Take an exclusive look inside Pakistan’s first all-girl boxing club

1

Women in the World: November 24, 2015

13 girls are all longing for the perfect ring — a boxing ring, that is

They are part of the first-ever official training program in Pakistan to teach women how to box. The First Women Boxing Coaching Camp has been organized by the Sindh Boxing Association (SBA) in Lyari, Karachi, a neighborhood known for two things: gang violence and sports stars, particularly footballers and boxers, including Olympian Syed Hussain Shah.

It all started when a 16-year-old girl, Khadijah, approached the 2013 Sindh boxing champion and resident of Lyari, Nadir Kachi, and asked him to train her. She wanted to learn to box, but couldn’t find any club willing to teach her. All the girls she knew used to watch videos of matches or training sessions and practice in their homes. They had no way of competing, as no inter-club, district, provincial, or national-level boxing fights are held for women in Pakistan.

Nadir took Khadijah to his coach, Younis Qambrani. “I have been training my daughters to box since they could put on a pair of gloves,” explained Qambrani, whose family includes several gold medalists in the sport. Qambrani started including Khadijah in those training sessions. A few days later, another girl showed up asking for training, having heard of Khadijah’s sessions. Word spread and before he knew it, Qambrani had 13 girls in his home, all wanting to become boxers. At that point, the coach knew he had to find a space and an official program for them.

Full story here

More photos

2

How to help:

Dear readers,

After spending time with these champs, I decided to run a fundraising campaign for them, to help them get basics like a boxing ring, proper shoes and workout gear, weights and equipment. The goal is to raise Rs300,000 (US$ 2844.55), with the chunk of money going towards the ring. They don’t need very much, and anything you can do – whether its donating some money or just sharing their story and getting the word out – helps hugely.

Here’s a link to the crowd funding campaign. Please spread the word – every little bit helps.

Many thanks,

Sanam

 

Advertisements

Karachi’s Diwalis Are Getting Quieter By The Year, And Here’s Why

Buzzfeed: November 17, 2015

2

It’s easy to forget that it’s Diwali here in Karachi. On Wednesday evening at the Shri Laxmi Narayan Mandir, the temple’s caretaker Kailash Wishram has just returned from work.

“It was not a holiday for us today and nor will I get the day off tomorrow,” he explains. “I work with a lawyer and I asked him if I could leave early as I had to finish shopping for my kids.”

His two daughters, aged two and four, are dressed identically in lettered baseball jackets. They’re waiting for their father to take them out for ice-cream.

On the floor near the puja ghar, plates of coloured rice have been placed next to a deg of homemade halva. Kailash’s wife fixes the goddess Laxmi’s crown and adjusts golden tinsel draped on the idol.

“Out!” she says, snapping her fingers towards the door. “We aren’t ready yet.”

Full story here

More photos on my Instagram

IN ALL FAIRNESS, CHICKEN WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN MUCH OF A DISTRACTION ANYWAY

Roads and Kingdoms: November 13, 2015

1

Brains Breakfast-Style in Karachi

My father liked to tell us this story when we were children: a fellow doctor was visiting some exotic country (I forget where) and was invited to a dinner. His hosts placed a monkey’s head before him—brains, eyeballs and all—and told him, “It is our tradition to serve our guest of honor this delicacy.” The young doctor’s stomach quaked. All eyes—including the monkey’s—were on him. “Where I am from, it is a tradition to honor your hosts by asking them to eat such a delicacy first,” he replied. As the story goes, the hosts were overjoyed, everyone felt suitably honored, and the dinner was a success.

We were taught to eat—and loudly appreciate—whatever a host put on our plates. There were two rules we had to abide by. The first was simple: don’t insult someone by refusing the food or drink they offer you. The second was trickier: eat the food, yes. Finish it? Certainly not. For instance, if you were given a glass of juice at someone’s house, you were to make sure you drank all but the last few gulps, leaving an inch or so of juice in the glass. “Gobble everything down and people will think you don’t get good food in your own home,” we were warned. “You don’t want people to think you are a bhooki (perpetually hungry or just plain greedy).”

Full story here

The Badshahs of Karachi

Scroll: October 31, 2015

1

I might have been in the sixth or seventh grade when my teacher asked, at the start of our mandatory Islamiat class at the convent school I attended in Karachi, if we were Shia or Sunni. “Raise your hand if you’re Sunni,” she instructed. I turned to a friend. “Am I Shia or Sunni?” I needed to know immediately; hands were going up pretty fast. “Well, I’m Sunni, so you must be too,” my friend replied. My hand went up.

I thought of that question on the day I met Dr Syed Zamir Akhtar Naqvi, a Shia scholar and public speaker. “Anything you might want to ask me, you can read about in my books,” he said after I was introduced. “And every year, the TV waalay take my interview, so you can find those online. In fact, if you just write my first name in Google, it automatically fills in the rest.”

I met Dr Naqvi a few days before the start of Muharram, the month of mourning for the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein in the Battle of  Karbala in 680 CE, almost 50 years after the death of the Prophet. In gatherings of Shia Muslims during this month, a horse (often snow-white) called the Zuljinnah will make an appearance, walking with the mourners during the processions. It has no rider, nor will it ever have one. The Zuljinnah (meaning “the two-winged one”) is a replica of the horse Imam Hussein rode.

According to accounts of the battle of  Karbala, Imam Hussein and his 72 compatriots (including the Imam’s six-month-old baby boy) were brutally killed by a corrupt caliph’s army of up to 10,000 men and at the time of his death, the Prophet’s grandson had been alone, shot at by arrows and stabbed 33 times. His body was pummelled under the hooves of the caliph’s army’s horses before he was beheaded. Legend has it his loyal horse refused to abandon him. The Arab stallion wept, and, covered in his master’s blood, returned to the camp to inform the remaining women and children of Imam Hussein’s death. In the years since, this moment – when the cleft between Shia and Sunni Muslims deepened irreparably – has been resurrected in this witness every year during Muharram.

2

Full story here

Will the Judiciary in Pakistan Deliver Justice to the Country’s Death Row Prisoners?

The Caravan: August 25, 2015

abdul_basit

It took Iqbal Bano, a 60-year-old resident of Lahore, an hour to piece together the story of her son Khizar Hayat’s life for the past fifteen years. Hayat, a police officer from the village of Khangah Dogra outside Lahore, was arrested in the city in 2001 and charged with the murder of Ghulam Ghous, a fellow officer.

On 1 August, when I spoke to Bano about the case over the phone, she told me that she believed that Jehangir Jawed, a man who claimed to be a saint, was to blame for her son’s troubles. “The pir [saint] saw that we are khatay peetay log—well-to-do people. He wanted my son to leave his wife and children and marry his daughter.” Bano alleged that her son had been under Jawed’s “influence” since 1996. She added that Hayat had kicked his wife and children out, and sold the family land so that he could procure money to build a home for his spiritual guide.

Frustrated, Bano approached Ghous, Hayat’s friend, in 2001 and asked him to meet Jawed. “I wanted him to scare this man a bit, to shake him up,” she explained. A few days later, Ghous was shot dead and his body was dumped outside his neighbour’s house near Lahore’s Shad Bagh area. Bano was at home watering her garden when she received a phone call informing her that Hayat had been arrested and charged with the murder.

Before her son’s first appearance in court in July 2002, Bano had paid a lawyer Rs 150,000 to defend him. The lawyer never turned up at the hearing. The prosecution had lined up witnesses who said they saw Hayat shoot Ghous while the police officials claimed they had arrested Hayat as he was trying to flee from the city. “I stood alone before the judge and I swore on the Quran that my son would never kill his friend,” she said. She told me that the judge took pity on her and promised to review the case before the next hearing. The delay did not help. “At the next hearing, I appeared in court to find that the same judge would not be presiding over the case,” said Bano. That day, in April 2003, Hayat was sentenced to death, joining more than 8,000 prisoners who are on the death row in Pakistan.

Full story here

Photo: Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted of murder and given the death sentence in 2009. In 2010, he was diagnosed with meningitis that left him paralysed from the waist down (courtesy Justice Project Pakistan)

New project sheds light on Pakistan’s lesser known feminist history

The New York Times/Women in the World: July 14, 2015

1

It had been there for decades  — a red, blue and white flag unfurling in the wind, an unwanted blot in the sky for many who walked under it. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone, removed by a woman who heard the calls for the flag’s removal and decided to do it herself.

This is not the story of Bree Newsome, but instead, of Fatima Sughra. In 1947, Fatima, then a 14-year-old girl living in Lahore (in undivided India) pulled down the Union Jack from the Punjab Civil Secretariat Building and replaced it with the emblem of the Muslim League, the political party fighting for the creation of Pakistan and freedom from British rulers in the Indian subcontinent at the time.

But while Bree Newsome’s name may be familiar to many young women in Pakistan, Fatima Sughra’s is known to a handful, relegated to a time when hashtags did not commemorate heroes. Sana Saleem and Ghausia Rashid Salam, two Karachi-based women, are hoping to change that. HERstory, an online record of Pakistan’s feminist legacy, is a collection of oral histories the two women have been collecting for eight months, since an intern they worked with elsewhere mentioned she had no clue about Pakistan’s feminist movement.

Full story here

Nobody Home: The Indian government’s Karachi properties

The Caravan: June 2015

sr

On 13 April, I finally managed to get through to Tasnim Aslam, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. I had called to inquire about three properties I had seen in Karachi, all surrounded by barbed wire-topped walls bearing the same warning painted in bright red: “This property is owned by Government of India. Trespassers will be prosecuted.” The moment I was done asking my question, the line was disconnected.

I called Aslam back. “There must have been some problem with the connection,” I said. No, she replied. “If you needed to ask me this, you should have SMS-ed me.” I explained that I had several questions, and asked if I could email her instead. “If you wanted to email me, you should have talked to my staff in the first place,” she said. She hung up again.

My next call was to Arif Belgaumi, an architect who works extensively on urban development in Karachi. “I’m really not old enough to remember how long these Indian properties have been around,” he told me. He pointed me to Arif Hasan, another architect and a known history buff. “Call him,” he said. “He’s older than the hills.”

I called Hasan, and asked about the properties for the third time that day. “There’s no such thing as the Indian government’s properties in Karachi,” he said. But there are—I’d seen three such places already, and the signs on their walls, I insisted. I asked Hasan if I could email him a photograph of one of the properties. “You can,” he said, “but I don’t plan to check my email today.” I sent the photograph over, but never heard back.

Subsequent searching revealed a total of six Indian government properties in Karachi: India House, at 3 Fatima Jinnah Road; India Lodge, at 63 Clifton; Hindustan Court, at 42-43 Kurrie Road; Panchsheel Court in Frere Town; Shivaji Court on McNeil Road, and Hut 61, Hawkes Bay.

These spots are, and for the foreseeable future should remain, small dominions of the Indian republic within Pakistan.

Full story here

Photo by Sitwat Rizvi

More photos on my Instagram