The right choice

April 7, 2024

Having experience in sports infrastructure development, minister for IPC Ahsan Iqbal can transform the country’s sports scenario

The right choice

Senior PML (N) leader and Federal Minister for Panning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal has been given additional charge as IPC minister.

It will be seen how he handles the affairs of both ministries at the same time. But a good thing is that Ahsan is regarded as a sports lover and his presence as IPC minister may be helpful for the country’s sports.

There are several major issues on which Ahsan will need to work. The biggest is sports governance at the state level and federations level. He must ensure that both the IPC Ministry and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) work within their own parameters.

I always say that the PSB Director General should have full administrative and financial powers so that he could take decisions timely and independently which will leave a good impact on sports.

Ahsan should also bring in skilled technocrats to the PSB and bring the Board out of its old-fashioned operational mode so that the issues could be smartly and timely tackled.

We have been witnessing for years that the Board is filled with clerk-type manpower which has failed to deliver.

Ahsan should also find a strong person with loads of sports knowledge and strong administrative skills to work as DG PSB. We also have highly educated people offshore who could also be brought to head the PSB and Board’s other wings. What we need is to come out of the stone-age thinking and work on modern lines so that sports could be put on the right path.

Ahsan is a skilled politician with loads of experience and he should also ensure that national federations work efficiently. He must take a step to cleanse what is going on in hockey as it has been seen that groups are at loggerheads and have formed two federations which is ridiculous.

Pakistan will need to transform its sports structure. The biggest issue is that the majority of our sports federations depend on state funding. Ahsan should ask all federations to submit with the IPC their last five years performance relating to generating revenues and how they spent that money. And he should also see how much the state has supported the federations during the last five years.

It is a big issue that most of our federations are not able to generate funds. Why? The sponsors don’t trust them. Unless we handle the federations affairs professionally we will not be able to promote our sports.

State funding can be a support upto certain extent but the federations need to generate their own revenues.

Most of the federations work in a conventional manner which is not productive anymore.

Federations will need to work on war footing to promote their sports. If they just see it as a business for filling their own pockets then nothing will happen. Pakistan should come first. Federations should be made accountable for what they are doing. Ahsan should also know that some federations get assistance from their International Federations in cash and in terms of equipment. How and where they spend that amount and equipment. Nobody knows. Federations’ working should be an open book. If the federation’s top cadre is not able to run their federations effectively then they should leave and let aspiring highly educated youth take over so that sports could be put on the path of development.

Ahsan also will need to revisit the sports policy and invite input from the top sports brains so that things could be corrected and a better and viable system could be ensured.

I don’t know whether Ahsan Iqbal will stay as IPC minister until the end of the current regime but I would like him to stay and address major issues of Pakistan sports. The benefit of Ahsan’s handling of sports affairs is that he has access to the regime’s top cadre people and he can do the things effectively if he wants.

Ahsan also should look into how the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee is working towards holding the PFF elections. He should see whether NC is conducting district elections as per constitution. The whole record of NC’s performance is in possession of the PSB.

Ahsan should also look into whether the working of the PSB’s provincial set-up is effective. I don’t think it is. He should plant highly efficient directors there by giving them full authorities to generate funds and ensure athletes are properly looked after during camps.

He should ensure regular training camps at the most appropriate places.

Ahsan also should work for abolishing parallel bodies in the country’s sports structure which has been badly affecting the sports development.

The biggest target before Ahsan is to ensure that Pakistan hosts the 14th South Asian Games in a befitting way.

The Games should be hosted in a timeline which could ensure that Pakistan smartly prepares its athletes.

We should not be content to finish fourth but as hosts we will need to finish at least second, behind India.

Ahsan has raised a big sports complex in his hometown in Narowal but being a seasoned journalist with 25 years of experience of covering sports I will urge him that he should plan for establishing a sports city in Abbottabad where national athletes will be able to undergo training in summer. Abbottabad weather is very good in summer and raising infrastructure there will be helpful.

There are a handful of other issues which I will highlight in future. Hope Ahsan gets a fine start towards sports development.

The right choice