Come February, sport could well help bring down barriers as Pakistan will be sending a women’s boxing team for the first time to an international event.
“We are coming with a women’s boxing team for the 12th South Asian Games (scheduled at Guwahati and Shillong from February 5-16). This is a reflection of our liberal society, and we are happy that our boxing and kabaddi teams will be making a beginning in India because it is like playing in our backyard,” Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, director general, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), told HT from Islamabad.
The PSB is equivalent to the Sports Authority of India.
Boxing is popular in Sindh province but the women’s team is drawn from Peshawar and Punjab. The team comprising Rukhsana Parveen, Kulsum Bano and Sufia Javed will compete in various categories.
“When the Guwahati Games were announced, we called for national trials and got massive response. We feel proud that in the 451-member delegation, we have a sizeable representation of women in archery, athletics, boxing, kabaddi, shooting and other disciplines,” said Ganjera.
Interestingly, an Indian delegation had travelled to Pakistan just after the Pathankot attack to give a presentation on the safety of Pakistani players during the Games.
“One of your Member of Parliament, Bhubaneswar Kalita, along with a joint secretary and SAI official were here recently. They assured us of foolproof security. We have received instructions from our government to perform well in the Games and win hearts,” he said.
“There will be no restriction on women players when they check into the Games Village, but they have to inform the woman manager of their programme in advance. The girls are very excited about their India trip, and many have plans to buy silk clothing from Guwahati,” said Ganjera.
For security reasons and to save time, the Pakistani delegation will be flying to Kolkata en route Guwahati. In such a scenario, visa could be an issue as there are limited entries for travellers from Pakistan.
A three-member delegation headed by Punjab Police IG, Javed Shaukat Javed, will travel to India ahead of the Games for security assessment.