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Monday, May 20, 2024  
11 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Peshawar kite maker hopes for Olympic glory for daughters

18-year-old Husna and 16-year-old Hafsa are proficient runners who have won medals at regional and national athletic meets
Professional athletes 18-year-old Husna and 16-year-old Hafsa practice five to six hours daily. Photo by Kamran Ali
Professional athletes 18-year-old Husna and 16-year-old Hafsa practice five to six hours daily. Photo by Kamran Ali

Gohar Ali’s dream of representing Pakistan at the highest level never came to pass. But the kite maker from Peshawar, now in his fifties, is confident of fulfilling that dream through his two daughters - already national champions - by helping them prepare for the Olympics.

A resident of the Hazar Khawani area on the outskirts of Peshawar, Gohar wanted to play cricket for Pakistan but took up kite-making as a profession due to financial constraints and family responsibilities.

But his two daughters - with a natural aptitude for athletics - reignited his passion for international glory. The girls, 18-year-old Husna and 16-year-old Hafsa, are already proficient athletes who have proven their mettle at regional and national athletic meets.

Gohar has not spared any effort in ensuring the girls get the best of training despite having limited finances as well as the taboos associated with women who take up sports in conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“When I decided to support my daughters’ athletic career [in 2019], my relatives distanced themselves [from our family] as they feared the reaction of our patriarchal society. Many people suggested that I should get the girls married at an early age because education and sports were a waste of time and money,” Gohar recalled while talking to Aaj News.

“The only person to support the idea was Sherzada,” he said of his friend, a martial arts practitioner. Sherzada has since been helping the girls with their training.


Putting in four to six hours daily, the girls are already making a name for themselves on the track.

“I found Husna and Hafsa very talented and fit when I first met them,” says Sherzada of the two talented runners. “This encouraged me to start their training as I also had an unfulfilled wish to win a medal in martial arts,” he said.

Husna, the elder one, has bagged gold in the 800 metre race at the national level along with multiple silver medals at the provincial level.

Hafsa, the younger one, is equally quick having won gold in the 400-metre race at the National Games. Prior to that, she won silver in the 800-metre race at the provincial level and a bronze medal at the club level.

Husna and Hafsa, who are students of grades 11th and 9th respectively, have ensured their education continues alongside their practice and preparations for competitions

The sister duo have their eyes set on getting on the podium in the Olympic Games but that remains a pipe dream considering the resources at their disposal. They don’t have acces to facilities, equipment, training or diet that elite level athletes need to thrive.

On the contrary, the girls often spend evenings working in their fathers workshop preparing kites.

“If you see a kite flying in the sky, do not consider it a piece of paper and wood put together for entertainment. The hopes and dreams of a gold medal is also flying with the kite,” says Gohar.

Hafsa and Husna assist their father in preparing kites. Photo by Kamran Ali
Hafsa and Husna assist their father in preparing kites. Photo by Kamran Ali


With his children’s help, Gohar makes 200 to 300 kites per day, making roughly Rs1.75 per unit sold. On good days, he makes a little over Rs600 a day. That amounts to Rs18,000 monthly or a little under 100 dollars.

Gohar puts his the family’s monthly expenses at around Rs15,000. “The amount includes rent, food and utility bills. If someone in the family gets sick or there are other expenses, I have to borrow money,” said Ali who said he currently owes people Rs50,000.

He recently moved to the outskirts of Peshawar when the house rent is relatively less in order to save money.

Meanwhile, the girls are on sports scholarships that allow them to get a decent education while continuing their athletic pursuits.

National athletic champions Hafsa and Husna. Photo by Kamran Ali
National athletic champions Hafsa and Husna. Photo by Kamran Ali

Kamran Siraj, one of the biggest manufacturers of kites in Peshawar, acknowldges that small business owners like Gohar face an uphill battle. “At least 1,000 kite makers are associated with the business in the city where more than 100 shops are located, including 15 permanent ones. People like Gohar hardly make enough to make ends meet.”

While Siraj’s business is still thriving, with daily kite sales in excess of 2,000, he says that the business overall has been adversely affected due to legal hurdles. “More than 100,000 people associated with this trade - labourers, transporters, and business owners - have been affected across the country in the last few years.”

Gohar was among those affected and managed to get by with the help of his relatives. However, that changed once Hafsa and Husna stepped on the track as professional athletes. “They withdrew their support due to the stigma attached to females in sports,” remarked Gohar.


Gohar and his daughters remain undeterred despite the magnitude of the challenge as they keep their eyes on the end goal: medals at the international level followed by Olympic glory.

The sisters as well as their father and trainer have requested the government to provide them facility and support to help them prepare for the Olympic Games.

When asked about competing against each other in the sports, the two girls smiled. While the love between the two siblings is strong along with mutual respect, there is also an aspect of rivalry on the track. “On the track, we have to do our best. Our training has taught us this strategy.”


Ali’s struggles in the journey of preparing his daughters for the competition are reminiscent of popular Bollywood movie Dangal.

The movie, based loosely on a true story, revolves around a retired wrestler who failed to win gold for his country but vows to realize it by training his daughters despite societal pressure.

“Our story has a similarity and relevance with the movie. That is why we love watching Dangal again and again as it’s a great source of encouragement and appreciation for us,” says Gohar.

“Family members who used to oppose women’s career in sports are now showing flexibility and there has been a noticeable shift in mindset. However, they spectre of patriarchy remains and it will take time to change that,” Ali said.

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