The last three-and-a-half years were the most tumultuous and damaging for Pakistan’s sports because of the prolonged conflict between Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) over the implementation of the national sports policy.
During this period Pakistan’s participation in international events suffered a lot. Some of the key players, especially those of the armed forces, got few opportunities to showcase their talent abroad.
WAPDA’s players benefited from the situation as they were mostly seen dominating the touring parties.
Murad Ali of NBP, the country’s top badminton player, fell prey to politics as he was not picked for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games held last year on the ground that he belonged to the rival group.
Both the POAs held their respective National Games in different cities. After the demise of former Director General of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Amir Hamza Gilani, who was a staunch critic of the POA chief Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan, the situation started changing.
The sitting secretary of the ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Chaudhry Mohammad Ijaz played a key role in normalising sports affairs with his constructive negotiations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne last year.
Immediately after the meeting in Lausanne the government re-established ties with Arif Hasan-led POA, which is recognised by the IOC.
The POA, as per court orders, had to repeat its elections for the office-bearers except that of the president. In the meantime, the PSB succeeded in bringing almost all the federations in its net as they implemented the national sports policy, particularly its clause relating to tenure restriction.
Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is the only federation now which does not accept the dictation of the PSB as it deems itself to be a protege of the world football governing body, FIFA.
The legal battle between PSB and PFF is continuing in the Lahore High Court (LHC). The next hearing is to be held on May 20.
In the matter of POA and provincial associations, several affairs are sub-judice and still there are manifold impediments in the way of smooth running of sports.
Parallel bodies are still working in some federations, provincial and district associations. The POA elections are just eight months away and there is a lot of mess yet to be removed. There are a few federations which are recognised by international bodies but not by the IOC-recognised POA.
The federal minister for IPC Riaz Hussain Pirzada is a gentleman and seems to be uneasy in his ministry. He is not happy with the way hockey team was treated following its stunning second-place finish in the Champions Trophy in India. But he is helpless.
Pirzada also had to face the trouble of seeing the plight of his favourite PSB Director General Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera whose appointment as PSB boss has been declared illegal by the Lahore High Court.
But as a minister the toughest challenge before Pirzada is to ensure the smooth conduct of the election of the POA. Technically, it is not the responsibility of the IPC, but keeping in view the so-called culture of the parallel bodies and divide in the sports circle it is the responsibility of the federal government to conduct an operation clean-up and abolish the division in the sports fraternity before holding the POA election which must be conducted as per rules by February 2016.
It would be a decent step if the sports fraternity shunned all its differences and took a fresh start for the development of sports in the country.
If it does not happen the ministry will have to take tough stance.
Another vital step which the ministry will have to take is the formation of a national arbitration committee which could resolve the disputes of the federations before they could reach the courts.
Litigation is so rampant in the country’s sports that during the last four years over forty cases were filed in different courts and some of them are yet be disposed of.
The federations and POA may have reservations over the formation of such a body. They may argue that they have their own arbitration mechanisms.
Having covered the matters of the federations for the last 12 years, I am convinced that the arbitration bodies within the federations have miserably failed in dispensation of justice. As a result we see rival groups within the federations.
Another step which the IPC ministry should take is to ensure that the grants are given to federations on the basis of their performances. Those federations should be encouraged which are working hard and producing desired results in international circuit.
The ratio of joy-trips should be reduced by PSB and POA and effort should be made to spend money for the betterment of the athletes. A sports fund should be created for those former international athletes who are leading their lives in the abject poverty.
POA and PSB should try to work within their own parameters in order to avoid any further clash.
POA should also in future take action against those people in its affiliated federations who misuse funds. It’s high time to take bold steps.
There is immense talent in Pakistan but it has been wasted away due to lack of proper patronage. Let’s forget what happened in the past and start afresh and develop our sports.