The provincial government of Gilgit-Baltistan recently changed its decision to host the upcoming ‘Women’s Sports Gala 2022’ to hold a ‘Women’s Meena Bazaar’ instead, on the directives of the chief minister of Gilgit Baltistan (G-B).
Arrangements had been finalized for the first-ever Gilgit-Baltistan Women Sports gala 2022 which was set to begin on Oct 5. Less than a week ago, the Chief Secretary’s Office had announced that “daughters” all over the region were preparing with great “excitement” for the upcoming sports event, as per The Express Tribune.
Just look at the excitement of our daughters. From Diamer to Shigar to Hunza to Kharmang, the preparation level for the Women Sports Gala has reached its peak.
Watch out! The girls are ready to come to Gilgit and prove their mettle in the field of sports. Best wishes for them! pic.twitter.com/VvkcMTjXat
— Office of the Chief Secretary, Gilgit Baltistan (@csgbpk) September 30, 2022
However, in a tweet posted on Oct 4th, the G-B government cancelled its plans, announced that “the program will be conducted in accordance with Islamic values and local customs”.
وزیراعلیٰ گلگت بلتستان کی ہدایت پر ویمن اسپورٹس گالا۲۰۲۲ کو ویمنز مینا بازار میں تبدیل کیا جا رہا ہے۔ اس ایونٹ میں ذہنی بیداری کی سرگرمیاں ، منصوبوں کی نمائش ، دستکاری اور جواہرات کی نمائش اور خواتین کاروباری افراد کی دیگر کامیابیاں شامل ہوں گی۔ (1)
— Office of the Chief Secretary, Gilgit Baltistan (@csgbpk) October 4, 2022
Claims surfaced on social media that the change in the program’s agenda was in fact a consequence of protests that were held in Gilgit where some religious clergy dubbed the event as “unIslamic”.
Women Sports Gala 2022 stands canceled, and only a Meena Bazar will be held instaed.
No sports activity will therefore take place.
This comes in the backdrop of protests held in Gilgit on call from top religious leaders who termed participation of women in sports unislamic pic.twitter.com/XhKVtLb2ox
— ShabbirMir Shina (@ShabbirMir) October 4, 2022
The change also did not go well with local activists and progressive collectives that have expressed concern over the development in the region.
National Women Front G-B, a progressive women’s collective from the region deemed the government’s decision a matter of “shame” and one that had been driven by fear. Local women were “wrong in trusting the state”, netizens wrote.
What a shame @csgbpk . We, the women of this region were so proud that first time in history any CS office seemed progressive towards women of this region, but we were wrong in trusting the state. We call for a boycott of this fear driven and gala-turned meena bazar. Shame!
— National Women Front GB (@WomenFrontGB) October 4, 2022
A member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in G-B lamented the state of women’s rights.
GB Govt. surrendered before the pressure built by local clergy. Women Sports Gala converted into women meena Bazar. Lamenting on the state of Women Rights in GB.
— israruddin israr (@israruddinisrar) October 5, 2022
Noorena Shams, a Pakistani sportsperson also condemned the move saying that “All you [the government] have done is that you let the narrow-minded win and your daughters lose.”
مینا بازار اور بزنس فیسٹ ہر سال ہوتے ہیں۔ آپ نے صرف بند ذہنوں کو جیتنے دیا اور اپنی بیٹیوں کو ہارنے دیا۔ مایوسکُن اقدام۔ https://t.co/gkjSDOMzDl
— Noorena Shams (@noorenashams) October 5, 2022