‘On to the next one,’ says Pakistan’s three-time world record holding footballer

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Hajra Khan, Pakistan's Football Team Captain, after an Equal Playing Field (ELF) football match in Lyon, France, where she bagged her second and third world record. July 1st, 2019 (Photo by ELF)
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A photo of participating players after the world’s longest football match ever played in Lyon, France, and the football game with most nationalities participating. July 1st, 2019 (Photo by ELF)
Updated 01 August 2019

‘On to the next one,’ says Pakistan’s three-time world record holding footballer

  • Hajra Khan, Pakistan’s women football team captain, says her world records give hope to aspiring Pakistani athletes
  • Khan is the only Pakistani to hold three sporting world records

Islamabad, July 29th, 2019 — Hajra Khan, Pakistan’s women’s football team captain has already made history in Pakistan by holding not one, not two, but three Guinness World Records, and has her eyes set firmly on the next one. 
Originally from Karachi, Khan began playing football in her early teens and was selected for the national football team in 2009. In 2014, she became women’s team captain. 
“Growing up I didn’t really think I would win any world records,” Hajra Khan, 25, told Arab News. “Playing in the world cup, wasn’t a possibility because of the condition of football in Pakistan — it’s not a very athlete-friendly country.”
Khan said a world record wasn’t on the cards when she was still dreaming of a professional career in football. She had four aims when she decided to pursue it seriously, she said; to be the best player in the country, to play on the national team, to become team captain and to play in Europe.
But she is humbled she said, to now have three sporting world records under her belt.
“It’s an absolute honor more than anything so far,” Khan told Arab News.
Khan’s first world record was won in Jordan last year for scoring a goal in the lowest altitude football match ever played in the world. 
“We hiked around Jordan for 90 km, camping in deserts and cities, and ending our trek at the Dead Sea, which is the lowest level on earth... 340 meters below sea level,” she said, and added, “I scored for the winning team and that was the first world record I accomplished.”
The achievement reinvigorated the star football player with an energy that had been wavering after years of witnessing the faltering state of women’s football in the country. A lack of funding, management and infrastructure kept the sport from growing, and development had remained dormant for half a decade.
“I didn’t have a lot of hope for football in Pakistan, but (the first world record) woke up a lot of passion that I had for personal development,” Khan told Arab News. “I was ready to take on the world...my confidence was sky- high.”
And the community of fellow sporting world record-holders into which she is now inducted, she said, is tight-knit and as passionate about setting new records.
“It is such a tight community of players from across the world, we are always talking about the next world record we are going to break,” Khan said.
Her next two world records came simultaneously late last month in France.
In a 69 hour long, five-a-side match with the Equal Playing Field (ELF) initiative which began on June 28th and ended July 1st in Lyon, going on for almost three straight days, Khan unlocked world records for the longest running football game ever played to date, and for playing a football game with the highest number of nationalities participating. 
ELF is a non-profit organization in France looking to promote female participation in soccer, and registration for the multi-nationality game was open to players from across the globe.
“On to the next one,” Khan said, but did not divulge what she was planning. She added, “I’ll probably...be the only Pakistani playing that world record.”
Beyond being a personal achievement for her, Khan said, her world records are paving hope that athleticism in Pakistan, a Muslim majority country of 208 million people, will be more encouraged especially for women.
The Pakistan’s women cricket team has been steadily developing over the last few years and has gained international recognition in countless world events. In May this year, Sana Mir, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team, became the world’s most successful women’s One Day International spinner.
Khan said she was hoping women on the football field would also come out and “play openly.”
“Every game I play, every world record I set... it’s an effort to make it easier for the youth, for the generation coming after me or getting into sports at all,” Khan said, and added, “I want girls to come on the field and play openly. I want...parents to accept their girls...to get out because these world records are a shout-out for gender equality especially in sports.” 
“A lot of people have reached out to me (to) let me know they are letting their daughters play,” she continued. “Which is a win for me and that’s what I do it for.” 

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

Updated 21 January 2020

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

  • Islamabad reaffirms commitment to the Afghan peace process, says FO
  • Wells is in Islamabad since Sunday on a four-day visit

ISLAMABAD: The chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, Alice G. Wells, on Tuesday discussed the ongoing Afghan reconciliation process with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood in Islamabad, ahead of an expected US-Taliban peace agreement.

The principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs at the US State Department has been in Pakistan since Sunday on a four-day visit to discuss a host of issues of bilateral interest, including the Afghan peace process.

US-Taliban talks have been ongoing in the Qatari capital, Doha, where they are moving toward a peace deal. 

Pakistan has been involved in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US to restore peace in the region.

“The two sides (Pakistan and the US) ... discussed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement after the hours-long meeting between Wells and Mahmood.

During the meeting, the statement said Pakistan, has “reaffirmed its resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.”

This is the second time in recent months the US and Taliban have appeared close to announcing a peace deal. 

In September, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Monday in a Twitter post that a three-member team representing the Taliban – Mullah Baradar Akhund, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai and Amir Khan Muttaqqi – met with US special envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Scott Miller, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Experts have termed the recent negotiations between the US and Taliban decisive and are expecting them to reach an agreement by the end of this month.

“Taliban have already agreed on a violence reduction in Afghanistan that was one of the key demands of the US. So, it means both sides are close to a significant peace pact,” Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on Afghanistan and Taliban affairs, told Arab News.

He said that Pakistan has played a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table by using its influence over the militants. “Alice Wells may discuss the pros and cons of the proposed peace agreement with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership during her meetings,” he said.