During the last eight years every possible effort was made to destroy Pakistan boxing. The rich heritage left by former AIBA and Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) chief Professor Anwar Chowdhry has long been dead and buried.
There was no serious effort for the promotion of the sport in which the country once had a prominent place in Asia in the decades-long regime of Chowdhry.
The PBF president Doda Bhutto and his secretary Akram Khan and then Doda-Iqbal Hussain partnership proved to be a disaster for boxing. During the last eight years Pakistan relied on a single boxer — Mohammad Waseem who won a couple of medals in the Commonwealth Games and bronze in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. It was the only medal in the Asiad from any Pakistani boxer during the last 12 years.
But the credit of Waseem’s achievements cannot be given to the PBF officials. There is no proof that at any stage the PBF helped the Quetta-born pugilist, who now holds the World Boxing Council (WBC) sliver flyweight world title.
The 2004 Athens Olympics was the last in which national boxers represented Pakistan.
Doda’s both four-year tenures were marred by internal feuds. When Pakistan boxing squad returned from Astana qualifiers for 2012 London Olympics, a war of words began between Doda and his secretary Akram Khan.
The tussle took such an ugly twist that both started leveling allegations of corruption and human smuggling against each other.
Even National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was consulted and some cases filed whose findings are still unknown.
In the December 2012 PBF elections held at Lahore, which were controversial as some eyewitnesses say the elections were not held actually, Doda retained his seat. This time it was Iqbal Hussain, an exporter from Hyderabad, who was installed as secretary. Iqbal was vice-president during Doda’s first tenure. But this partnership also flopped, particularly in the last couple of years. There was a lack of coordination between the president and the secretary that inflicted an unprecedented damage on the game.
Because of the non-serious attitude of these officials Pakistan not only failed to win any gold at the South Asian Games held in India early this year but the country also could not field its squad in the Asian qualifying round for Rio Olympics because the PBF had no understanding with the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). The latter chose not to finance the national pugilists who had prepared for several months for the China qualifiers.
A few boxers were sent to Baku for the world qualifying round but they flopped miserably. Lack of sincerity, lack of professionalism and hunger for wealth on the part of the authorities prevented the past two back-to-back regimes from delivering their services.
They did not know how to nurture the sport in which Pakistan has an amazing talent. Those who knew the game had been sidelined. Even the decisions of the general council were ignored.
In the wake of the serious tussle between Doda and Akram, the PBF general council decided in Karachi in June 2012 that the PBF president would not take any decision, financial or administrative, without the concurrent approval of its Executive Vice-President Waqar Maroof.
But the decision was not followed on several occasions. This forced Waqar to sever ties with the PBF. The PSB till date does not accept the entity of the PBF because the federation has not implemented national sports policy. It is bound to do so if it wants to be financed by the Board as per rules and the decision of the Supreme Court dated May 8, 2012.
Because of the inefficiency of the PBF officials boxing nurseries also faded away and no one is now interested in the sport because it does not have any future.
I saw in the camp for the Rio Olympics qualifiers that in some weights Pakistan did not even have boxers. It is really a serious issue.
Clubs have ceased to exist. Pakistan lost major seats in AIBA and Asian Boxing Confederation (ASBC) which has also affected the country’s sport.
No attention has been given to the education of coaches and referees/judges. There is no boxing infrastructure.
The PBF elections are due by December this year. Doda will not be able to contest elections this time because of the tenure-restriction clause of the sports policy. An effort should be made to bring in a person as PBF chief who can give something to it. The sport needs a real reformer who can give sacrifices for its revival. The problems are manifold and only a man with a vision can save Pakistan boxing.
Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and PSB can play a leading role in the formation of the new PBF set-up. My sources told me that British boxer Amir Khan’s father Shajjad Khan, Sialkot’s Velo Sports Company’s head Salman Islam and a few others are interested in the presidential slot of the PBF.
But the stakeholders should weigh everything before choosing the new president. Bringing those already tested would not serve any purpose. Those who have been dishonest should be made accountable so that no one in future may do what they did.