Swat administration says ‘banned’ girls cricket match to be held at ‘safer place’

Students arrive at the Khpal Kor Model School in Shangla district in Pakistan's Swat region, on March 30, 2018. (AFP/File)
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  • Organizer of match on Sunday says district administration and clerics banned the game over concerns about modesty
  • Charbagh Assistant Commissioner Muhmmad Yar says match had been rescheduled, would be held at “better locality”

PESHAWAR: The administration of Charbagh in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat valley said on Monday a girls’ cricket match scheduled to be held last week had been called off due to “security reasons” and not because of concerns over immodesty by local clerics.

Swat valley, in Pakistan’s deeply conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was previously long controlled by Taliban militants before they were flushed out in a military operation in 2009. Swat is also the hometown of Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by Taliban militants in 2012 for advocating for girl’s education.

On Sunday, a cricket match between two local girls’ teams was not allowed to take place over what the organizer of the match, Ayaz Naik, said were concerns from local clerics and elders that it defied “traditional values.” 

The match’s cancelation was widely reported by media and debated on social media, where users called for women from Swat to be allowed to exercise their right to play sports.

Assistant Commissioner Charbagh, Muhammad Yar Khan, denied the match was called off over concerns it was “immodest and inappropriate.”

“A wrong information has been spread in the media that the females were barred from playing the cricket match,” he told Arab News. 

“The match was canceled for security reasons in the locality and because the organizers had not taken the administration in confidence to provide any security … We have decided to reschedule the match at a safer place and a better locality.”

Naik, the match’s organizer insisted it had been called off due to pressure from local elders, despite the fact that male spectators were not allowed on the Charbagh ground where the game was scheduled to be held on Sunday.

“Despite all the arrangements, wrong information was spread about the match on social media that it was against the traditional values owing to which the locals reacted and the game was not allowed to be played,” Naik said, adding that police and local elders were already present on the ground when the teams reached there on Sunday morning and were informed the game could not be held.

But given the outpouring of support on social media, Naik said he was hopeful the match would be allowed to take place soon:

“The district administration called me for a meeting today and it was decided that the girls will be able to play this week after all the security arrangements have been made.”

Sheema Ghafar, a high school student and a player on one of the teams, expressed disappointment over the match’s postponement.

“We were so excited for the match, we waited a lot but as we reached the ground, there was a mess inside, so many people were gathered there,” she told Arab News.

“When we saw the situation, we were so depressed and returned disappointed from the ground.”

Pakistan’s security situation has deteriorated since late last year when the Pakistani Taliban called off a truce with the government and vowed to launch attacks.

In two separate incidents, suicide bombings ripped through two mosques in Pakistan last week, killing over 60 people as believers marked the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).