One of my early perceptions is beginning to change.
As discussed in an earlier piece, my early dealings with sponsors and corporates while I was based in Australia was primarily with women. They were the Heads of Marketing or the Sponsorship Managers and the like. I had also spoken with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a two time Academy Award winning documentary maker based in Karachi, and her younger sister Hadeel Obaid, who was having a great time in cricket journalism.
Benazir Bhutto was the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim nation.
Powerful women in powerful positions.
But today, as I scratched the surface a little, it appears that this is the exception and not the rule.
Amna Tariq is the woman behind the scenes at Cricingif who is pulling this whole trip together. An impressive person who tells me that Pakistan is very much a man’s world. She says that it is possible for a woman to succeed here, but the cards are stacked against you.
“You just need to be strong and know what you want.”
Culturally, the home unit naturally sees a role for young women. The corporate world, while changing in many places, is still majority male dominated. Not that careers are directly blocked by the system, but a combination of thousands of years of culture mixed with some conservative Islamic views makes it hard.
This view is corroborated by Rehan-ul-Haq and Hassan Cheema. Both 20 something year old cricket journalists and members of the management team at the Islamabad United Pakistan Super League team.
Rehan is especially vocal on the issue.
“These girls that are achieving are amazing. Inspirational given all that is working against them”.
Perhaps the fact that the Pakistani women’s team was only first officially recognised by the PCB in 2005 tells us something. Furthermore, it is a team that has had players withdraw from overseas tournaments as they couldn’t get permission from their families.
“There are Islamic clerics with a soap box who claim that women bowling is erotic and that therefore women and sport do not mix.”
I don’t see an easy fix to this.
I ask Rehan about cricket and Islam. Are there any issues for men?
“No. This debate is dead. The fact that you wear long pants is the key. But sports where shorts are worn hardly get any TV time here.
If a cleric sprouts of against cricket now, people laugh them off.”
My chat with Rehan and Hassan happened at a local western fast food chain store. With guys like this steering the ship, the future of Pakistani cricket and its attitudes to women can only be positive.
I had started the day by visiting the world’s 7th largest mosque. A privately built wonder that towers over the landscape, sitting within a privately owned housing estate.
It’s Friday prayer time and the guys want me to experience it.
At 1pm, we had written permission to film.
At 1.15pm, we are told that we need some other sort of permission.
At 1.16pm, we realise that the only guy who can give us that other permission is on his way to the mosque for prayer time. He will be unavailable until 2.30pm
At 1.30pm prayer time starts. It’s all over in 15 minutes. I wasn’t able to witness it from the inside, but we got a little bit of footage for the documentary.
The dome here can house 3,000 people. The architecture is amazing. A place of community gathering. Prayer. Council. Schooling.
I finally get the ok to enter at about 2.30pm. People are sleeping on the soft rug flooring. Kids are running around and laughing. Men are debating life in a corner. Women are enjoying the gardens and sitting in the shade of the manicured trees.
It’s a lovely and peaceful place to be.
The evening commences with another radio chat. This time, with my old mate Ahmer Naqvi. He is known on social media as “Karachi Katmal”.
“The bed bug of Karachi”.
A cult hero of Pakistan’s youth. Cricket writer. Current affairs and political journalist. Music critic.
We have a fun chat, reminiscing of Pakistan’s cricket heroes and enjoying his playlist of Pakistani cricket songs.
The night concludes with burgers at another chain restaurant with the Cricingif crew. It’s Friday, so their weekly indoor cricket match is booked in.
“Do you want to play Dennis?”
“Sure! What time do you guys kick off?”
“Ummm..I think I’ll pass.”
Lahories don’t sleep.