‘Unveiling Jazbaa’ highlights Pakistan women cricketers’ unwavering spirit to play the game-Art-and-culture News , Firstpost

Unveiling Jazbaa‘, authored by cricket writer Aayush Puthran, tells the story of Pakistan’s women’s cricket and it details the journey that the players have been on to bring about change both in their country, their society and to the sport itself.

The book works both for cricket and non-cricket enthusiasts since it tells the story through the lens of society and politics. It tells the story of personal battles and triumphs against odds – within families, within Pakistani cricket and against opponents aplenty.

The adversities include, but were not limited to, paying for entire tours, kits and coaches out of their own pocket; battling pressure to get married in a patriarchal society and battling the politics in the cricket board.

Above everything, it is a story of bravery and a moving testimony to the power of the human spirit.

The following excerpt from ‘Unveiling Jazbaa: A History of Pakistan Women’s Cricket‘ has been reproduced here with permission from the publisher, Westland Sport.

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Most of Pakistan’s constraints in advancing women’s cricket stemmed from societal pressures and the fear of families regarding the safety of their daughters. The PCB, as the governing body of the sport, didn’t help significantly relax those apprehensions. The most questionable aspect of its handling took place a year before the Asian Games, while dealing with claims of sexual harassment against Multan Cricket Club’s chair Maulvi Muhammad Sultan Alam Ansari.

On 7 June 2013, five Multan cricketers – Seema Javed, Hina Ghafoor, Kiran Irshad, Saba Ghafoor and Haleema Rafiq – made allegations against Alam Ansari, a man of religious influence who served as a judge and was later an elected member of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab.

Accusations of unfair treatment were also leveled at Express News’s TV show Takrar regarding the PCB’s regional woman representative Shami Soltan and other members of Multan CC management – ​​Agha Ehtisham and Javed Ahmed.

The PCB set up a two-member committee, which included national head coach Mohtashim Rashid and team manager Ayesha Ashar, to resolve the situation. Eminent advocate Shahbaz Ali Rizvi was appointed to offer legal assistance.

But on 11 July, the day of the inquiry, the allegations shifted with the defendants becoming the complainants. The women who had accused Alam Ansari and the others in Multan CC management were character-assassinated for consuming alcohol and indulging in ‘objectionable acts’. It was further stated that the cricketers were trying to take revenge for being punished for their ‘acts’. On the other hand, the women who had turned up for the inquiry didn’t make any allegations of sexual harassment to the committee.

The eventual report filed after hearing from all the members involved was in some ways trivializing, starting with Point 1 which concluded: ‘The general attitude and demeanor of the Players during the TV program and the interviews raises questions about their own mental caliber.’

If the seriousness of the inquiry, or the lack of it, has to be understood in greater depth, the answer lies in Point 4. By then, the original accusation had already been painted as a farce, and the discussion had moved to the snooker table and plant nurseries of Multan CC.

It read: ‘In the TV program it was alleged and Multan CC management admitted that they have a snooker area, restaurant and other commercial activities going on within Multan CC premises. While it is logical for a club to have on its premises a canteen, gym or to allow some commercial activity due to which the club earns income, it does not appear to be consistent with the objects of the club to have a snooker playing area which is used by the general public, or that the restaurant/canteen is used by the general public. We are also unable to understand the establishment of a plants nursery in the club.’

The more critical aspects of the inquiry weren’t absent though. In the last point of the report, the committee noted – with proof – that the players were threatened to not appear at the inquiry. In the point just before that, it also mentioned that Multan CC had no record to present regarding the allegations of banning the players for their conduct.

Yet, in the absence of proof of sexual harassment, the report suggested that the players ‘should be severely reprimanded for their acts and misplaced and motivated interaction with the media’. The PCB eventually slapped them with a fine and a nine-month ban from all cricket for ‘breach of discipline and for bringing women’s cricket into disrepute’.

It was only three years since the Prevention of Sexual Harassment for Women at Workplace Act had been passed in Pakistan. It was still a time when allegations were met with skepticism, and across the corporate sector it was believed that more efforts were being made to silence allegations than to investigate them. The PCB, a male-dominated organisation, also carried its set of biases rather blatantly in judging a case of harassment through the lens of personal lifestyle choices.

It was believed that the committee was set up in good faith, but without the effort of finding the right personnel who could understand the complexity of the case. In a way, it was an opportunity lost by the PCB to show itself as an organization that could protect its women cricketers from harassment.

The misery didn’t end there, though, for the cricketers. Alam Ansari filed a defamation suit of PKR 200 million against the five women who had accused him and the two journalists who reported the story.

On 13 July 2014, Haleema’s brother came across a report in the newspaper which stated that all five cricketers accused of defamation had to appear for a court hearing, as per the order of the judge. On hearing the news, Haleema went to the bathroom and ingested a bottle of drain cleaner. She was taken to hospital soon after, but passed away that night.

Her death wasn’t reported as a suicide, which is a punishable offense in Pakistan. Even her own family members di lei chose to blame the hospital for failing to pump the acid out of her stomach di lei.

The handling of the sexual harassment case by the PCB didn’t help make women or their parents feel any more secure – indeed, apprehensions about the safety of female players only grew. For as long as cricket has been played in Pakistan, men who are not family members of the players, special invitees or part of the coaching and organizing set-up have not been allowed entry to women’s games. However, such restrictions have not been possible in the matches played abroad or telecast live.

For many family members, the knowledge that the women of their house are being watched by strange men is discomfiting. Yet, over the years, many parents have entrusted their daughters to the likes of Shaiza Khan and Sana Mir against the promise that their daughters would be safe.

But the road to izzat is long and hard. It has required a lot of assurance and reassurance.

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