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August 15, 2015
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Killing terrorism softly

Opinion

August 15, 2015

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The crushing defeat of the Pakistan Hockey Team at the World Hockey League qualifying round for the upcoming Olympic games in Brazil to be held in July 2016 prompted the patron in chief – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – to intervene and ask for an immediate report.
This is the same proud hockey team that has 52 medals to its credit – with 22 gold medals. The moment reminds one the rich sports history of our country that brought many laurels and produced world class payers like Shahnaz Sheikh, Samiullah, Hassan Sardar, Shahbaz Senior and Sohail Abbas.
The demoralised team on its return from Antwer city of Belgium had no convincing words to satisfy the angry mood of the nation. However, we must see what really caused this embarrassment.
The players, who were supposed to be well prepared both mentally and physically for this mega event, were surprisingly confused till the last day about their participation in the sporting gala because of lack of funds and some other technical issues.
The team departed for Belgium only after the release of funds on June 15 to participate in the event; the team’s first match was to be on the 20th of June. Just a few months ago, this was the same team that got into the finals both at the Champions Trophy in India in December 2014 and the Asian Games at Seoul, South Korea earlier the same year. This clearly speaks for the uncertainty that prevails within the management circles, and this is what kept the players in a state of confusion.
The financial crises faced by the Pakistan Hockey Federation even made India come up with an offer but our own government could hardly manage time to think of the challenges faced by it and fix the responsibility of the prevailing crises on those responsible. The award of central contract to the players is a long-standing issue that needs to be addressed on a priority basis to provide the players a stress-free environment where they can concentrate on the game only.
Our

national health has continuously been deteriorating, partly due to malnourishment and partly through the lack of sports and recreational activities. Social and economic pressures are adding more to the existing mental stress.
The nation is passing through a mental trauma due to the ongoing war on terror that has claimed over 70,000 people during the last one decade. The worsening law and order situation is another factor. The newer generation, which mostly remains busy with computer and mobile technology, seems to be becoming more aggressive. This added mental stress is clearly manifested in the increasing domestic, social as well as political violence.
Education and sports are integral parts of the character building process that gives one mental as well as physical strength. But these two integral parts were disintegrated into sports and education ministries under different heads in 1986. That helped lessen the importance of physical education at the school and college level allowing sports activities to vanish at the grassroots level. Second, the private educational institutions – which attract over 65 percent of the students – lack proper sports facilities and concentrate more on the bigger enrolment to promote their business instead of promoting the cause of national health.
Third, the introduction of modern tools made ii more difficult for the common people to purchase them with their meager resources. For example, every hockey player on the grassroots level can hardly get a chance to play on a synthetic turf. Pakistan has 16 synthetic turfs with six fully functional. That gives very few people the chance to play on them.
Similarly other synthetic tools, like sticks, balls, kits for the goalkeeper etc have also become pricier with the passage of time, and a common man can hardly manage to afford them. Fourth, traditional games are fast diminishing. Traditional games like kabaddi, kushti, gullidanda that used to be a great source of entertainment for the people in villages in far-flung areas are no more part of our social life.
With all these challenges ahead of us, our planners and strategists failed to offer an alternative on engaging the youth – the most vulnerable class that has been swelling the ranks of the militant Taliban and giving them strength. All the plans, programmes and policies framed so far have been emphasising on the hard tools for countering terrorism.
The 3D policy (Dialogue, Deterrence and Development) that was framed in October 2008 could not be implemented in true letter and spirit. Leaving the two Ds – dialogue and development – the country’s political managers moved ahead with only one D. Last year the government came up with a renewed National Action Plan to counter terrorism and violent extremism but questions are being raised on the government’s sincerity in implementing the proposed strategies.
Past experience shows that using only the hard tools as a counterterrorism strategy was a failure. We have to think of alternate strategies or at least parallel strategies alongside the hard tools that could support the cause of eliminating terrorism once for all from the entire region. The issue of terrorism cannot be fought on just one front. It needs a well-thought-out, well-designed and well-defined strategy to deal with the issue on political, economic, cultural and ideological fronts.
Alongside the hard tools, the promotion of sports and cultural activities offers the best options for engaging the most vulnerable classes – the youth – to say no to terrorism and violent extremism. To that end, we need a thorough revival of sports in the country. To produce healthy brains we have to promote sports at the grassroots level.
Email: [email protected]

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