The boxing girls of Lyari

The girls currently receiving training are enthusiastic about the sport and optimistic about its future in the country

Jamil Akhtar March 06, 2020
Humans have the strange ability to draw strength from the very despair that they are sometimes forced to endure. Many instances of this ability can be seen in Pakistan, a country rife with poverty and deprivation. Famous novelist, the late Abdullah Hussain, was of the opinion that the people of Pakistan are gifted in the extreme; although beset with countless problems, hindrances and insufficiencies, they still manage to transcend their circumstances and shine.

A glorious example of this aspect of Pakistani society can be seen at the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club in Lyari, Karachi. Lyari is a densely populated and underdeveloped part of Karachi, which has gained noteriety for all the wrong reasons. Like most overpopulated localities across the world, Lyari has been no stranger to drugs, violent crime and gang wars. Yet, in such neglected localities there are still people like coach Younus Qambrani who have dedicated their lives to a purposeful and wholesome existence, and have been trying to steer the youth of the area in the same direction.

Coach Qambrani has been associated with boxing for about 50 years now. He started his career as a boxer but had to give it up after a few years due to some health issues. However, his love for the sport did not diminish and he instead decided to channel his energy towards coaching a new generation of boxers in Pakistan. He proved himself to be an excellent coach and his proteges have included, Olympian Rasheed Qambrani and South Asian Games gold-medalist Abdul Majeed Qambrani, among other notable boxers. Today, coach Qambrani devotes his time towards grooming a new batch of boxers at the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club.

Founded in 1992, the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club has since produced a bevy of boxers, some of whom have made it on to the international boxing scene. In 2012, the club got a new building, courtesy of the Government of Sindh. The new building enabled coach Qambrani to pursue another dream that he had had – to coach girls in the typically male-dominated art of pugilism. Surprisingly, quite a few girls from his neighbourhood showed an interest in training, including girls from his own family. Since then, there has been a regular ebb and flow of girls wanting to participate, with a few who have been training regularly for the past five-six years. They have also been competing at the district and provincial levels, winning several laurels in the process.

The girls currently receiving training are very enthusiastic about the sport and optimistic about its future in the country. They are very confident in their abilities and feel that they can accomplish any goal they set their eyes on. Their high spirits come as no surprise since their ranks include the 13-year old Areesha, who has been practicing for five years and has never lost a single match, and the 16-year old Azmeena, who has just entered the world of professional boxing and already ranks 106th in the world.

Areesha has been boxing for five years.

Azmeena is already ranked 106th in the world.

On one hand, coach Qambrani is very proud of his trainees who have been proving themselves despite various constraints. On the other, he bemoans the lack of government support available to help further improve the facilities. He believes that there is no dearth of talent among the youth of his area, both boys and girls; however, most of them come from families of limited means and receive no official support either. As a result of these conditions, they often become disillusioned and give up the sport to pursue more practical means of income. It is imperative that better facilities and funding is made available for coach Qambrani since many of his trainees have the potential to perform and represent Pakistan at the international level.

(All photos courtesy of Jamil Akhtar)
Jamil Akhtar Jamil Akhtar is an award-winning writer and photographer with extensive experience in different aspects of communication. He can be reached at
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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