Choosing the right path

May 9, 2021

The government must not create issues which could endanger the national sports federations’ international affiliations

Although due to Covid-19 sports activities at home have been halted, the temperature of Pakistan’s sports circle is very high these days and not for good reasons. Another conflict is going to hit the country’s sports like the one in 2014 when Riaz Pirzada was the IPC minister. The other day national sports federations out-rightly rejected the proposed independent election commission and the judicial commission, which have been incorporated in the sports policy draft which is being given final touches these days. Federations voiced their concerns during the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) emergent general body meeting conducted virtually on May 3.

Before proceeding further I want to reproduce the press release which was issued by the POA after the meeting.

“The General Council resolved to abide by the provisions of the Olympic Charter and respective Constitutions. The National Sports Federations are entitled to independently govern their affairs, operations and functions in particular their structure, membership, governance of sports, electoral processes, dispute resolution mechanisms etc,” the POA press release said. “The General Council stressed that the rules, laws and policy guidelines cannot be productive if these are made without extensive academic and scientific study and require valuable input of all the stakeholders.

“The General Council has urged the Government of Pakistan to uphold its commitment made with the IOC, OCA, ASOIF, ANOC and NOC Pakistan vide Ministry of IPC Letter dated July 03, 2014 following the Lausanne Agreement and to uphold the Resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in New York on October 2014 which recognises sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace, and also supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic Movement.

“It was decided that a delegation of POA led by its president Lt. Gen (R) Syed Arif Hasan, will meet the Prime Minister and Minister for IPC to present the position of the IOC, POA and NSFs.

“Further it was resolved that NOC Pakistan and National Sports Federations and Associations will continue to work in harmony with the Government of Pakistan for the promotion of sport while respecting the basic fundamentals of autonomy and the rights of each stakeholder,” the press release said.

The federations were astonished when they were briefed about the controversial clauses of the proposed national sports policy. They did not have the policy document as the government had not shared it with the stakeholders. Nobody in the Olympic family had any official policy draft. I am surprised why it happened and why stakeholders were not taken into confidence by the government while formulating sports policy. It seems that a right path has not been adopted while framing the policy. International obligations cannot be overlooked. Federations cannot compromise on their autonomy.

Pakistan has passed through such conflicts in the past. The government must not create such issues again which could endanger Pakistan federations’ international affiliations.

I have learnt that the policy draft had been sent to the Prime Minister, who is the patron of the PSB, but he returned it and advised the IPC ministry and PSB to take input from all stakeholders before forwarding it to him.

A few federations had been invited for their input on the policy draft, particularly the election commission and the arbitration body but the majority had been ignored.

The IPC ministry and PSB must take into confidence all the stakeholders before going for such a policy draft. The draft needs massive amendments.

POA’s senior vice-president Syed Aqil Shah told me the other day that before going for such a policy draft a seminar should be held in which all stakeholders should give their input.

He said it would make the things clear and pave the way for framing an effective policy which would help the country’s sports grow.

We need a cohesive and coordinated working relationship among the PSB, POA and national sports federations. If these are on the same page sports will develop and if they keep trying to topple each other and conspiring against each other, sports will suffer.

These bodies will need to work in their own domains if we are to develop our sports.

The PSB cannot make such rules which could influence the selection matters of national teams or compel the federations to sacrifice their autonomy.

Yes, there should be some check and balance but that should be in such a way which does not violate international rules.

If we see the document of Sports Authority of India (SAI), we will find that Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President is a member of its general body while IOA Secretary is a member of its Governing Body. But here the POA has no representation in the PSB ExCo.

It’s right time for the IPC and PSB to hold an in-depth discussion with all the major stakeholders on the proposed policy before finalising it. Pakistan cannot afford any more sports conflict.

We need to work seriously and in a coordinated way to develop our sports which have been suffering for the last few years.

A senior official of the PSB told me the other day that they would hold discussion with the stakeholders after Eid-ul-Fitr and that the government was willing to show flexibility.

It is hoped things go in the right direction in the next few days.

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Choosing the right path