Hockey men fined over a beer and a hug

ISLAMABAD Fri Jan 8, 2010 2:44pm EST

A man plays hockey on an outdoor ice rink in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, December 22, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A man plays hockey on an outdoor ice rink in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, December 22, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's parliament fined a national hockey player and two team officials for un-Islamic behavior after pictures circulated of them hugging a woman and apparently drinking alcohol in Argentina last month.

Pakistan is a conservative Muslim country where men hugging women in public is taboo and even men shaking hands with women is frowned upon. Drinking alcohol is illegal for Muslims.

National field hockey team player Rehan Butt was fined 100,000 rupees ($1,175) while coach Shahid Ali Khan and manager Asif Bajwa were fined 50,000 rupees ($600) each, the chairman of the National Assembly's standing committee on sports said.

"Islamic culture does not allow us to hug a lady and have alcohol," committee chairman Jamshed Ahmed Dasti told Reuters.

Pictures run by a Pakistani television channel and posted on the Internet showed one of the men hugging a woman and another apparently drinking a beer.

Another picture showed a group of men sitting at a table with glasses in front of them, apparently containing alcohol.

Bajwa told Dunya Television the woman in the photograph was a tournament liaison officer.

"All officials and players considered her as our sister," Bajwa said before the fines were imposed.

The pictures were taken at the end of the tournament, after Pakistan lost in the final to New Zealand, and the woman had put the pictures on her Facebook page, he said.

Field hockey is Pakistan's national sport although the team's fortunes have waned since it won Olympic gold in 1984.

Dasti said the team's failure at the tournament made the "disgusting" activities that much worse.

In 2007, Minister of Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar handed in her resignation after religious hardliners raised a storm of criticism when a picture of her appeared hugging her parachute instructor after completing a jump for charity in France.

(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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