Asia

Female Pakistani cricketers in sexual harassment row

Kiran Irshad bowling at the MCC
Image caption It is alleged that sexual harassment is a major impediment in bringing the best players to the forefront of cricket

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is investigating allegations of sexual harassment levelled by women members of a regional cricket club, officials say.

The Multan Cricket Club (MCC) officials deny the charge, accusing the women of "questionable behaviour" and breach of discipline.

Officials say a three-member PCB team is holding a hearing in Multan city and will submit its findings on Wednesday.

It is not clear if PCB will make the findings public right away.

Rights activists say sexual harassment of women in sports is rampant but rarely reported.

'Friends'

Four woman cricketers associated with the MCC levelled the accusations in a TV talk show on Friday.

They said the club chairman and a team selector demanded sexual favours in return for putting girls on the regional teams or recommending them for the national team.

The chairman of MCC, Maulvi Sultan Alam, and selector Mohammad Javed, both of whom participated in the show, denied the allegations.

One of the girls, Seema Javed, said Mr Alam, 70, once came to her and said, "please ask Kiran [another girl] to give me a kiss and I'll let her play the Under-19 tournament".

She said only those girls who agreed to be "friends" with the top managers were promoted at the MCC .

"When I joined the MCC some years ago, a senior player, Nadia Hussain, warned me to beware of the club officials. She said they'll first promise to send you to the national squad, and will then take you to the bedroom," she said.

But Mohammad Javed levelled counter-accusations against the girls, calling their behaviour into question.

He produced police records to show that Seema Javed had been involved in the brief disappearance of another girl some time back. As a result, she was banned from the club, he said.

He admitted, though, that she was allowed to play once the missing girl resurfaced.

He also accused Kiran Irshad of smuggling alcohol into a girls' college in Multan where she had organised a sports event. Her entry into the college is still banned, he said.

Alcohol is considered un-Islamic, and is prohibited in Pakistan.

PCB official Shakil Khan told the BBC that the allegations were part of internal politics between two groups of woman players at the MCC.

"Both the groups have been called to the hearing by the inquiry committee and will present their respective positions," he said.

PCB officials say the girls had violated discipline by going public with the allegations instead of filing a complaint with them.

A Multan-based correspondent who covers sports for Pakistan's largest Urdu language daily, Jang, told the BBC there was some truth on both sides.

"Sexual harassment is widespread in women's sports here, and is a major impediment in bringing the best players to the fore," Mohammad Nadeem Qaisar said.

"One side-effect of this is that second-rated players who are willing to offer sexual favours often get into influential positions."

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