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Wednesday February 21, 2024

South Asian Games’ committee to seek Foreign Office guidance

February 01, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The steering committee of the 14th South Asian Games that met here Wednesday moved the Foreign Office (FO) to seek guidance on the importance of hosting mega event in wake of proposed hefty expenditures.

A Pakistani police officer checks a vehicle stand entering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on January 18, 2024. — AFP
A Pakistani police officer checks a vehicle stand entering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on January 18, 2024. — AFP

The committee that met under the chair of caretaker Minister for Planning Muhammad Sami Saeed contemplated on different issues confronting the government and NOC on hosting of the Games. The meeting that was also attended by the Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Fawad Hasan Fawad, director general Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), president Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Syed Mohammad Abid Qadri, Secretary POA Mohammad Khalid Mehmood have decided to consult Foreign Office on the importance of hosting the event in special context with regional relations and it implications on country’s image in the world.

“We have decided to consult the Foreign Office for guidance and implications involved in hosting the 14th edition of the Games. The regional relations are one aspect while the other is relating to the importance of the event for the international reputation of the country. There has been an unprecedented delay in hosting the event. Originally Pakistan was scheduled to host the event in 2021, two years after Nepal organised the event in 2019. Due to Covid-19 implications and delay by the PTI’s government to launch the preparations, dates were further delayed,” an official privy to the meeting said.

The POA had finalised March 2024 to host the event a year back but now in all probabilities the Games would be postponed for another year, if at all Foreign Office decides in favour of hosting the 14th edition.

“One thing is certain, Pakistan will not be in a position to host the event within next few months meaning the Games could be postponed for another year.”

Once the steering committee gets required feedback from the Foreign Office, the matter will be forwarded to the prime minister for his approval.

“It will take time to prepare the briefing for the Foreign Office. By the time we receive feedback from the Foreign Office, the elected government and parliament would be in power to decide on hosting of the mega event.

“The caretaker government has limited powers when it comes to approving financial budgets. Once the elected government comes into power after February 8 elections, the approval of the financial budget would be easier,” the official added.

The POA has already submitted an estimate of Rs9 billion to host the event. The hefty amount includes Rs3 billion for development of infrastructure while another Rs6 billion for actual hosting of the Games including the purchase of gear and board, lodging of almost 5,000 athletes and officials turning up from the South Asian countries for the Games.

Once it is decided that Pakistan is going to host the mega event, the steering committee as well as the organising committee for the Games will be reconstituted.

The POA is already under considerable pressure from South Asian member countries to either hold the Games at the earliest or surrender the hosting rights in favour of Sri Lanka where the next edition is scheduled.

In case the Foreign Office decides against organizing the Games, Sri Lanka would not wait for a second to go ahead as the host nation. In that case Pakistan would not only lose the trust of the member countries but it would be difficult for the POA to play any part in bidding for the future editions of the Games.