Tuesday February 07, 2023

IOC once again warns against state interference in POA matters

September 22, 2021
IOC once again warns against state interference in POA matters

KARACHI: Taking serious note of the conflict between the state and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that "it will not accept any undue interference from any third parties in the internal governance of the NOC".

In a letter, which has been intercepted by this correspondent, the IOC expressed its hope that all parties can address these issues responsibly in the light of the Olympic Charter to avert any escalation of the dispute.

The IOC has advised POA to meet the state authorities as soon as possible and "recall" what happened and what was decided among all parties during the past decade which had settled the earlier dispute.

The IOC has shown great concerns and advised an appropriate solution with the view to ensuring full respect of the fundamental principle of autonomy of the Olympic Movement in Pakistan while developing harmonious relations and constructive partnerships between the state authorities, NOC and national federations in the interest of sports and the athletes.

The IOC, in the letter, also termed the Supreme Court’s confirmation of the autonomy of the POA in 2019 as a “milestone for the recognition and protection of the autonomy of the NOC and the Olympic Movement” in Pakistan.

The IOC also pointed out that the PSB’s initiative to establish “state-controlled electoral commissions to adjudicate disputes relating to federations and to appoint adhoc committees within federations is not in line with the principle of responsible autonomy of the Olympic Movement”.

The IOC has completely backed the POA and the resolution of its general council of May 3, 2021, to reject interference from the state entities with the internal governance of the national federations, which should be determined in accordance with the rules of International Federations (IFs).

The IOC made it clear that the pressure being built by the Pakistan government on the POA chief to resign due to results of Pakistan’s contingent in the Tokyo Olympics was against the above mentioned principles.

Reiterating that the general council is the supreme body, the IOC observed that the POA General Assembly was the only governing body entitled to “elect or dismiss the members of the POA Executive Board according to the NOC’s statutes and the Olympic Charter".

The IOC stated that the performance of a team at the Olympic Games was the result of the combined efforts and financial support from the state, NOC and federations with the assistance of international sports bodies.

The state-POA rift escalated when the Prime Minister Special Assistant Shahbaz Gill and the IPC Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza during a news conference in Islamabad asked the POA chief Lt Gen (retd) Arif Hasan to resign after Pakistan contingent’s return from the Tokyo Olympics.

The POA then convened its general body meeting on September 16 which fully backed Arif as NOC chief and authorised him to hold constructive talks with the state authorities, particularly the Prime Minister.

The government is set to approve a national sports policy in the next few days despite the fact that its contents seem to violate international rules as pointed out by the IOC in the letter.

The POA has written a letter to the Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking his audience. But sources said the premier has not yet given any response. A few days ago the issue was also discussed at the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for IPC and the POA briefed the committee about its role in Pakistan’s sports.

A few years ago on the reservations from the IOC, Pakistan government had to remove controversial clauses from its sports policy which helped defuse the tension between the NOC and the state. It was former IPC Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada whose positive stance helped the country avoid IOC’s suspension by entering into a deal with the IOC in its headquarters in Lausanne.