One tragedy breaks a person, another makes him and a third defines him.
The 23-year-old Kulsoom Hazara has been the national karate champion for three years and her love for the sport comes from somewhere deep down. It was Kulsoom’s late brother-in-law who introduced her to the sport in 2000 in order to flush out her anger and pain – her mother passed away when she was eight and her father five years later.
However, what was just an activity for Kulsoom to keep her life in order became a passion when her brother-in-law became a victim of target killing in Karachi five years ago.
“It’s a way of remembering him, when I’m successful, I know I’ve made him proud,” said Kulsoom. “He’s a martyr and whatever I know about karate is because of him. His death made the sport that extra bit personal to me. I lost my parents when I was young and then I lost him too. I had to make something out of my life and karate was all I was left with.”
On Monday, Kulsoom was one of two female athletes named in Pakistan’s squad for the Asian Championship, the first time the country will be represented by females. Last year, Kulsoom won the 60-kg gold a south Asian event in India and as she prepares for what lies awaiting in Tashkent, she reminisces about the rocky road to success. Kulsoom is from Quetta and her relatives as well as the community has never been supportive of her passion.
“I come from a conservative society but the support I got from my sister and her husband laid a strong foundation and it was their encouragement that drove me into this. I belong to the Hazara community but I carry on with this, knowing fully that our culture dictates our lives – the women are obliged to be modest and conservative.”
Away from the sport, Kulsoom is pursuing a masters degree in health and physical education and envisages herself as a fitness consultant and coach while helping future female karate players.
“When I tell people how serious I am about karate, they laugh at me. It has taken the Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) almost a decade to send female players to the Asian championship so that says a lot about how women are ignored in the sport.”
While the squad trains in Islamabad and Lahore for the event, the PKF President Muhammad Jehangir looks to a brighter future for the women as well as the sport in Pakistan.
“Our women are doing well but realistically I don’t think they will win a medal,” said Jehangir. “They have a long way to go but this is just the beginning. Hopefully, this championship will help them get exposure and experience and they’ll take part in the world championships some day.”
That, if Kulsoom manages to reach that far, will be no mean feat after the rocky ride she has endured so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.
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