KARACHI: Pakistan’s skeet shooter Usman Chand was not allowed by Pakistan Customs to fly for India where he was to take part in the 2nd Asian Championship Shotgun in Patiala, India, from November 28 to December 9.
“They said I was not allowed to carry a shotgun with me without a letter of permission from the Ministry of Interior. I had the required letter issued by National Rifles Association of Pakistan (NRAP) stating I was going to play in the championship,” he said while talking to ‘The News’.
He further said it is usual for skeet shooters going abroad for tournaments to only have NRAP’s letter, but this demand from the Customs annoyed me because any letter from the interior ministry was not required.
“The customs officials showed me their rules book in which it was written that a letter from the Ministry of Interior is required for carrying weapons. But I know that for shooters the NRAP’s letter suffices,” he said, adding that it was understood that a shooter carried his weapon for any event he was taking part in.
Usman said it was very disappointing for him as he had been training hard for the last three months and had spent more than Rs500,000. “I am at a loss; who is going to compensate me, the customs or NRAP,” he questioned.
He further said that he tried hard to convince the customs officials at Lahore airport but they refused to listen. “I came back home dejected when the time of my flight lapsed. I was denied a bright chance of representing Pakistan at the championship despite my hard training for months,” he added.
Secretary NRAP Javed Lodhi said this was the first time in three years that customs did not allow a shooter to carry his weapon despite seeing their letter. “I have been here for the last three years as the secretary. Every year we send a number of shooters to international competitions but this never happened before,” he said.
He further said that this demand by the customs department to have a clearance letter from the Ministry of Interior was shocking. “The practice is that we issue a letter to those shooters who go abroad for competitions stating that this person is carrying a weapon so he or she should not be held by customs. This is a common practice and never has any incident of denial of boarding happened to any shooter,” he added.
Therefore, he added, stopping Usman was very disappointing. “We will write a letter to the customs department that this was a bad thing to happen to a very talented player,” he added.
But it appears that there is a conflict regarding this issue. A skeet shooter based in Karachi was asked by this scribe about the practice of clearance of weapons. “NRAP issues letter to both the customs department and the Ministry of Interior, requesting them to allow weapons for shooters going abroad for competitions. Then the interior ministry issues clearance letter and shooters have to show that to the customs department before leaving,” he added.
Usman was to represent Pakistan for the first time at any international event and had been aiming at the gold medal.
He was supposed to leave on December 1 to show his skills at the championship in which 117 players of 12 countries are contesting.
Usman, who won all gold medals in the categories of trap, double trap, and skeet at Punjab Games this year, said after this incident he would consider playing for Army or Navy. “I didn’t want to leave Punjab, but now I don’t feel like playing for Punjab as nobody supported me. No official was there to help me,” said 28-year-old Usman, who runs a business of surgical equipment manufacturing.