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It started with the announcement of the first-ever girls academy in Balochistan, then a high-performance camp for the women’s team and now, on Thursday (August 29) the Pakistan Cricket Board announced another exciting piece of news— nine women are participating in the ongoing annual workshop for umpires and match referees. They are at the forefront of ensuring that female representation on the field continues— not just as players, but match officials too.

The nine umpires who are going to the annual workshop come from both rural and urban areas of the county. Afia Amin, Humaira Farah, Nazia Nazir, Sabahat Rasheed and Shakila Rafiq were all part of the workshop that took place in Lahore recently. The remaining four umpires— Nuzhat Sultana, Riffat Mustafa, Samera Aftab and Saleema Imtiaz— will join the sessions in Karachi (August 29-31) and Rawalpindi (September 3-5).

These workshops are meant to update the country’s match officials on the latest developments in the game regarding its laws, domestic (and international) playing conditions, codes of conduct, regulations, etc. This is normally done ahead of each season.

Aleem Dar was part of the panel of lecturers in Lahore. A member of ICC’s elite panel of umpires, Dar is one of the country’s most respected match officials. He was part of a panel that included Ahsan Raza and Asif Yaqoob— both part of ICC’s panel of umpires.

“The women umpires are a great asset for Pakistan cricket,” said Dar. “They have been working hard to leave a mark and their passion and love for the profession is truly commendable. The women in Pakistan have been playing an integral role in the development of the society and it is high time we recognise the efforts they have been putting in.”

“The women umpiring standards over the years have improved significantly. The more matches they will officiate, the better they will get. It is imperative on umpires like myself, who have international exposure, to pass on the knowledge that we have gained over the years to these dedicated women,” he concluded.

The women also made clear their appreciation for the PCB’s initiative to include them as part of the development program. They spoke of their humble beginnings, the support they recieved from their families and doing the hard years.

“Women are an integral part of any society and the PCB’s step to train the umpires ahead of the season is praiseworthy,” said Humaira Farah, director of sports at Lahore Garrison University. “I aim to make the most of this workshop so I can have the honour of umpiring in an international women’s game.”

“I couldn’t pursue my dream of becoming a cricketer due to family restrictions,” Nazia Nazir, who lectures on physical education at Government Township College in Lahore, said. “Being an umpire provided me with an opportunity to return to the cricket field, which I grabbed with both hands. I want to become a regular umpire in ICC matches.”

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