These days everybody in Pakistan’s sports circle is waiting for the report of the Prime Minister’s task force which is headed by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani. According to sources, Mani is taking input from sports experts in order to know the system and its ailments.
Besides, former Director General of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Brigadier (retd) Arif Siddiqui is expected to brief Prime Minister Imran Khan on Pakistan’s sports issues.
There are numerous issues which have been impeding Pakistan’s sports growth. One of them is that Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and national federations are not on the same page. The lack of coordination, particularly between the POA and the PSB, has been the main stumbling block in the way of sports’ growth. Both have been seen creating hurdles for each other. Both consider themselves more important but nobody accepts responsibility for the country’s failure in any international event.
Everyone is aware of the long war between the POA and the PSB over the implementation of the sports policy. During the tenure of the PML (N), the PSB dropped POA’s chief Lt General (retd) Syed Arif Hasan from its Executive Committee which was a shocking step for the NOC which is considered the most important body working under the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
There are some federations which are supported by the POA but not recognised by the Board, which works under the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC). Because of the differences between the two bodies, parallel federations have been formed, which has damaged the sports.
A few days ago a senior sports official of Pakistan was seen highly impressed with the growth of Afghanistan’s sports. When I asked him how the war-torn country is progressing rapidly in sports, he replied that its sports minister is also the head of its Olympic body.
Pakistan will need to adopt such a system in which the key stakeholders could work together. This is the only solution. Iran also had similar issues a few years ago but now its federal government has strong links with its NOC and its federations of football and other Olympic sports. And Iran has made remarkable progress as a result.
Iran’s president picks up the phone and calls a sponsor to support its volleyball team. One cannot imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan.
In Pakistan there is an immense talent in every sport but the issue is that sports are considered mere entertainment and our youth are told to concentrate on studies. If sports are linked to values and employment then things will improve and sports will develop.
The government will have to improve the performance of the PSB which is being run by clerks. The Board needs a strong and honest Director General who could work with devotion to boost Pakistan’s sports.
The Board had found in former acting DGs Khayyal Zad Gul and Amir Ali Ahmed honest officials but both were removed by the PML-N government. The Board’s employees’ union pressurised Khayyal at the behest of a mafia which has ruined the Board.
The Board’s working has been unimpressive for many years. The PM task force should note this. The non-technocrats should be removed from the Board and young, highly educated people, who have degrees in sports management, should be given the opportunity to work in the Board.
It should also be noted that for many years the 37-member Board’s meeting has not been convened. It shows how the Board is working.
There are unconfirmed reports that the task force wants the PSB to be run on the pattern of the PCB as a purely corporate body. But the task force should know that as many as 39 federations are affiliated with the Board and without huge state funding running Pakistan’s sports will be difficult.
The IPC Ministry should also improve its working. It should sign MoUs with countries like China and Iran so that our athletes could benefit from their sporting expertise. Our athletes direly need foreign training and foreign coaches for achieving targets. In the last few years very few foreign coaches have been hired and that has damaged the progress.
Pakistan hired the services of Iranian volleyball coach Hamid Movahedi some time ago. He has worked so well that Pakistan even defeated China in the recently held Asian Games in Indonesia.
The IPC ministry cannot handle sports effectively. It would be a wise decision to take sports back to the education ministry. It would revive sports in educational institutions which are nurseries of sports. Establishing sports schools has been the main reason behind China’s progress in sports. The system invited criticism but it has fetched Olympic glory to China.
In a nutshell, the government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf must take drastic steps to reform the country’s sports system.
The federal government should also force the provinces to work seriously for the development of sports.
The PML-N government spent millions of dollars on youth festivals in Lahore which failed to serve Pakistan’s sports. I have earlier mentioned in my articles that sports should not be considered only entertainment. Sports should be linked to employment.
The Prime Minister himself should focus on the subject as he has been a sportsman and the people involved in sports expect him to work differently for the sector.