LAHORE: Ten former hockey Olympians have jointly appealed to Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to sack the current regime of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) and spare some time to sort out the hockey affairs by announcing measures to rescue Pakistan hockey from complete disaster.
Prominent Olympians including Tariq Aziz, Manzoor Junior, Hanif Khan, Col. (retd.) Mudassar Asghar, Khawaja Junaid, Khalid Bashir, Wasim Feroze, Saleem Nazim, Navid Alam and Muhammad Saqlain addressed a sizeable gathering at a seminar held at the Lahore Press Club here on Monday under the auspices of the Olympians Forum.
President of the Lahore Press Club Arshad Ansari also welcomed all the guests, especially who came from Karachi for a noble cause of saving the game of hockey which Pakistan had ruled for several decades in the past. Karachi Hockey Association president Junaid Ali Shah and secretary Haider Hussain, whose affiliation has been cancelled by the PHF, also addressed on the occasion.
The Olympians, in their short speeches expressed their concern over the shambolic state of the national game and urged the PM for his immediate attention to hockey affairs. Big banners and slogans were displayed across the seminar hall against the current regime of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) headed by Brig. (retd.) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and secretary Shahbaz Ahmad Senior.
‘Game needs to be rescued through immediate measures’
Some of the banners demanded the arrest of four top officials of the PHF by NAB while the other banners also carried slogans such as ‘Who has tried to bribe the auditors sent by the federal government for the forensic audits of the PHF’s accounts’ and ‘Where have 100 crores of the PHF gone’ or ‘Appeal to PM Imran Khan to sack PHF officials’.
Though the speeches made by the majority of Olympians were not as strongly-worded as the slogans displayed in the hall, they were unanimous in their call of getting rid of the current regime at PHF. A number of speakers also suggested solutions and quick remedies to rescue the game.
Read: Hockey disaster
Tariq Aziz, a member of Pakistan team which won the second gold medal at the Olympics for Pakistan in 1968, said the situation today is alarming for which nepotism, lack of merit in decision-making and corruption were the main reasons. “The trend in the PHF of awarding key posts to its critics to win their favour is also one of the reasons behind the collapse of the game,” he said.
Mudassar, who also worked as secretary PHF in the 90s, said though the situation was really bad, there was no reason to lose hope as Pakistan could still raise a strong team in two or three years if honest people were put at the helm. He reminded that in 1986 Pakistan finished 11th in the World Cup but, thanks to some able people at the helm at the time, Pakistani bounced back to bag a silver medal in World Cup 1990 and then won the World Cup in 1994. He lamented that the current PHF officials had done nothing for the Pakistan hockey in their long tenure and had only filled up their pockets and kept their seats in tact.
Manzoor Junior, captain of Pakistan team which last won the Olympics gold in 1984, said the players and officials of the past era had always considered hockey as their pride and worshiped the game. He claimed that future of Pakistan could be bright if honest people with merit and expertise were made in charge of the game. “The current PHF officials have no ability to control the decline. I appeal to the Prime Minister to take immediate action against the current officials of the PHF for the betterment of the game,” he said.
Legendary Olympian Hanif Khan said that in his first meeting with PHF president and secretary in Karachi, he had asked him to bring improvement at the grassroots level. “But they turned a deaf ear to my advice and now the infrastructure has been destroyed which is a shame.” He alleged the current regime raised parallel bodies at district levels just to get favourable vote.
Hanif lamented that said PHF president Khalid Khokhar should have taken measures to improve the game and should not have relied on Shahbaz who is a very cunning person and have destroyed the game.
Salim Nazim said the situation was hopeless and he endorsed all the banners displayed in the hall. He asked the prime minister, where his vision of “say no to corruption” had gone. He pointed out that a delegation of Olympians had met federal sports minister Fahmida Mirza some two months who had ordered a forensic audit of the PHF accounts. “But sadly, no progress has been made on it so far.”
Khalid Bashir said the PHF officials were not professional. He said they came in the PHF on the recommendation of former federal minister Ahsan Iqbal, who had closed relation with Brig. Khalid. “Due to Ahsan’s recommendation the previous government gave lot of funds to the PHF which were misused,” he alleged. He said Shahbaz Sr had destroyed the sport and named four key officials of the PHF including Brig. Khalid, Shahbaz, Ikhlaq Usmani as treasurer and Adnan Shahid as accountant of the PHF who should be put behind the bars.
Khawaja Juniad said in the current tenure Pakistan was ousted from World League because lack of funds. He said the federation had no plan, no road map how to resurrect the game.
Navid Alam alleged that the PHF president and secretary had lost the confidence of the Congress as they both could not bag even 44 votes from a total of house of 144. He said the president PHF had allotted key posts among his own relatives. He admitted that the former Olympians were also responsible for the state of the game today
Wasim Feroze, Muhammad Saqlain and Junaid Ali Shah also spoke on the occasion and criticised the current PHF regime.
Later a joint resolution was passed, appealing to the government to sack the current PHF officials and to bring back those who enjoyed good reputation and had a better vision to put the game back on right track.
Published in Dawn, April 09th, 2019