As students of martial arts began to gather at the Dr. Muhammad Khan Sports Academy in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, a boy without arms entered the hall with a small bag on his shoulders.
Shoukat Khan, a young martial artist, sat down on the floor before removing his shirt with his feet and donning his white karate kit and green belt.
Khan has been practicing karate for 11 years and believes that the discipline has made him stronger both mentally and physically. He is skilled in various martial arts, including Shotokan, Taekwondo, kickboxing, and gymnastics, and is confident in his ability to defend himself in most situations.
The athlete, 22 years old, said that the “sarcastic remarks” of those around him led him to become a professional karate player. His sense of indignation also led him to become the first person with a disability to opt for such a hard sports discipline in his province.
He won a silver medal in gymnastics at an inter-district championship held in March. Before that, he also secured a gold medal for his club when he was asked to fight with another disabled martial artist in a local karate competition in Quetta.
Zakir Khilji, Khan’s coach, describes him as one of his most disciplined and hardworking students. Khan has not participated in national-level competitions in some time, as he has not been able to find an opponent in his category. Despite this, he remains dedicated to his training and preparation for the Paralympics. As a child, Khan enjoyed playing soccer and was even known to have left his studies at a local seminary in order to pursue the sport.
Khan said he had seen many people with disabilities who were begging in different street corners.
The provincial sports secretary of Balochistan, Ishaq Jamali, said the government had organized indoor sports activities for persons with disabilities.