 2016, told Arab News. 

Marksmanship is an integral part of the Pashtun tradition, but it does not come cheap. A single bow costs Rs. 350,000 ($2,250). Khan knows that the 21 trainees currently under her will be unable to pay the price, so she has equipped them with bows and arrows free of charge.




Pakhtunkhwa Archery Club members Wajahat Ali and Waqas Ahmad aim at the target at Peshawar Sports Complex on Dec. 24, 2019. (AN Photo)

The 36-year-old Khan came to Peshawar to study Urdu literature, but after graduating, she devoted herself completely to archery. She said it was a passion since childhood, and she grew up training on archery courses organized by the Pakistan Army.

“My parents have no sons, so I pretended to be their boy, and they are proud of my unique profession,” she said.

“I still remember how difficult it was in the beginning, with hurdles created by men. But my father fully supported me. I showed every opponent that women can do what men can do,” she said.

At Khan’s Pakhtunkhwa Archery Club, her disciples train on the lush green lawns of the Peshawar Sports Complex. Every afternoon, she attends to her male and female students, who won third prize at the National Games this year.




Sara Khan speaks to Arab News at Peshawar Sports Complex on Dec. 24, 2019. (AN Photo)

“Senior players shoot 70 arrows and juniors shoot 35 arrows every day... this practice makes them fit for matches,” Khan said.

Meanwhile, Khan said, she is also triumphing against the patriarchal traditions of Pashtun society.

 “I am a kind of spectacle,” she laughed and added: “But that never discouraged me.”

“Our coach is honest to her profession and during practice, she doesn’t accept any excuses. It is unique that in Peshawar a woman teaches (men) how to hit the target,” said Khan’s student Waqas Ahmad, 29.

He said he used to see the sport as belonging to men, but his teacher had changed his view of the game, and of the world. 

“It’s an amazing experience to learn the oldest weapon-based martial art from a woman,” another student, Wajahat Ali, 43, told Arab News. 

“Sara Khan is an inspirational personality and a role model for women across the country.”