THE new federal government which will be taking over the reins later this week will have to make sincere efforts to win back the confidence of foreign teams to tour Pakistan again and will also need to adopt measures to resolve the ongoing tussle between the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA).
Sports arenas in Pakistan, including the cricket and hockey stadiums, have been presenting a deserted look since that ghastly terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009. Almost all the leading sports nations have refused to tour Pakistan owing to security fears and the scenario confronting the country’s sports is getting bleaker by the day.
However, despite the gloomy situation no serious efforts have been made by the governments in the past to restore the confidence of the foreign teams to visit Pakistan without any fear.
Even the Bangladesh Cricket Board is not ready to send its under-19 side to Pakistan despite receiving assurances from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) regarding the security arrangements. Sadly, though, no assurances were given by the federal government to Bangladesh when it mattered the most and the tour never materialised.
Instead of making joint efforts to successfully host Bangladesh senior team in Pakistan, the PCB and the Punjab government remained at the loggerheads over the security measures which has further damaged the national interest.
Similarly, the current tussle between the POA and the PSB has brought the country at the brink of IOC’s suspension. The tussle has been on since February 2012 when the POA elections were held but instead of making efforts to resolve the issue, the PSB has itself become a party which is, indeed, deplorable.
With the support of those national sports federations whose candidates lost the POA elections, the PSB started a campaign to remove the elected officials despite the IOC warnings to suspend Pakistan’s Olympic membership.
Unfortunately, the last federal government turned a blind eye to the whole situation, ignored the IOC warnings and surprisingly gave a free hand to the PSB to flout the Olympic charter. On Thursday, the Executive Board of the IOC gave a final warning to Pakistan to either sort out the matter or get ready for Olympic suspension similar to what was handed to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) about two years ago.
Under the current circumstances, the new government will have to make sincere efforts to steer the country out of the sports crisis. In order to do that, the first step should be the appointment of a well-reputed, competent sports personality with lots of experience under his belt to deal with all the thorny issues at national and international level.
Presently, the role of the current hierarchy of the PSB is seen as controversial and biased. The PSB Director General Amir Hamza Gillani recently held discussions with a non-recognised sports body and later announced in a press conference that a huge amount of Rs80 million will be dished out to the illegal organisation for hosting the 32nd National Games.
It may be mentioned here that only a few months back, an edition of National Games was staged by the POA in collaboration with the Punjab Olympic Association at a cost of just Rs17.5 million. However, the PSB, hell-bent on making a mockery of things and the funds, is ready to stage yet another edition of National Games in Islamabad from June 25.
To overcome this crisis, there is an urgent need from the govt side to revisit the National Sports Policy 2005 which is the real bone of contention between the PSB and the POA.
The policy, which was prepared by a select group of people, contains several flaws and has never been thrashed out by experts and stakeholders at any open forum.
The new government will have to take the bull by the horns and adopt some strict measures to set things right in Pakistan sports. It should also allocate funds generously to organise top-level tournaments which offer lucrative prizes so that better sportspersons are produced and groomed within the country besides attracting professional athletes from around the world to compete in Pakistan.