The Hazara’s of Quetta are one of the most persecuted community of Pakistan; yet in the face of all adversity that they face, there are people who are rising above the gray cloud to shine; one of them is Kalsoom Hazara who is the first female Karate Champion of Pakistan.
Coming from the Hazara Community in Quetta, Kalsoom has been learning Karate since she was in grade 3 in school.
Speaking to The Nation she said, “I was just one year old when my parents died. My brother in law, Shaheed Sarwar Ali became my guardian.”
Shaheed Sarwar Ali was a karate champion and trainer; “When he saw that I was interested in karate he encouraged me and started training me. But unfortunately he was killed in 2006 in Quetta, I then determined to follow his dream, that is why I am here where I stand.”
She is the only female player in the Pakistan Karate team who has a hat-trick in winning three gold medals in three competitions.
She recently won three gold medals in South Asian Karate championship in Sri Lanka. She also won three gold medals in national games in Lahore.
“I am a champion for the past 15 years in the weight category. After my teacher died I got training from Pakistan Sports Board Lahore and Islamabad,” said Kalsoom.
As for more girls joining this sport from Quetta she said, “Girls are considered the ‘Sinfe Nazuk’ (the fragile ones), so initially people in the Hazara community did not approve our joining this sport.”
She told that she was never threatened or pressurized to quit this sport but once she started gaining success she was only praised. “Those who disapproved of me joining this sport began praising me and came to receive me on the airport when started bringing in prizes. Due to this more girls have started joining this profession.”
Kalsoom says she is disappointed with the government’s response to her wins. She said, “I was given State Level Excellence Award by Pakistan Army in Balochsitan, but nothing from the civil government. They gave gifts to Pakistan Cricket team for winning Champion trophy but my efforts have not been recognized. Neither the media gave proper coverage.”
Due to the current situation of Balochistan, she and her family had to move to Karachi where she did her Masters in Physical education from. “It’s sad that now women have become a target too. We have moved to Karachi and I’ve complete my Masters in Physical Education.”
When asked if her hijab ever became a hurdle in her profession she said, “Hijab has never been a hurdle, many people have told me that it might come in way of my success, but it doesn’t.”
When asked if she ever got an offer to move out of Pakistan she said, “Never got an offer to go abroad but I am proud of representing Pakistan and I don’t want to leave my country.”
Talking about her future plans, Kalsoom said, “I am preparing for the Olympics games as that’s my aim in life. It’s been a while since Pakistan won a medal and I want to bring a Olympic Gold home.”
Her message was for everyone is, “Parents should let girls get involved in extracurricular activities and trust them. These activities not only help them grow but also help them to become better people. Self-defense is very important in today’s life and everyone should learn karate.”