Sunday September 26, 2021

Musical chairs

July 31, 2021

While Pakistan is struggling at the Olympics with most of the sports it has so far entered, it could possibly win if musical chairs were to be included among the list of sports to be competed at during the Olympics or other major competitions. The secretary of the Ministry of Interprovincial Coordination, which overlooks sports, has said that 12 sporting federations out of the 41 or so which exist in the country have followed a policy in which the same officeholders hold the term beyond the two-term limit set with each term lasting four years. This is usually achieved by shuffling from one post to the other, for example with the president taking over as secretary-general, the secretary general as president and so on. The IPC secretary has also said that a new post of chairman had been created legally by some federations to further this process, and ensure the same officials could remain in their seats year after year. Some had held spots in the same federation at the very top of the hierarchy for even decades. This creates stagnation and means that incompetent office-bearers remain in their seats without any possibility of change. In many cases, the office-bearers have also manipulated the voting process to ensure that affiliated units and the heads at provincial level are persons who will vote in their favour, often in exchange for other perks.

The IPC has said that a new policy is being devised under which the Pakistan Olympic Association, the PSB and a high court judge, who would head the body, would overlook the elections to federations and ensure they are held in a fair and impartial manner. The POA itself cannot fall under the policy, although its chief has been in the slot for nearly two decades, since its affairs can be handled only by the International Olympic Committee and not by any third party. To put things simply, the system under which Pakistan's sports runs is in a mess. This is one of the reasons we have more officials present at the Games currently underway in Tokyo than athletes. In the same way, officials find ways to favour themselves and corruption is widespread in many federations. This can only be checked if there is a turnover of officials and competent persons truly interested in promoting sports are found to run the federations which are affiliated either to the POA or the PSB. We also need to reconsider our sports structure as a whole, and emulate the systems which exist in other countries, many of whom have been so much more successful than Pakistan in building winning teams, and individuals, despite the same problems, such as a lack of funds and a lack of facilities. These problems can be overcome if the will and the dedication exist, rather than a desire for power and a well-established trend to cling on to seats year after year and sometimes for decades.