A DISCUSSION regarding the evolution — or rather the lack of it — of the National Games over the last few years has evoked several depressing memories for those who are committed to seeing them held regularly. The latest setback is the postponement of the 33rd edition of the Games in Peshawar by a couple of weeks. The justification for the disruption of the jinxed event this time has been provided by the JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman as he grapples with the heavyweights in Pakistan’s power arena. The ‘Azadi March’ could cripple some, if not all, activity in his home province of KP. The National Games have been the planned protest’s first casualty. After what has happened in the past, nobody is confident that the event will be held even on the new scheduled date. This edition was to begin in Peshawar on Oct 26. It has now been pushed to Nov 9-14. The announcement came just when the National Games’ torch was on its way to the KP capital, which had ‘bravely’ accepted the responsibility of hosting the sporting gala once the original venue, Quetta, gave up after trying for many years. Balochistan could never come up with the infrastructure. There was always too much in the pipelines and too little on the ground.
The lack of funding, including the absence of resources needed to develop a worthy enough infrastructure, has been a huge factor in the repeated delaying of the Games. But there have been other issues that, in recent times, have spoiled matters, such as politics in the country’s sporting organisations and the latter’s clash with one another. It is very unfortunate that this often ugly internal friction has been allowed to exist for so long; it has had a terrible effect on a vital sporting tradition. There has to be a strong reassertion of the belief in how these events are essential to the life of the country and people. Only then can the National Games survive temporary hurdles created by politics within and outside Pakistan’s sporting organisations.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019