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Taliban’s fall in Orakzai allows sports to return
Archery completion in March attracts masses
By Nazar Ul Islam
ORAKZAI AGENCY — A three-day archery competition in the small town of Kada Bazaar in March has marked the return of cultural activities to Orakzai Agency after the fall of the Taliban.
The military launched an operation in 2010 against Tehreek-e-Taliban militants led by Mullah Toofan and claims to have cleared militants from almost 90% of the area. Life is reportedly returning to normal, and archers are taking advantage of the peace to compete.
Archery has deep Pashtun roots and the event attracted fans from across the tribal agency.
“I saw my father playing with the bow and arrow; I learned from him the art of archery; I played this game until my eyesight failed me,” Muhammad Anis, a tribal elder, told Central Asia Online. “I came from very far to watch the event.”
He still likes the sport though none of his children do, he said.
Eight teams of four participated in the competition, seeking to hit the most arrows in a target from 18m away.
“I am very happy with my team performance. We had two young, inexperienced guys, but they played well and we won the title,” Gohar Ali, captain of the winning team, told Central Asia Online. “With practise and hard work, anything is possible.”
The government should encourage archery in the country, he said, adding that skilled archers nationwide simply need practise to compete nationally and internationally.
“If the government focused on archery and we were given the facilities, we can bring laurels,” Gohar said.
Sports carry developmental promise
“We are happy to organise such an event successfully, as the area has quite recently witnessed bloody fighting between the Pakistan Army and the militants,” Ibrar Khan, the event organiser, told Central Asia Online. “At first, we expected that the people would not come to watch the matches, due to security concerns, but archery fans from all around came and supported their teams.”
Most welcome the rebirth of cultural events.
“Due to the scarcity of such events, our items remained for long time in the stores,” an archery equipment vendor said. “At times we thought of switching over to some other business, but the event has encouraged us; I have earned a good amount during this event.”
But games have effects that go beyond economic rewards.
“These cultural games like archery, horse racing, Makha and Gulli-danda not only keep the youngsters fit physically but also mentally,” said Abasin Yousafzai, head of the Pashtu academy in the University of Peshawar. “Such games reflect Pashtuns’ spirit for fighting against their enemies.”
The events are also a cultural legacy.
“It is a matter of great concern that the traditional games are dying out fast; tribal areas are surrounded by wars. In my opinion, this rich tradition should be kept alive like Arabs still enjoy swordsmanship,” Yousafzai said.