by Alam Zeb Safi
Over the years, our authorities have failed to give this country a sports system which could deliver. Working under a solid system can lead you to progress. But our state machinery and those who consider themselves custodians of sports only play with it. Instead of progress, this sector has been declining for years.
Sometimes the Prime Minister installs someone not skilled enough as an advisor in the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), giving him a well-furnished office. He does not know exactly what he will do. And sometimes a task force is formed for the development of indigenous sports and a person who is close to the PM is appointed its head.
Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) does not know its role. It wants to exist as the supreme sports’ governing body of the country and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) considers itself the strongest body which governs the sports under the International Olympic Committee charter.
The work which POA should do is often done by the PSB. And federations have their own flaws with their heads considering their federations their property. They consider themselves above every law.
The PM does not like the POA chief but cannot do anything as international rules don’t allow him to remove that person.
The military shows its influence whenever it feels that there is a need to interfere.
The PM can dissolve the set-up of Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) as its patron despite the fact that international rules don’t allow such steps.
It is the work of the general body of any federation to decide who should lead.
But the PM does not focus on the rest of the sports. The director general of Sports Board Punjab (SBP) is seen playing the leading role in holding some international cricket matches in Lahore.
A few years ago, the PSB introduced a policy to stop people from extending their stint as heads of the federations by inserting a tenure-restriction clause.
But that seems to have failed to produce the desired results as influential heads of federations become chairmen when their tenures as presidents expire. And so, an individual can easily serve for 24 years in the capacity of secretary of a federation, president and then chairman.
In Lahore High Court (LHC), a debate is in progress to determine whether Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is a private body, whether it can file a writ against a government body, and whether any action can be taken against the federation.
It is interesting that parliamentary committees are often tasked to improve sports. I beg pardon but it is necessary to ask how senators and members of National Assembly can play a role in this respect when they have no idea about sports and its system. And it has often been seen that those people are invited to the meetings who are unable to give them any clear picture of the sports.
We have had such people as Syed Aqil Shah (KP) and late Dr Mohammad Ali Shah (Sindh) who did commendable jobs while serving as sports ministers of their respective provinces because of their association with sports.
Unless we provide a transparent system, based on checks and balances, we will not be able to improve in the field.
Last Wednesday, Pakistan’s seasoned karateka Saadi Abbas in a video message requested Pakistan’s government to back him in his bid to make a cut for 2020 Olympics.
Our top international wrestler Mohammad Inam, who recently won gold in the World Beach Wrestling Championship, also wants government support as he also aspires to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. Is this a system! The players have to request the government to help them!
There are several other examples which show that we are just wasting time. We consider sports as mere recreation.
Pakistan has experienced a steep decline in sports over the years and I fear that the country may not be able to impress even at the South Asian level in the coming few years.
We still have parallel federations and associations. The authorities concerned should take immediate steps to eradicate parallelism in the country as it has stopped the progress in many sports.
Now I want to write a few words about the sports university which Pakistan’s government is going to establish. It’s a good step and it should have been taken much earlier. The government has approved a budget for the purpose and recently a detailed meeting of the PSB and Higher Education Commission (HEC) was held with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad.
I have learned that the PM has given the green signal and he is ready to inaugurate the varsity next month.
Pakistan has already got the assistance of Beijing Sports University (BSU) which has a link with the Victoria University of Australia.
The PSB Director General Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera and IPC secretary (sports) Amjad Ali Khan recently visited China and held a detailed meeting with the BSU vice-chancellor.
Initially, the university will utilise the infrastructure of Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad. It aims to produce sports scientists and experts which will benefit Pakistan’s sports in the long run.
There are several Pakistani graduates who are doing their PhDs in sports sciences abroad and they can play a positive role as instructors in this university.
Initially, instructors will have to be imported but as the time progresses Pakistan will be able to provide its own teaching faculty to the varsity. Ganjera, who is going to retire next year, may get a key post at the university.