One woman’s small step for Chitral marks a giant leap for Pakistan in football

Updated 11 July 2019
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One woman’s small step for Chitral marks a giant leap for Pakistan in football

  • Karishma Ali hopes to now provide a platform for more girls to participate in sports
  • Has earned several accolades for the country, including being featured in Forbes 30 under 30

ISLAMABAD: Twenty two-year-old Karishma Ali is used to a lot of firsts.
She was the first girl from her hometown of lower Chitral to represent Pakistan in football at both the national and international levels.
She took part in the Jubilee Games in Dubai, UAE three years ago and also represented Pakistan’s women football team in the Australian Football International (AFL) Cup.
Ali is also the first from Chitral to be featured on Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30 list.
Now, she has her eyes set on realizing her dream of seeing more girls participating in sports. For this purpose, she established the Chitral Women’s Sport Club (CWSC), the region’s first.
She says it all began when she kicked her first football at the age of nine. “I didn’t properly play football, but I became a football lover back then when I was a little kid,” Ali told Arab News. “I remember watching the World Cup with my father in 2006 and fell in love with the game.”
Ali’s decision to foray into sports was supported by her family, particularly her father, who always pushed her to excel in the game.
In Pakistan, women’s participation in sports is abysmal, mostly due to cultural restraints, patriarchal and conservative attitude, and a lack of infrastructure. For her part, Ali says she factored in all these conditions before taking the leap.
“In Chitral, there was no facility and there is still no facility for girls — which is why I am working on it,” Ali told Arab News, adding that she “never had the opportunities to play football.”
“The only time I would get to play football in Chitral was when I would go on a picnic with my father or rarely with my classmates. The boys would be playing, I would come and kick, they would stare at me, laugh and bully me but I never cared — I still went for it,” she said.
And while she had the backing of her family – and the support of coaches and mentors after moving to Islamabad at the age of 13, leading to her eventual placement on the national team – Ali says that, initially at least, the community was not receptive to the idea of girls playing sports.
“A lot of people do not appreciate the inclusion of girls in sports, so for me I thought starting [this club] and making it for girls under the age of 16 would be crucial,” she said, adding that the sports club “is not just about sports or football.”
“We are trying to teach girls about their rights, we are trying to educate them about health,” she said.
Last year, the CWSC hosted a seven-day camp for 70 girls from across Chitral and surroundings villages, resulting in the first all-women football tournament in the area.
Ali’s aim is to not just encourage athleticism, competition and confidence among young girls, but to also demonstrate how the sport can empower women and be a source of pride for the country.
“Last year [starting out] was very hard, when I told people I wanted to do this in Chitral, people thought I was crazy,” she said. “People never appreciated that I was playing sports to begin with, so to want to invite others in… I was bullied and threatened.”
However, Ali found strength in her usual source – her father. “[He] said to me: ‘You have taken this step for so many girls and, now, if you give up, that means the end of sports for every other girl back home. You decide whether you can be brave and keep fighting or people will forget you. Remember, if you stand up people will remember you, people will get inspired and get their girls involved’,” she said.
And they did.
From among the 70 girls who enrolled in the club, several live in villages and would commute for three to four hours every day just to participate.
“They would not miss the training session even for a single day and would wake up at 6am to reach the ground, play sports and go back,” Ali said of the girls, teeming with pride.
This year, Ali’s camp hosted nearly 200 girls, more than doubling last year’s attendance.
For her party, Ali, who has earned herself the “Pride of Pakistan” award that recognizes tremendous contribution made by Pakistanis, wants the same for other girls, too.
“I remember when I was a kid watching the World Cup with my cousin, I’d told him I want to play for the national team, but there was no such concept of girls playing football. When I got to the national team I sank into this confidence,” she said.
“I think of the little girl back in the village and myself in the national uniform and that fills me with happiness. We have amazing people, we have girls who want to play sports and for Pakistan and I want to be a good ambassador for them,” she said.


Trump says US working with Pakistan to find way out of Afghan war

Updated 36 min 44 sec ago
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Trump says US working with Pakistan to find way out of Afghan war

  • The US president held out the possibility of restoring US aid to Pakistan, depending upon what is worked out
  • He also offered assistance to Islamabad in trying to ease strained ties with India

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House meeting with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, said on Monday the United States is working with Islamabad to find a way out of the war in Afghanistan.
Trump held out the possibility of restoring US aid to Pakistan, depending upon what is worked out, and offered assistance to Islamabad in trying to ease strained ties with India.
Khan told Trump there was only one solution for Afghanistan and that a peace deal with the Taliban was closer than it had ever been. He said he hoped in the coming days to be able to urge the Taliban to continue the talks.
The United States views Pakistan’s cooperation with a deal to end the 17-year-old war as essential but the two countries have a complicated relationship.
Trump wants to wrap up US military involvement in Afghanistan and sees Pakistan’s cooperation as crucial to any deal to end the war and ensure the country does not become a base for militant groups like Islamic State.
Washington wants Islamabad to pressure Afghanistan’s Taliban into a permanent cease-fire and participation in talks with the Afghan government.
Trump last year slashed millions of dollars of security assistance to Islamabad, which it accused of serving as a safe haven for militants. Pakistan has denied the accusations.
Authorities in Pakistan last week arrested Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of a 2008 militant attack on the Indian city of Mumbai who has been designated a terrorist by the United States and the United Nations. More than 160 people were killed in the four-day siege.
But Pakistan has not released Shakil Afridi, the jailed doctor believed to have helped the CIA track down former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whose organization was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
India, which in February came close to war with Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir and which accuses Islamabad of supporting militants, will be watching the talks in Washington closely.
The Pentagon said Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, will meet later on Monday with the top American military officer, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.
Analysts believe Bajwa will play a key role in behind-the-scenes discussions in which much of the serious business of the visit will take place, with the military looking to persuade Washington to restore aid and cooperation.