Why were Karachi University girls beaten up for playing cricket?

Published: October 30, 2015

University officials seem to be passing this off as a clash between two student groups, but the IJT outright denies they beat up any of the young women. PHOTO: TWITTER/@mawaispk

News of young women playing cricket at Karachi University being beaten by religious thugs is not a great way to start your day. Members of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) had warned the cricket-playing women days ago, then came and broke up a mixed-gender game, and beat up both the men and women, members of the Punjabi Students Association, with batons.

University officials seem to be passing this off as a clash between two student groups, but the IJT outright denies they beat up any of the young women.

Campus violence involving political groups and religious groups has long plagued Pakistani universities, especially the restive Karachi University campus. But we need to see this for what it is: violence against women for occupying public spaces and not conforming to socially conservative norms of behaviour.

This is despite the fact that Pakistan has a very active and successful women’s cricket team, who continually make us proud by consistently winning international matches. Indeed there are many young women in Pakistan who take part in all manner of team sports and individual sports. Yet for each woman who takes up a sport, there are thousands more who wish they could, but are prevented from doing so by family constraints, social censure, and lack of support in their educational institutions.

Pakistan is not a violently radicalised society, but it is a socially conservative one. Yet within the larger, peaceful fabric of society there are pockets and elements that are willing to take up violence to exert power over the majority. The thugs of the IJT believe they are enforcing what’s morally right by breaking up a harmless cricket match where both men and women were participating.

The criminals were arrested but later let go, which is a sure-fire recipe for encouraging this sort of vigilantism in society. We see baton-wielding religious police in countries like Saudi Arabia who are equipped by law to hit women in public places for slights relating to clothing and behaviour. It is also important to note that in Saudi Arabia, sports and exercise for women is virtually illegal. Pakistan is relatively liberal compared to Saudi Arabia, but then again we have outsourced this sort of social policing to the family and society.

It takes brave women and brave male allies to push back against this kind of harassment. Apart from a few articles written in the newspaper, though, it would be wonderful to see society-wide support for women playing sports. I know Sabeen Mahmud, the late activist, would have been at the forefront – she was a massive lover of cricket and would play it on the street at every opportunity she got. She would have been livid at this news and would have organised a giant The Second Floor (T2F) street match for everyone.

Will Karachi University or other universities and colleges take up the challenge in her absence?

Right now the concentration has been on girls’ right to education. But for girls and women to get their education, it is equally important for them to be able to move easily in public space, and to play. If you learn one thing from this episode, let it be this: Pakistani women have to fight desperately for the space that men take for granted, take as their God-given right. But they will not give in easily.

This post originally appeared here


Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (twitter.com/BinaShah)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Tausif

    Excellent piece. Its true this issue is beyond merely the campus violence, and indeed reminds us of our discriminating approach towards women in this country. These religious goons had made enough mess in the universities after seizing control of student bodies in the absence of student unions specially during the Zia’s regime. They shouldn’t be given anymore chance. PU in Lahore has already taken strict measures in having them booted out of the campus, but still they exist here and there in small and big chunks. Girls in this country already have very limited opportunities, and further less when it comes to sports activities. Not many schools and colleges even with high tuition fees can actually provide appropriate facilities for girls sports. It is also true that this sad event hasn’t attracted the media attention in a manner it actually deserves.Recommend

  • MachoMan

    If women and man cannot offer pray together in Mosque… Same does apply here, Play seperate,, why girls very much like company of man and why man likes… And heading is misleading.. Both man and women treated for the worm they have…Recommend

  • Gratgy

    As long as ink is not thrown everything is fineRecommend

  • Time is Up

    “Yet within the larger, peaceful fabric of society there are pockets and elements that are willing to take up violence to exert power over the majority”. Typical in Islamic societies and minorities get the brunt of it.Recommend


    ” Pakistan is not a violently radicalised society” this same denial is what has got Pakistan to what it is now . When a killer is showered with rose . u cant say its socially conservative, its outright radicalized. Hope some day we become what Jinnah wanted us. Look at Indian where they are , and where we are !Recommend

  • Shahid

    Since IJT says they did not touch any women.. it means they surely DID;; them IJT are LIARS, being so called contractors of islam, they LIE and do so always .. All those in picture , mostly big DAARHIS, dont look like students, actually demonstrate their brains have fallen down their chins in the big long Daarhis; So, without brains, respect and honor for women, they need to be exterminated, sooner the better.Recommend

  • Sonia Khawaja

    And what right do men have to beat up women????Recommend

  • Person

    What right does anyone have to beat up another person????Recommend

  • baghi

    somebody who needs to call himself “MachoMan” definitely has severe problems with his masculinity and that’s why also has no problem with beating up women either.Recommend

  • Azmat Ali

    The law of the land allows inter-gender sports. Those who don’t like it, stay away. What the IJT thugs did was break the law. Unless these morons go and change the laws of Pakistan, their actions are against the state and its citizens. Whether they are on the right or wrong side of Islamic Morality can never be a question here.Recommend

  • genesys

    They should have played with their burqas and all would be well.Of course scoring would be dicey but that is not important.As they say Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder.Recommend

  • vivek

    So our Indian Daughter and your bahu Sania Mirza is playing mixed double tennis in the international arena and had won grand slams.Now you IJT Morons what are you going to do for that,If you have really guts touch her and you will come to know what is really a women power is.Recommend

  • vinsin

    “Pakistan is not a violently radicalised society” – not true Pakistan is a highly insensitive society just like all Muslims Ghettos and Countries. There is a reason why youtube got banned. A country which was created in opposition of women rights, the author is talking about gender equality. Author should form a women specific party then.Recommend

  • vinsin

    God given right.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    Wahhabification of public universities is a real phenomenon.Recommend

  • alina

    Where does prayer come in all this. Look, I don’t mind you praying, but you shouldn’t mind what I do. Live and let live. As long as I am not stopping you form anything, you shouldn’t as well. After all aren’t we going to die alone, and face Him alone? What logic do you have to impose your views on me?Recommend

  • Gullu

    Better you study English. take remedial classes. Before
    writing a comment.Recommend

  • aliasadadm

    These IJT thugs rather terrorist think that they have unopposed authority to insult, humiliate and beat anyone they want. The inspiration is obviously SA, as all the idiot religious fanatics, but just look at what these SA royals are doing to know the hypocrisy. Problem is not limited to KU only, these thugs are equally imposing their religious dictatorship in PU also. Insulting professors, pushing students to go with them to their programs, harassing female students. Who the hell gave them the authority to do so, they call them the so called religious scholars, there is not one example where Prophet (PBUH) beaten or harassed anyone.Recommend

  • Arsha

    Girls liking company of men and vice versa is a universal phenomenon.
    Secondly what gives you the right to beat up anyone for what they do in their life. Tomorrow what if someone attacks you if someone does not agree with your actions based on their views and prejudices or perhaps you think you can never do anything that someone else might disapprove of.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Pakistan was formed in opposition of women’s rights! Wow this is a new rather absurd piece of information. Even from someone like you.
    By the way if all Muslim countries are insensitive and repressive ghettos then why are millions of Indians working in the middle east? Why is India friends with Iran and Afghanistan both of whom are much more regressive compared to Pakistan? Indians should come back to sensitive and progressive India and ask jobs from Modi.
    @genesis: You may find it hard to believe but not every woman in Pakistan goes around dressed in a Black Burqa.
    @ Time is up: You should be more concerned with what goes in your country.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I have repeatedly been saying that in this patriarchal society, what ever will have to be done to lift women to a level acceptable to themselves…..will mainly have to be done by the woman herself.Recommend

  • razi

    i dont know why IJT is not abandoned instead of large bunches of evidences that shows that IJT actually promoting terrorism and violence.i dont know what kind of islamic society they want .Islam is religion of peace and harmony that teach us the impotence of women in our society as a mother,sister,wife and daughter .to beat a women for playing cricket is totally agnist the norms and teaching of islam.around the globe people are busy with exploring nature and we are here with some serious problem like how to treat women ,how she suppose to dress etc. this is totally insane !!Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    When men can play kabaddi in ‘chaddi’ then why can’t women play cricket in full clothes? If men have a problem then they can close their eyes and sit at home, cooking, mopping and cleaning the house while women are busy playing cricket. It’s called being a ‘better half’ or do men prefer to being a ‘worse half’?Recommend

  • Imran Riaz

    Where are the ‘Rangers and Corps Commander Karachi’? People need direct action against those all as they did in-case of Terrorists.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    MachoMan can quote a verse from qu’ran and if you oppose it, he will yell that you committed blasphemy. So pathetic – men with inferiority complex.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    pakistan ki bahu should move to her original homeland and set precedence by playing tennis there in short clothsRecommend

  • Brar

    khan sahib we also have our share of goons but yes they are negligible and the people resist them they think they are thekedars of religion.Recommend

  • Siddiqui, Taha R

    “It is also important to note that in Saudi Arabia, sports and exercise for women is virtually illegal” Have you even visited the country?Recommend

  • lathi-charge

    All Pakistani women should learn MMA to fend for themselves from these cowardly zealots !Recommend

  • Hassan Fareed Siddiqui

    and buy ak47 tooRecommend

  • http://ruletheworld.co.nr/ Syed Owais Mukhtar

    why don’t you try at your best. cuz everyone knows v are unbeatable !Recommend

  • Ali

    Yes, and sport for women is illegal.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Someone needs to ask these thugs if it is alright to have burqa clad women playing cricket and I am sure everyone would be surprised with their words of wisdom.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “So, without brains, respect and honor for women, they need to be exterminated, sooner the better.”

    The opposite is true, it is them who have come closer to exterminating your belief system than you being closer to theirs, whether it is ISIS, Boko Haram or some other lesser known groups which are lesser known not because they are less brutal but just because the list is too long.

    You are not going to get over these groups as long as your best friends continue to funnel your country with petro-dollars.Recommend

  • king0333

    Listen Manmohan SIngh go back to Saudi ArabiaRecommend

  • Rajesh Menon

    The mindest of some of these peiple are still stuck in the 12th century. If this continues, it will severely impede the progress of any nationRecommend

  • Jim Fox

    Acid is OK, then????Recommend

  • Jim Fox

    Muslim women may only swim in the full burkha.
    The heavier, the better….Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Anything as long as its not ink. Throwing ink is terrorismRecommend

  • Gratgy

    A large majority of the millions of Indians working in middle east are also Muslim.Recommend

  • Jim Fox

    Sorry, the sarcasm was too obscure for me!Recommend

  • Ali

    Why were they beaten? Because Pakistan is backwards. I dont think these idiots get it, but making Islam difficult will cause people to reject the religion.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    It was aimed at Pakistanis not you, they get itRecommend

  • Mod Girl

    so what is this so called nawaz great govt doing ???
    why isnt this IJT banned .
    where is the law now ?

    this is why we have no faith the lawRecommend

  • vinsin

    Jinnah said Islam in danger when congress proposed women right, animal rights and child rights in 1945.

    Those Indian are Muslims (majority and from south). Iran and Afghanistan are nations and they are not friends.Recommend

  • Muhammad Abdullah

    According to VC of KU, no girl was beaten up. Even KU students did not know those imaginary girls who were beaten up. No media outlet uncovered those girls. But it is an astonishing fact that news which required confirmation gained hype.Recommend