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Cockfighting — a cruel but popular activity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The shining sun was at its peak and the whole village including animals was on a long rest as the summer came across as hot and humid. The streets of the village were silent and empty and it seemed like there were no humans living there. As I passed the village and covered some distance, I saw a huge number of people with different ages shouting, jumping and clapping with joy where a majority of them were youngsters, particularly students.

For a while, I thought it might be a game between these people who were present there, but as I got close to them, it was a kind of a shocking moment for me and I got stuck for a while when I saw two roosters fighting hard with each other without taking any rest for a while and it was the first time in my life that I observed such a cruel activity.

I watched this whole show as a silent spectator and as the fight ended, I tried to ask some of the rooster owners about this activity as I wanted to explore this whole process.

Irshad Ali was one of the owners of a rooster and according to him, he was petting the roosters for the last 15 years and had organised more than 500 such cockfight competitions.

Talking about this activity he said, “It is a very common activity among the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and despite ban from the KP government, no one is ready to quit this hobby as it is becoming more and more popular among the youth of KP.”

Describing the whole process of this sport he said, “We have to feed almond, milk, butter and other foods to prepare the roosters for the fights and they’re always trained for some 20 days before a fight.”

History reveals that cockfighting is the old sport in the Indus Valley and other parts of the world and this activity goes back to ancient times in India, China and Greece.

This fight used to be organised by the Nawabs in the subcontinent and was often the subject of gambling and betting.

Talking about betting, he said, “Although betting is banned and illegal, but even then, many people go for regular betting during this fight.”

“Beside gamblers, there are many people who organise this fight as a hobby,” Irshad Ali said.

He elaborated that there was no duration of time for this fight. It ends when one of the fighter cock results in death.

“The most dangerous weapon of a rooster is the ‘khar’ the back of a claw, which are always sharpened during the fight so that in order to hit the opponent, rooster comes across as very hard,” he said.

“These fights take place on a regular basis and away from the eyes of police and sometimes the influential people of the area organise this fight in their hujras too,” Zubair, another rooster owner said.

He said that he loved keeping different kinds of birds but had never participated in such cockfights.

Recalling an incident, Ali said, “A few months ago, we patronised a cockfight in a barren area outside the village where there were more than a 100 people present. As the fight started, the police raided us and 67 people including me were arrested and we all were fined Rs 1,500 each. Later, we were bail out after we were produced before the local judge. The most worrying thing is that day by day, young students are adopting this cruel activity as their favourite hobby and this thing must be stopped because these games will bring young students towards gambling and betting.”

A senior police officer Niaz Ali Shah said that this was an illegal and cruel act and they have raided several times on such gatherings and have also arrested those involved.

The writer can be reached at alimansoor1166@gmail.com

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