Cash crunch, cultural
shocks and weather
Under Arif Hasanís watch, Pakistanís Olympic fortunes have worsened in the last eight years. Unfortunately, he continues to call the shots as POA chief
By Khalid Hussain
are Lt General (retd) Arif Hasanís third Summer Games as Pakistanís
Olympic chief. It was at Athens 2004 that he first brushed shoulders
with the high and mighty of world sports at various venues and VIP
lounges in Athens as guest of the International Olympic Association
(IOC). In his capacity as President of the Pakistan Olympic Association
(POA), Hasan was also present at the Olympic Games in Beijing back in
2008. On both occasions, he saw his athletes flopping miserably in their
feeble quest for Olympic medals. On both occasions, he promised a better
tomorrow for Pakistan. On both occasions, he knew it was mere lip
Hasan was fully aware
that Pakistan would go to London 2012 with little or no hopes of winning
an Olympic medal but he still talked about improvement after the Beijing
debacle. If things donít change and the same people, including Hasan,
stay at the helm of national sports affairs then I fear that there would
be no hope for Pakistan at Rio 2016 either.
countryís cricket chiefs, Hasan has arguably been Pakistanís key
sports official for the last 12 years or so. Though he got elected as
POA president in March 2004, Hasan was entrusted with the task of
lifting Pakistanís sports fortunes by his former boss General (retd)
Pervez Musharraf much before that. Hasan, when he was still a serving
major-general, was at the helm of the South Asian Games which were
finally held in Islamabad in 2004 after getting postponed for a few
times because of security issues. Hasan also launched the so-called
Pakistan Sports Trust (PST), a body that was supposed to place Pakistan
firmly on the world sporting map. Hundreds of millions of rupees were
raised and later spent on various projects from the PST platform but
things have only gotten from bad to worse for sports in our country.
Hasan wanted PST to be
the crown jewel of his sporting achievements. The ambitious project was
launched with much fanfare but fell way short of its goals. Over the
years, PST has faded into one of his biggest failures. With a long list
of aborted targets and only hollow promises to defend them, Hasan seemed
doomed for a crushing defeat at the POA election earlier this year. He
was seeking a controversial third tenure and some experts were
predicting that Hasan would fail against General Akram Sahi,
Pakistanís athletics chief who was enjoying the powerful backing of
Pakistan Army. Also in contention was Qasim Zia, Pakistanís hockey
chief and member of the national team that won a gold medal at the Los
Angeles Olympics in 1984.
But Hasan, with the
support of most national federations, retained his post as POA president
for yet another term. It seems that Hasanís role model, when it comes
to the POA job, is his predecessor Wajid Ali Shah. Wajid became POA
chief in 1978 and managed to keep the position for 28 years before
finally retiring in 2004 at the age of 93.
The problem with
Pakistan sports is that there are too many people like Wajid Ali and
Arif Hasan around, who are more interested in safeguarding their job
than doing it.
A glance at Arifís
tenure would tell you how Pakistan sports has declined during the last
decade or so in spite of the fact that a lot of money was spent on it
during that period. Back in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics, Pakistan
reached the semifinals in hockey and missed the chance of winning a
bronze medal narrowly. Several Pakistani boxers made the cut for Sydney
2000 and later for Athens 2004. There were no medals but at least there
was hope. But all of that changed in Beijing, four years after Hasan
took over as POA chief. Pakistan crashed to a catastrophic eighth-place
finish in hockey, their worst showing in Olympic history. Other
Pakistani athletes fared even worse than they did in the last two Games.
But wait, Pakistan
sports was yet to hit rock bottom. For London 2012, Pakistanís hockey
players were the only ones to make the Olympic cut. There would be five
more Pakistanis featuring in the Games but all of them as
Ďwildcardsí. Such entries are gifted by the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) to those nations, who are unable to make the cut for the
Games on merit. Based on their track record, itís a foregone
conclusion that Pakistani athletes wonít really be able to make their
presence felt in those events as they lag far behind most of the other
competitors partaking in the Games.
Hasan would defend his
case by saying that POA cannot be blamed for Pakistanís sports
decline. He would cite the insufficient role played by PSB and various
national federations. Thatís the sort of ostrich approach that has
brought our sports on the brink of disaster. Either our sports officials
donít see the problems staring them in the face or they just pass the
The problem with
Pakistan sports is that its slump is continuing unabated with no light
at the end of the tunnel. Another major problem is that nobody at the
helm of national sports affairs is serious in doing something about it.
Itís true that POA is the only body responsible for the slump. There
is the PSB, the sports ministry, the federations etc. But Hasan tops the
list of culprits because he is perhaps the only one who has been there
for a long time with enough resources to have managed at least some
Meanwhile, the London
Games are on and there is excitement among sports fans in Pakistan, just
like elsewhere on the globe. But there is also this sad feeling that our
contingent will most likely be returning home empty-handed just like
they did in Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing
Unless our hockey team
pulls off a miracle in London, there is no hope for Pakistan. For a
sports-crazy nation itís an unacceptable scenario. But thatís the
way things are and thatís the way things would be unless some kind of
positive change takes place. But that wonít happen till the time
officials like Hasan are calling the shots.
Khalid Hussain is
Editor Sports of The News, Karachi
Arif Hasan (centre)...
was re-elected as POA chief for a third consecutive tenure earlier this
storm is brewing in Pakistanís sports fraternity. The thorny issue
before the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is the implementation of the
National Sports Policy 2005 in the light of the Supreme Court order
which it issued on May 8 this year.
including those of volleyball, handball, gymnastics and cycling,
challenged a few clauses of the policy, particularly those relating to
tenure restriction, in the Lahore High Court in August 2008.
The LHC allowed the
petitions of the federations and declared the tenure restriction clause
unconstitutional in its judgment on October 28, 2010. The PSB challenged
the decision of the LHC in the Supreme Court in January 2011 and after a
few hearings the apex court set aside the LHC judgment, allowed the
appeals of the PSB and thereby upheld the clauses of the Policy.
Hardly a few hours
after the apex courtís verdict, the PSB issued a press release which
said that all those office-bearers of the sports bodies enjoying third
tenure stood dismissed with immediate effect.
The crux of the
verdict is that the government can frame rules and implement them.
According to the National Sports Policy, a single tenure of any member
of the sports federation or association will be of four years only.
President, honorary secretary and the treasurer will be allowed a
maximum of two tenures in any office of the federation or association
after which they will become ineligible for holding the same posts of
that particular federation or association.
However, they will be
allowed to contest for the next higher post of a federation or
association at any time. Tenure restriction will not be applicable on
the office-bearers of the federations holding posts of president or
secretary of World or Asian federations.
If the tenure clause
comes into effect, it will send home several long-standing
office-bearers of the federations and associations.
Following the decision
of the court, it was hotly debated whether the verdict is also
applicable on the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). The POA is of the
view that as it is not affiliated with the PSB it will not be affected
by the decision of the apex court.
But for it the POA
will have to come up with a legal proof that it is not affiliated with
The PSB decided in its
special Executive Committee meeting in Islamabad on July 5, chaired by
federal minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Mir Hazar Khan
Bijarani: (1) All the federations are to implement the tenure
restriction clause within two months while taking into account the IOC
Charter and the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan;
(2) A committee will
be constituted to review Pakistan Sports Board Rules 1981 Para 4 (II-a)
and Para 4 (XI) to align them with the principles of the IOC Charter.
The POA was also told
to clarify its position on the issue of affiliation and recognition with
the PSB, not later than August 15, 2012.
In order to know
exactly the case of the POA, the apex courtís judgment was also sent
to the Law Ministry for review on the suggestion of the POA Chief Lt
General (retd) Arif Hasan. The Board received the reply a week before
its Executive Committee meeting.
The IOC and the
Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) after their joint meeting in Lausanne last
month concluded that the government of Pakistan had every right to
implement National Sports Policy 2005, including the clauses relating to
tenure restrictions. IOC and OCA have recommended that the issue be
resolved through dialogue with the national sports federations.
But IOC and OCA have
raised objections over the provisions of the constitution of the PSB
contained in Para 4 (II-a) and 4 (XI) which are tantamount to
interference in the affairs of the national sports federations and
They asked the
Pakistani government to consider reviewing these paragraphs and making
the PSB constitution in consonance with the IOC Charter.
It has exactly been
done as the Board has formed a four-member committee for the review of
these clauses. The two Director Generals of the PSB, the IPC Joint
Secretary and a legal advisor are its members. But the POA says that the
committee has been constituted without taking it into confidence.
The Rule 4 (II-a) says
that the PSB has the powers to approve, amend and repeal the
constitutions of the national sports federations and associations while
the 4 (XI) says that the Board has the powers to take, with the approval
of the president, such disciplinary action as may be necessary against
any national games and sports organisations, including the amendment or
suspension of its constitution and removal of any of its office-bearers
in the interest of the games and in order to maintain discipline.
The PSB seem committed
to implement the tenure restriction clause as it did not invite the
office-bearers of federations affected by the court verdict to its
Executive Committee meeting on July 5.
Federations have no
option but will have to incorporate the tenure-restriction clause in
their constitutions. At this stage, even if any federation tries to
disaffiliate itself from the PSB, it will be a contempt of court. Even
if any federation severs ties with the PSB it will not survive as the
federations donít have an independent role in the sports development
and they depend in totality on the financial assistance of the
Some say that very
little amounts are given to federations, but they donít realise how
much special grants federations are given in a calendar year.
But in the case of
football, the PSB could face problem in implementing the tenure
restriction clause as FIFA has already warned Pakistan of a ban through
a letter if it found any political interference in the PFF affairs.
The world football
governing body has already spent millions of dollars on infrastructure
in Pakistan and it also gives the PFF around Rs50 million annually.
Insertion of tenure
restriction clause in the constitutions of the federations is very
important as it will play a vital role in the development of sports. By
doing so, old faces, who no longer have the vigour and spirit to promote
their respective sports disciplines, will be sent home. The decision
will help bring fresh faces to serve the countryís sports better.
Pakistan has not
lifted a medal in the Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games when the
hockey team captured a bronze.
performance has also kissed extreme low in continental competitions,
particularly the Asian Games. It is a pity that a few of the top sports
personalities were seen in a picture along with the Pakistan hockey team
in the Olympic village in London the other day. Keeping in view the
condition of their sports back home they should not have gone there. But
being joy-riders they enjoy their trips ó maybe because it is the only
major benefit they get from their posts. POA chief says that the
governmentís interference in the affairs of federations and the POA is
against the IOC Charter and if the government committed any violation of
the international laws IOC would ban Pakistan.
The question that
arises here is: Who made him the POA chief eight years ago? Was it not
General Pervez Musharraf? Why did IOC not take any action at that time
against Pakistan when the government was directly involved in appointing
the POA chief? And the POA chief himself violated the IOC Charter when
he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and the President recently,
requesting them to stop PSB from interfering in the affairs of the POA
and sports federations.
It is the right time
for Hasan to think about his future as he has not achieved anything
mentionable during his eight-year reign.
If, for instance,
Hasan saves himself from the final punch of the PSB, still the
incorporation of the tenure clause in the constitutions of the
federations will weaken his position as he will lose his major
He is also under
pressure from some of his senior colleagues and if he fails to protect
them, the scenario could be damaging for him.
Along with drastic
changes in the civil sports structure, a few changes in the PSB top
hierarchy are also needed as with the current set up it will not be
possible to make any progress in the field of sports.
London Olympics were named Austerity Games in the midst of post-WWII
rationing when visiting athletes had to bring their own food and towels
and were housed in dormitories, hostels and RAF bases. There are a
couple of hard, recession-lined realities, similar to those of 1948, to
keep in mind as you follow this yearís Games in the British capital
despite the high-tech glitz.
One is that Londonís
price tag ó approaching $17 billion in public outlays ó is far less
than the previous Beijing Games and breaks a historical trend of
escalating cost for hosting the Olympics.
The other is that the
London Olympics will see 538 fewer competitors than the 11,028 athletes
who participated in Beijing. That represents the fewest participants in
a Summer Olympics in 16 years, since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
To cut costs at the
1948 ĎAusterityí Games, organisers relied entirely on existing
venues, like the greyhound track at Wembley stadium. It was layered with
cinder for the track and field competition.
As far as the city of
London goes, thereís no cultural shocks kind of things, because the
city is immune to all sorts of international cultures.
For Pakistani or
Indian athletes, it shouldnít be any problem. The only thing they must
avoid is calling a middle-aged lady Ďauntyí because thatís a big
The Games officially
began last Wednesday and had the opening ceremony on Friday ó the
biggest ever.Of course, controversies are part of every Olympics Games,
and London is no exception.
If history is any
guide, this Olympics will be sullied by scandal, most likely involving
instances of athletes using drugs, biased judging or overzealous
security officials. Then there is the threat of bad weather as well.
wettest June in more than a century may have cast a cloud over the final
preparations for the Games, forecasters say the weather is now set to
But in London, the
formula of three Ws ó women, wealth and weather ó can bury you down
without prior notice.
The most adorable
thing about this Olympics is that the legendary Muhammad Ali showed up
for the first time after the 1996 Atlanta Games. Half a century ago it
was in Rome (1960) when Ali won the first heavyweight gold medal as
He became a divisive
figure in the United States during the decade of 60s, after he converted
to Islam and refused to be drafted for service in the Vietnam War ó
for which he was stripped of his title. He remained defiant, regained
the title and became known as, simply, ĎThe Greatestí.
ďThe cars are too
small, the streets are too narrow ó I like open spaces ó and I
havenít seen as many pretty girls like I do at home,Ē Ali said when
he came to fight Henry Cooper in London in 1963. He defeated Cooper
again in 1966 and, by 1971, on a promotional tour, was raving about how
loved he felt in London.
ďI never realised
how many people and followers of all ages, all races, religions and
creeds I had following me,Ē he said. ďIíve never had so many
football star David Beckham (right) and Muhammad Ali pose for a
photograph during the Beyond Sport Summit here on Wednesday night