Pakistani women hit taboos for six in Ramadan tournament

Pakistani women hit taboos for six in Ramadan tournament
Players celebrate during the Khelo Khavateen Ramadan night tournament at the Kokan ground in Karachi, Pakistan. The tournament has been quite successful. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 April 2022

Pakistani women hit taboos for six in Ramadan tournament

Pakistani women hit taboos for six in Ramadan tournament
  • Cricket series is offshoot of Khelo Kricket online startup that promotes sports among Pakistani women

KARACHI: The batter swung the bat with all her might, sending the ball flying out of Karachi’s Kokan Park, hitting for six the taboo that only men can venture out into the night during Ramadan to play cricket.

The scene was from the final match of Khelo Khavateen, meaning “Play Women,” a night cricket tournament for women in the Pakistani megapolis that culminated this week.

In the teeming port city each Ramadan, while the devout fast by day, at night they come out on the streets to play cricket. For years, however, the street matches and tournaments have been dominated by men.

Karachi-based journalist Hadeel Obaid wanted to change this trend and in 2015 came up with the idea of a platform where women could also safely play cricket late at night during Ramadan. Khelo Kricket (Play Cricket) was thus born, an online startup that promotes sports among Pakistani women.

A year later, Obaid started the Khelo Khavateen night tournament, which has since seen hundreds of girls registering to play night cricket in Ramadan. A few participants have even gone on to play for the national women’s team.

“No one experimented with the idea that women too are interested in coming out to play cricket at night,” Obaid told Arab News after the final of the Ramadan tournament, which was held this year after a two-year-long COVID-19 hiatus. “We wanted to create a safe space for girls to play cricket.”

But launching a successful women’s cricket tournament in Pakistan was not easy, said Obaid, who had to face criticism, as the idea of women playing cricket late at night — and that too in the holy month of Ramadan — did not go down well with many people.

“When you first start anything, it is always hard because change is something that nobody likes,” she said.

“When nothing has been happening for so many years, and then all of a sudden somebody wants to try and do something new, you’re always faced with a little backlash,” she said.

But Obaid brushed aside the negativity and as time progressed, she experienced firsthand how families and communities embraced the initiative, which has become a launching pad for professional players.

Last week, Pakistani cricketer Fatima Sana was awarded the International Cricket Council’s Women’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year 2021 award, becoming the first Pakistani to bag the honor. Sana launched her career at the Khelo Khavateen tournament in 2016, the first edition of the series.

“She was 12 or 13 years old when she played our very first tournament,” Obaid recalled. “At that point, she was an incredible talent. We had never seen a bowler like that.”

Urooj Mumtaz, a renowned Pakistani cricket commentator, television host and former cricketer, described the Khelo Kricket initiative as “wonderful.”

“We all like to play cricket during Ramadan,” she said. “It’s not just restricted to men. It’s also now (getting bigger) with girls … It’s more about recreation and attracting more girls to the sport.”

Obaid said she had planned to take the tournament to other cities in Pakistan, but the COVID-19 pandemic had thrown a spanner in the works. Now, however, with an improving disease situation, she hopes to revive her plans.

“We have a lot of people from Rawalpindi writing and telling us that they would like for the tournament to be played in the city. We got a lot of girls from Lahore writing,” Obaid said. “And so, we do want to take this there, maybe not in Ramadan, but maybe some point in the year.

“We’re hoping that in 2023 and 2024 we can keep the momentum up and actually grow it.”


US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations
Updated 24 sec ago

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

TOKYO: US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel issued a statement Monday ahead of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo’s state funeral emphasizing how Abe’s work had brought Japan and the United States together.

“I am honored to be part of the Presidential Delegation and to have the opportunity to pay my respects to the former Prime Minister at the state funeral,” Rahm said in the statement. “As President Biden said on the day of Abe-san’s death: ‘The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief’.  It was true then; it remains true today.”

Rahm said the attendance of Vice President Kamala Harris at the funeral “demonstrates the respect President Joe Biden has for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his family, and sends a strong signal of our deep commitment to the Japanese people. While we are allies by treaty, we are friends in our hearts.”

Rahm also noted the achievements of Abe in the context of Japan-US relations: “Abe-san lived a life worth living. He was a great statesman with strong connections to America and Americans; he was the first and only Japanese Prime Minister to address a joint session of the US Congress; he accompanied President Obama on the first visit by a sitting US President to Hiroshima; and he was the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the memorial aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.”

“These were historic events that show his unwavering commitment to the US-Japan Alliance and our two countries’ friendship. Abe-san was indispensable for developing the strong relations between us, and his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific informs strategic architecture across the region.”


Russia’s FSB detains Japanese consul in far east for alleged espionage: Agencies

Russia’s FSB detains Japanese consul in far east for alleged espionage: Agencies
Updated 7 min 47 sec ago

Russia’s FSB detains Japanese consul in far east for alleged espionage: Agencies

Russia’s FSB detains Japanese consul in far east for alleged espionage: Agencies

MOSCOW: Russia’s FSB federal security agency said on Monday it had detained a Japanese consul in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok for alleged espionage and declared him persona non grata, Russian news agencies reported.
The FSB said the consul was caught receiving secret information on the effect of Western sanctions on the economic situation in Russia’s far east.


Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo

Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo
Updated 26 September 2022

Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo

Emirati leader meets with governor of Tokyo

DUBAI: Member of Abu Dhabi executive council and chairman of Abu Dhabi executive office, Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, met with the governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike on Sept. 26.

The Emirati political leader was on a visit to the Japanese capital to further enhance the strategic bilateral relations between the two countries.

Several official figures attended the meeting, such as, minister of industry and advanced technology, Sultan bin Ahmed Al-Jaber and the UAE ambassador to Japan, Shihab Ahmed Al-Faheem; as well as officials from the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation.

Originally published in Arab News Japan


UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements

UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements
Updated 26 September 2022

UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements

UAE’s Sheikh Khalid meets Japan PM ahead of finalization of bilateral agreements

TOKYO: Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, paid a courtesy call on Japan Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Monday and welcomed the planned signing of the framework document for the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative that is expected to take place in a matter of days.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry also said the two sides welcomed the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which is near finalization.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE this year, Sheikh Khalid and Kishida also resolved to strengthen bilateral cooperation over the next 50 years in a wide range of areas, from clean energy and advanced technology to human resource development.

The two sides noted the upcoming resumption of visa-free travel to Japan, which was temporarily suspended due to the spread of the COVID-19, and confirmed the early introduction of full visa waiver measures for UAE nationals possessing valid ordinary passports.

Sheikh Khalid will attend the state funeral of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo and Kishida expressed his appreciation for this. Sheikh Khalid expressed his heartfelt condolences on the demise of former Prime Minister Abe and stated that UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has also entrusted him with his condolence message.

The meeting was also attended by Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and the UAE’s special envoy to Japan.

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Pro-Kremlin businessman confirms he founded Wagner mercenary group

Pro-Kremlin businessman confirms he founded Wagner mercenary group
Updated 26 September 2022

Pro-Kremlin businessman confirms he founded Wagner mercenary group

Pro-Kremlin businessman confirms he founded Wagner mercenary group
  • Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin said that he founded the group to send fighters to Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014
  • Critics say it is Putin’s ‘shadow army,’ promoting Russian interests by providing fighters, military instructors and advisers

MOSCOW: Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said on Monday he had founded the Wagner mercenary group and confirmed its deployment to countries in Latin America and Africa.
Prigozhin said in a statement from his company, Concord, that he founded the group to send fighters to Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014.
“From that moment, on May 1, 2014, a group of patriots was born, which later acquired the name BTG Wagner,” he said.
Prigozhin, dubbed “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts, has previously denied links with Wagner.
“I myself cleaned the old weapons, figured out bulletproof vests and found specialists who could help me with this,” Prigozhin added.
“These guys — heroes who defended the Syrian people, other people of Arab countries, destitute Africans and Latin Americans — have become the pillars of our motherland,” he said.
Prigozhin, 61, has been hit with EU and US sanctions, accused of being behind a “troll factory” that attempted to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.
For years, the Wagner group has been suspected of playing a role in realizing Moscow’s overseas ambitions, with the Kremlin denying any links.
Its presence has been reported in conflict zones including Syria, Mali, Ukraine and the Central African Republic, where it has been accused of abuses and capturing state power.
Critics say it is Putin’s “shadow army,” promoting Russian interests by providing fighters, military instructors and advisers.
Wagner’s presence was forced into the spotlight in 2018 when independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that several Russian-speaking men who killed and mutilated a detainee on video in Syria were Wagner fighters.
Earlier this month, a video was shared on social media seeming to show Prigozhin recruiting inmates of a Russian prison to bolster Wagner’s ranks in Ukraine.
The Russian army has faced difficulties in its seven-month-old military intervention, with Putin last week ordering a partial mobilization of reservists to regain momentum after Kyiv’s forces retook swathes of Moscow-controlled territory in a counter-offensive.
Russian media have reported that Prigozhin controls Wagner’s finances, whereas its operations are managed by Dmitry Utkin, a shadowy figure who allegedly served in Russia’s military intelligence.
Utkin was received at the Kremlin in 2016 for a ceremony paying tribute to “heroes” who served in Syria and has been photographed with Putin.