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‘She chopped her hair off’: Pakistani women’s struggle to play cricket | Global development

Bisma Amjad plays cricket. She aspires to play internationally and was picked for Pakistan’s under-19 World Cup squad.

But when the pandemic came, because she was a woman, there was nowhere for her to practise, so she dressed as a man to play alongside male cricketers at “gully cricket” – the street game.

“Boys used to play gully-cricket even during the pandemic,” she says. “But the movement of girls was restricted, so we couldn’t play at all. I had no option than to dress like a man and practise with them,” says Amjad, 19, who has bowled at first-class and regional matches.

In traditional circles in Karachi, Amjad hears constant comments such as “your skin will turn darker” or “it is a boys’ game and you are wasting your time. Do a course that will help you after marriage.”

She says that many girls from conservative families or rural areas dress like boys so they can play cricket without being noticed.

“A friend of mine has chopped her hair off so she could go and play without being known as she is a girl,” says Amjad. “Women who play sport have to struggle a lot in our society.”

Amjad’s father supported her and drove her to matches but when he became ill she had to stop playing for a few months. “After my father recovered and I got his permission, I learned to ride a bike so I could commute on my own,” she says.

Cycling brought its own problems. “Men would say ‘look, look, she is riding a bike. She used to wear a headscarf, what happened to her?’” she says.

Fiddling with a cricket ball, she says: “I give my savings to my parents to show that I earn some money. I keep telling them, give me a few months more, I will prove it.”

They have now given her one year to break into the national team or else drop cricket.

A team huddle during a women’s cricket match
The Pakistan women’s team in a huddle during the T20 World Cup match against England in Canberra. Unlike their male counterparts, the women’s team get little support. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty

Amjad was chosen forPakistan’s under-19 squad to play the World Cup in 2021, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic, and now she has to keep playing first-class cricket to have any hope of making the national team.

Cricket is the most widely played and watched sport in Pakistan. But not women’s cricket. Excitement is building for the start of the seventh season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) for men’s cricket on 27 January.

The league hosts six teams from different parts of Pakistan and promotes cricket, helps male players earn a living and a place in the national team.

A woman stands on a cricket pitch with a large white pavilion in the background
Javeria Khan, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team, in Karachi’s National stadium. She considers herself lucky to have been supported by her family, despite her rural background. Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch/The Guardian

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has yet to propose a time frame for the women’s league it had promised three years ago. Its chairman, Ramiz Raja, has confirmed that there will be one.

The news has delighted the Pakistan women’s cricket captain, Javeria Khan. “That is very welcoming since it would encourage more women to play cricket,” she says, adding: “Men have a lot of such tournaments where they can show their talents but women do not have such opportunities.

“Here, a woman has to work twice as hard as a man to prove her talent,” she says. “Gender discrimination exists all over the world, but in Asia, the issue is more rampant.”

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Khan says that when the PCB began work on the structure of women’s cricket, players started getting contracts. “When you see incentives in the profession, then you invest for it too. PCB has been doing talent-hunt programmes and sending teams all over the country.”

Khan considers herself lucky to have had support from her family despite coming from a rural area, Torghar, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She says: “My father took pride in me and he used to tell people in our village when my match would take place. They would listen to it on the radio.

“All families should support their daughters to play cricket and sports,” she says. “Culture is a huge hindrance but we can fight that with education.”

A cricket player sweeps the ball away as a wicket-keeper remains poised behind the stumps
Javeria Khan, the Pakistan women’s captain, plays a sweep shot at a T20 match against Bangladesh during the ICC World Cup in Brisbane. Photograph: Jono Searle/Getty

Asfa Hussain, 16, an emerging talent from Karachi, hid her cricket from her father. Her mother used to drop her off and pick her up from the cricket academy in secret.

“When he came to know about it, he became really upset. It was my mother who convinced him to give me a chance to prove myself,” Hussain says.

“The moment I got selected for an under-17 trial it made my father very proud. I am lucky to have my parents’ support and they bear my expenses. We are paid less by the regional teams and get no payment at club level.”

Hussain played for the club that won the Sindh province championship last year. She says: “The game is expensive. You have to take care of your diet, transport, the gym and also buy the best equipment if you are a batsman.

“The PCB has to give incentives to female players. Men’s cricket gets TV coverage, we don’t get that.

A girl lifts her bat as she awaits a delivery in the nets
Asfa Hussain, 16, an emerging young player from Karachi, played alongside the boys at her school. Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch/The Guardian

“When women’s cricket is shown on TV broadly, only then can we fight the stereotypes against it. We will start getting sponsors too,” she says.

Hussain played alongside the boys at her school and says the state has to invest in girls’ cricket at schools. Khan agrees, and says: “Our main issue is grassroots cricket and once we have hunted for talent from schools, these players can be nourished and trained.”

The PCB allocated 5.5% of its budget to women’s cricket and 19.3% to men’s international cricket in 2020.

In 2016 Bismah Maroof, a former Pakistan women’s cricket captain, raised the issue of the significant gender pay gap with the PCB after it emerged that the country’s male cricketers made the equivalent of nearly $77,000 a year, while their female counterparts made only $12,000.

However, the PCB refused to answer questions on pay and the development of women’s cricket when approached by the Guardian.

Najam Sethi, a former PCB chairman, says: “Even urban families are not inclined to send their daughters into professional sport, forget about rural areas. Now with school cricket dying out – [because of] land scarcity and expenses – prospects of women in sports are not good.”

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Assessing The Potential of The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Against China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI)

(THE VOICE OF EU) – In a recent address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the newly unveiled India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as a transformative force poised to shape global trade for centuries. While the IMEC undoubtedly presents a significant development, it’s vital to scrutinize its potential impact compared to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The IMEC was jointly announced by US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Delhi. Designed to fortify transportation and communication networks between Europe and Asia via rail and shipping routes, the project not only holds regional promise but also reflects a strategic move by the US in its geopolitical interests, particularly concerning China.

However, the IMEC faces a formidable contender in the form of China’s BRI, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.

Despite facing some headwinds, including a slowdown in lending due to China’s economic deceleration and concerns raised by nations like Italy, Sri Lanka, and Zambia regarding debt sustainability, the BRI remains a monumental global undertaking.

With investments surpassing a staggering $1 trillion and over 150 partner countries, the BRI has transformed from a regional initiative to a near-global endeavor.

Comparatively, the IMEC may not immediately match the scale or ambition of the BRI. While the US, Japan, and the G7 nations have introduced similar initiatives like the Global Gateway and Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, none have achieved the expansive reach or influence of the BRI.

The emergence of these projects over the past five years, however, demonstrates the BRI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for global economic growth.

Viewing the IMEC solely through the lens of opposition to the BRI may not provide a comprehensive understanding of its potential.

Instead, the IMEC contributes to a broader trend of transactional partnerships, where countries engage with multiple collaborators simultaneously, underscoring the complex and interconnected nature of global trade relations.

Yet, realizing the IMEC’s aspirations demands meticulous planning and execution. A comprehensive action plan is expected within the next 60 days, outlining key governmental agencies responsible for investments, allocated capital, and implementation timelines.

Establishing a streamlined customs and trade infrastructure is equally critical to facilitate seamless transit, a challenge highlighted by the Trans-Eurasian railway’s 30-country passage through Kazakhstan.

Navigating geopolitical complexities between partner countries, particularly the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, poses another potential hurdle.

Ensuring these nations maintain a unified strategic vision amid differing priorities and interests requires careful diplomatic coordination.

Furthermore, the IMEC will compete directly with the Suez Canal, a well-established and cost-effective maritime route.

While the IMEC may enhance relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it could potentially strain ties with Egypt, prompting critical assessments of the project’s economic viability.

Beyond trade and economics, the IMEC ambitiously aims to incorporate diverse sectors, from electricity grids to cybersecurity.

This multi-dimensional approach aligns with discussions held in security forums like the Quad and, if realized, could significantly contribute to a safer, more sustainable global landscape.

As we contemplate the potential of the IMEC, it is with hope that the lofty ambitions outlined in New Delhi will culminate in a tangible and positive transformation for the world.

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Global Affairs

Safe Mobility Initiative Faces Challenges In Delivering On Its Promises For Latin American Migrants

In June, the United States introduced the Movibilidad Segura, or Safe Mobility, program, a new immigration initiative aimed at expanding legal routes for refugees and migrants from South and Central America.

The program’s objective is to reduce irregular migration and strengthen transportation and communication links between the Americas. While the intentions behind Safe Mobility are commendable, its execution has faced several challenges, leaving thousands of applicants in limbo.

For many hopeful migrants like Eliezer Briceño, a 40-year-old Venezuelan residing in Ciudad Bolívar, Colombia, the application process has proven to be a complex and tedious endeavor.

Briceño’s experience highlights the technological barriers that applicants face, emphasizing the need for reliable internet access and suitable devices for successful registration.

Unfortunately, these prerequisites pose significant challenges for those without adequate resources.

Migrantes Darién
Migrants cross a river in the Darién rainforest, October 2022.Fernando Vergara (AP)

The overwhelming response to the program has led to the temporary closure of the website in Colombia, further complicating the application process. With quotas quickly filled during the limited application periods, the backlog of hopeful migrants has grown, exacerbating the frustration and uncertainty surrounding Safe Mobility.

Of the nearly 29,000 applicants from Colombia, less than 1% have progressed through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) as of August 28. This statistic underscores the significant delays and challenges faced by applicants. Eliezer Briceño, like many others, anxiously awaits news about his application status, armed only with a receipt indicating a forthcoming call.

Safe Mobility, while a response to the migration crisis in Latin America, is one of several initiatives addressing the challenges faced by millions of displaced individuals.

Its collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demonstrates a multi-lateral effort to find solutions to the region’s complex humanitarian, political, and economic issues.

Migrantes Tapón del Darién
A group of Haitian migrant women & their children wait to board a boat from Necocli, Colombia to Capurgana & then cross the Darién Gap to Panama.

However, the program’s operational secrecy, with undisclosed office locations, underscores the challenges faced by its administrators.

The need to protect both applicants and program staff from potential overcrowding and disruptions mirrors the situation in Tapachula, Mexico, where large groups of migrants have sought assistance, albeit without violent incidents.

The interview process for Safe Mobility applicants introduces another layer of complexity, marked by confidentiality agreements.

While applicants are required to sign agreements consenting to share personal data with program partners, the imposition of non-disclosure clauses appears unusual and unprecedented.

The UNHCR argues that confidentiality is crucial for the protection of individuals in need of international refuge.

The uncertainty persists even after interviews, as those rejected receive prompt notifications while others remain in a state of perpetual waiting. The apparent randomness of selections and the lack of clear communication only heighten the frustrations of applicants.

As Safe Mobility nears the midpoint of its announced six-month pilot period, questions about its effectiveness and future persist.

While the initiative addresses a critical need, its slow start and operational challenges highlight the complexity of addressing the migration crisis in the Americas.

Cooperation from multiple nations, alongside initiatives like Safe Mobility, will be essential in finding lasting solutions to this pressing global issue.

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“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

By Cindy Porter

In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.

Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

While the narrative treads familiar ground, it is timely, given the rising prominence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

A Fusion of Genres

Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.

The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.

Edwards’ Cinematic Journey

The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).

“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.

Navigating Complexity

In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.

While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.

In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.

AI: Savior or Peril?

“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.

This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.

“The Creator”

Director: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe.
Genre: Science fiction.
Release Year: 2023.
Duration: 133 minutes.
Premiere Date: September 29.


Top 5 Movies by Gareth Edwards:

1. “Monsters” (2010)

– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.

2. “Rogue One” (2016)

– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.

3. “End Day” (2005)

– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.

4. “The Creator” (2023)

– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.

5. Potential Future Project

– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.

“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.

While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.

As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Cindy Porter

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