KARAK: Mid-February does not only provide militants in the province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) an opportunity to regroup and launch a fresh offensive in spring – the season is equally violent for quails, dogs, roosters and partridges.
Hundreds of people across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Southern Punjab and some from Balochistan gather on the outskirts of Karak for three weeks of partridge fights. Three main events are held for the purpose in Khujaki Kallay, Shahwasi Kallay and Takht-e-Nusrati.
Men with decorated cages full of birds can be seen tending to their flocks in the small arena set up in Khuje Kalan. Some keep jerking the heads of small quails to drive away slumber and prepare them for the big fight ahead.
Sajjad Usman, a resident of Lakki Marwat, strokes the head of his partridge. He then briefly glances at the partridge at the other end of the small ring and releases his bird, which leaps forward and pounces on his opponent amid a roar of applause from the audience.
“I have been participating since the last 20 years,” said Usman, after losing Rs8,000 in the fight. He said he visits Karak to contest his Deccan Partridge, adding that the events are organised illegally in the relatively peaceful district.
Usman maintained such events were also held in Dir, Buner, Swabi and Charsadda in the past, but were shifted to Karak due to repeated threats by militants. He also alleged heavy bribes were paid to the local police to overlook the illegal activity.
He said it took him a year to train and prepare his partridge for the fight, adding that Deccan Partridges are the best fighters, but only found in Sibbi, Dera Bugti and Loralai areas of Balochistan. These birds can cost anything from Rs500 to Rs0.3 million and the bets placed on their fights range from Rs100 to Rs0.3 million.
Sabzali, a sitar player, is equally fond of these bird fights. Talking to The Express Tribune in Dabgari Garden, Peshawar, Sabzali said he came to the city after attending the events in Karak. He added that not a lot of money was placed on the birds this year and only one fight in Khuje Kalan reached the highest bid of Rs0.35 million. The fight, he said, lasted for one hour.
Sabzali said he now visits only as a spectator as he doesn’t have the money to gamble or the resources to buy a Deccan Grey Partridge, which costs up to Rs90,000, while Rs50,000 is required a month to prepare the bird for a fight at the end of the year.
Interestingly, there were more fights among the owners of the birds over alleged foul play than between the birds. Some said their birds were given anesthesia to make them drowsy during fights, while three partridges were disqualified because their owners had fed them scorpions in order to render them poisonous.
Others yet said some birds were given alcohol to make them oblivious to fear and pain, while a few owners sprinkled antimony on the feathers of their birds to deter other birds from attacking them.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl MPA Malik Qasim said he was unaware of such fights in his hometown of Khujaki Kallay.
“If it is going on, it is un-Islamic,” said Qasim, adding that animal fighting is banned in Islam and is inhumane. “From now on, I will try my best to stop people from organising such events in Karak.”
The SHO of Litambar police station, sub-inspector Aslam Khan initially said Khujaki Kallay and Shahwasi Kallay fall in the jurisdiction of the police station and no such events were being organised in the areas, nor was there any proof of him taking bribes. However, he later changed his stance and said the areas where these fights take place do not fall within his jurisdiction, but in Bannu district.
written by Muhammad irfan
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2013.