Not the Women & Girls Fun Run

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18 Wounded as Radicals Attack Women’s Race

Asif Shahzad

Associated Press, Arab News

LAHORE, 4 April 2005 — Hundreds of radicals protesting against the participation of women in a marathon race hurled stones and bricks at competitors, and clashed with police in eastern Pakistan yesterday, leaving at least 18 people injured, police said.

About 2,000 men, women and children were taking part in the three-kilometer race when more than 200 supporters of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), launched their attack, police official Arif Mushtaq said.

The attackers, wielding sticks and throwing stones, blocked the race course and chased competitors away as they approached a sports stadium in Gujranwala, a city about 200 km southeast of the capital Islamabad, where they were expected to finish race, Mushtaq said.

The attackers also set fire to cars and broke windows nearby.

Policemen who tried to protect the runners also came under attack, he said, adding that officers fired gunshots into the air and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the attackers.

Eighteen people, including eight policemen, were reported injured in the violence. It was unclear if any of the competitors were injured, but Qazi Hameedullah, a lawmaker from the six-party religious coalition who allegedly led the protesters, was among the wounded, Mushtaq said.

He said police detained 25 people for their involvement in the attacks, but did not say if Hameedullah was arrested.

Mushtaq said MMA activists resented female participation alongside men in the sporting event, and they wanted to get inside the stadium to attack participants.

“If the attackers had managed to get inside the stadium it would have been a disaster,” Mushtaq said.

“The police had taken elaborate security measures for the marathon but the MMA activists tried to take the law into their own hands,” he said.

A spokesman for the MMA accused police of using force against peaceful protesters who wanted the race canceled.

“We had warned them in writing not to hold the race because it is against Islam. But despite that, this happened. They want to undress the entire nation,” Riaz Durrani said.

“It is indecent for women to run in the streets,” he said. “They want the sisters and sisters-in-law of the nation to wear knickers and T-shirts.”

Pakistan’s hard-line groups oppose women’s participation in sports. Women are generally discouraged from wearing shorts and T-shirts. The hard-line government in North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan, banned male coaches from training females in 2003.

But the country of nearly 150 million people has women’s cricket and hockey teams, and Pakistan sent one female athlete to each of the last three Olympic Games.

Rubab Raza, 14, was the country’s first female swimmer to dive in an Olympic pool at the Athens Games last year.

The pro-Taleban MMA made unexpected gains in parliamentary elections in 2002 mainly on a platform of opposition to the US-led war against terrorism.

A US-led coalition ousted the Taleban militia from power in Afghanistan in late 2001 for harboring Al-Qaeda.

The alliance has called for the strict implementation of Shariah in Pakistan.

On Saturday, the MMA called the country’s first general strike in more than two years to protest spiraling prices, unemployment and the policies of President Pervez Musharraf.

The group said more than 3,000 of its followers had been arrested during the strike but police said they detained hundreds of the hard-liners.

MMA described its protest as successful but witnesses said the strike was partial in most places.

1 Responses to “Not the Women & Girls Fun Run”

  1. Blogger Gronk 

    All the best with Canberra Flash Duck. Wishing you safe driving and strong running !


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