LAHORE: The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) on Friday hailed the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revoke the Olympic qualification status of the 25m rapid-fire pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi after Indian officials refused to grant entry visas to Pakistani participants Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Muhammad Khalil.
Ghulam Mustafa and Khalil were due to participate in the 25m event on Saturday in which two places at next year’s Tokyo Olympics were meant to be at stake. The IOC, however, said the refusal of visas for competitors went against the principles of the Olympic charter relating to discrimination and political interference from the host country.
“The IOC Executive Board took a very prudent and balanced decision whereby they withdrew the recognition of the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol competition in which the Pakistani athletes were supposed to participate and asked the ISSF to make a proposal on how the two available quota places will now be reassigned,” the POA said in a statement. “We are very grateful to the IOC for this very well considered decision whereby the right of athletes to participate without any let or hindrance has been upheld. We are also grateful to them for institution of steps to participate subsequently and try to qualify for the two quota places.”
The POA added that the National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) had completed all the formalities for visas in time and expressed its disappointment that they were not issued.
“Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Mr. Muhammad Khalil Akhtar, were to contest in the category of 25m Rapid Fire Pistol and were part of the team for whom the visas had been applied for, from the Indian Embassy in Pakistan,” it said. “Despite the fact that the NRAP had completed all the formalities well in time (more than sixty days in advance as stipulated in the policy/instructions), till 21 Feb 2019 they had not been issued the visas.
“Later in the day it was learnt that their passports have been returned without the issuance of the visa. The NRAP had been constantly reminding the Organising Committee and ISSF of the delay in the non-issuance of the visas. POA in the meanwhile also took up the issue with the IOC and supported the stance of NRAP for the withdrawal of the quota places in which Pakistan was participating.
“It is important to understand that the hosts, once they have been allocated an event are responsible to ensure that the all participants are facilitated in all respects, specially the issue of visa. The IOC policy is very clear on the allocation of international sports events and the rights of the Athletes to compete without any discrimination.”
The POA reiterated that it believes that sports must be used for the promotion of peace. “We were very disappointed once our athletes were not allowed to participate for an event for which they had been preparing for a very long time. We have always been of the view that sports must be used as a means to build bridges between communities and countries. It can and must be used for the promotion of peace and not otherwise.”
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2019