Asad I.A Khan, a key national golf administrator, believes Pakistan golf needs both government and private sector support in order to compete with the rest of the world
One of the prime reasons why Pakistan sports rose to dizzying heights in the past was the contributions made by a long list of selfless patrons, mentors and coaches. But over the years, this breed of people, who chose to give to Pakistan sports rather than take from it, has diminished.
One such gentleman, who has made immense contributions towards the cause of the sport of his choice – golf – is Asad I.A Khan.
An architect by profession, Asad, represented Pakistan in golf at the international level. But what sets him apart are his contribution towards national golf over the past three decades as an administrator. Asad has served both Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) and Sindh Golf Association (SGA) in various capacities. He recently ended his second and final tenure as President SGA after having almost single-handedly turned the body into one of the most active sports associations in the country.
In a detailed interview with ‘The News on Sunday’, Asad shares his views on a variety of issues pertaining to national golf. Here are some excerpts.
TNS: Tell us about your association with golf?
AIAK: Well, I started golf in 1967 at the Rawalpindi Golf Club splitting my father’s golf set into two. I kept the odd number of clubs and my brother Arshad kept the even numbers. This happened when my late father Mr. I. A. Khan who later became the President of BCCP, went as Manager of the Pakistan Cricket Team touring England in 1967. Those were high profile days of golf, with President Ayub Khan playing frequently, and other generals seen on the course, Yahya Khan, Admiral A. R. Khan, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, General Musa, General Peerzada, Federal Secretaries, S. M. Yusuf, Altaf Gauhar, M. H. Sufi, I. A. Khan, Enver Adil etc. The Rawalpindi Golf Club was the centre of golf then, Islamabad Golf Club was just coming up, still we used to have a lot of tournaments and would eagerly travel to play outside Rawalpindi, going to Peshawar, Abbottabad, Swat, Bhurban and Lahore – thus I was familiar with golf activities all over Pakistan, got to know and interact with the larger section of golfers and feel at home whenever I play at these venues.
Coming to live in Karachi after graduating in Architecture from National College of Arts Lahore in 1978. By then my father who had an illustrious career as a civil servant and sportsmen, had retired and settled in Karachi. So I became a regular golfer at KGC, the first time I played in Karachi was in 1969 when Nationals were held here. I still remember getting an ‘eagle’ on the then hole # 01, which is now yellow hole # 13. I also remember Justice A. R. Cornelies was the Chief Guest, he too was a keen golfer and would be regularly seen at the Lahore Gymkhana Golf Club, pulling his own trolley.
TNS: Do you think Pakistan golf has progressed according to potential over the years?
AIAK: Well, a great deal of progress has indeed been made, but apparently not enough, for any of our golfers to shine internationally. The potential of course is there, we have literally wasted away Shabbir Iqbal from International golf, he himself does not show any great interest to go ‘international’, so what can PGF do in this regard? SGA tried too, but unfortunately our professionals lack that drive to take that major step of stepping out of the Country, devote their time and energy to professional golf. Most of the top professionals are now comfortably placed financially, earning sufficient amount to be content. Except for Ahmed Baig, a wonder boy of golf today in Pakistan. He needs to be encouraged and supported to go international, there are a few others like upcoming Minhaj Maqsood, Naeem Khan, Taimoor Khan etc. There can be no denying, players both Professionals and Amateurs need more support and encouragement from the Federation and the Associations. This will happen only when those elected (or selected) are passionate about the role they play in creating a facilitating environment with a positive and progressive approach towards taking the players and the game forward.
TNS: What are the key areas that the stakeholders of Pakistan golf should focus on?
AIAK: I can’t imagine what we can expect from the stake holders. They are not really stake holders – they are appointed or elected to their positions by virtue of who they are in the hierarchy of the Armed Forces or their reputation as golfers of some standing. The Office Bearers are mostly then chosen from within this particular circle.
At present, the PGF’s main thrust is on Professional Golf with very little attention on Amateur Golf. The Professionals nonetheless, still feel unrepresented and are mostly critical of the impervious attitude of the PGF Secretariat. What needs to be done, as I have been repeating, over and over again, is to make two sections in PGF, if we are, for whatever the reasons, still not willing to let the Professionals form their own Professional Golf Association. We should at least make a start, with one dealing with Amateur Golf and the other with Professional Golf. We can surely have two separate Secretaries looking after these two sections. At least, this will be a positive step towards the promotion of Professional Golf and its useful representation.
Presently, other than just holding major Open Golf Championships, which are also mostly organised and funded by the clubs through sponsors, the PGF has hardly a role to play. The Secretary of the Federation and most Secretaries of the Associations become the face of the Organisation and implement decisions which they make and take, a face that golfers hardly get to see. The Executive Committees mostly remain uninvolved and least informed.
The PGF Secretariat should be such that every golfer can look up to for redressal of any issue and might I say, there are plenty of issues that keep coming up. Every golfer has a right to approach the PGF, talk directly to the office bearers, after all, it is the Members that pay Capitation Fee to PGF to run its affairs – It has to be responsive and attentive. The PGF is indeed the Regulatory body of the game in Pakistan, it is duty bound to serve the interest of the players and the organisations as well as the Clubs, where Golf is played.
TNS: Over the years some of our regional countries like India and Bangladesh have shown great progress in golf. Why has Pakistan failed to achieve similar progress?
AIAK: Yes, India is way ahead of us, so is Bangladesh now. Why? And how? I know that both India and Bangladesh spend heavily on sports, golf in India has full corporate support, In Bangladesh, the government and their private sector is in the forefront. In our case, there is hardly any support of the government to talk about. PGF gets pittance from the Pakistan Sports Board on an annual basis, SGA gets nothing from the Sindh Government or Sindh Sports Board. We are completely on our own, as a matter of fact, SGA is practically working as a private organisation, with not an iota of financial support of any government or corporate sector.
I strongly feel that the government should take up the role of the ‘Patron Saint’ of sports, not just by mere designation, the President being the Patron of Hockey or the Prime Minister being the Patron of Cricket. Patronage comes from pride, from desire, and keenness, with direct and indirect involvement, through financial backing, and above all a vision for the Country. Minus this committed support, we will remain as is, notwithstanding our own momentum which keeps us going.
TNS: You have enormous experience both as a golfer and an administrator. How do you plan to use it to the benefit of Pakistan golf?
AIAK: Yes, I have been playing competitive golf up till now. I was on the Managing Committee of KGC last year, this year I am the Vice President. I would want nothing more than to improve the playing experience of all those who come to KGC – from the golf course to the Clubhouse facilities. Being an architect, I have the constant desire to keep improving our surroundings. Playing golf is an experience that we enjoy with every round of golf. Nothing really stops us from doing want we really want, except our own limitations. I was Captain in 2008 – 2009, and then left for Lahore to head Nespak as its Managing Director (2009-2014) – Earlier, I was Captain of golf at Arabian Sea Country Club, I was the Architect of the Clubhouse and the Lodgings, taking great pride in it – a great facility for Karachiites, a retreat, a resort. It just needs an injection of funds and it will be back to its old glory of being the finest golf course in Pakistan. Defence Raya in Lahore is now by far the best golf course in Pakistan, comparable to the best in Asia. I remain quite involved with golf at ASCC and I would definitely like to see it prosper, and return to its original condition. SGA holds the Sindh Open Golf Championship at ASCC every year since the last 21 years – calling ASCC ‘the Home of Sindh Open’. It is a great golfing venue which has tremendous potential to grow into a world class Resort. Pakistan Golf does need without a doubt dedicated people, to take it forward, to become a far more active and progressive organisation that it is today. My own experience as player and as an administrator and organiser has of course helped our golfing organisations to some extent. Yes, much more could be done, not only in golf, but in sports, in general. I am always ready to give my best, so wherever and whenever required, be it architecture or golf, I will be there Inshallah.
TNS: You have also been serving as a senior PGF official. What are areas you think PGF should be focusing more on?
AIAK: As for me being a senior PGF official – Yes, a Vice President. There are two in PGF, who have a negligible role to play as Vice Presidents. Whatever little contribution I have made is on the basis of being on its Executive Committee – thanks to our President Lt. Gen. Hilal Hussain who is a keen and competitive golfer. One big step that was taken on my initiation was the revival of Amateur Golf in Pakistan, by somewhat separating the semi-professionals from amateur status, albeit giving them ample opportunities to play and grow. This one step has given tremendous boost to the young aspiring amateurs in Pakistan to take golf more seriously and participate in most major events. Omar Khalid at the age of 16 became the youngest ever National Champion. We have Saim Shazli, Yashal Shah, the Shikoh brothers, Daniyal Khan, Sameer Sayeed, Sameer Feroze, Abdullah Ansar in Karachi, and Damil Ataullah, Ahmad Kayani, Umer Khokhar, Salman Jehangir, Hamza Khattak up North and quite a few more. As for PGF, I think it should be more pro-active, invite Foreign Teams and Players to play our Open and National events – PGF should be sending our Golf team and Players abroad more frequently. It should support the Professionals to participate in International Events.
TNS: Where do you see Pakistan golf five years from now?
AIAK: Five years from now we will have a better Karachi Golf Club, a rejuvenated Arabian Sea Country Club and golf getting more popular and a demand for greater improvement in the quality of golf courses. Other than that, golf will continue to remain a club sport, struggling to draw attention of the corporate world and the government for patronage.
As officialdom of eminent status will continue to play a dominant role in the PGF, it can only be expected, that they take on board such individuals who have the time and passion to support the players and the clubs to prosper. Without full time commitment of the Federation and Associations, golf in our country will remain a ‘part time’ social activity. Nevertheless, it is gaining strength on its own esteem, through private endeavours and individual initiatives.
— To be continued
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News email@example.com