LAHORE: Terming it a major flaw in the 18th Constitutional Amendment, Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) Dr Fehmida Mirza reckons the federal government’s role in sports affairs remains unclear after the Amendment and says the provinces having necessary resources and working under a special sports ministry have the major role to play in this regard.
“I am not running any [federal] sports ministry in Islamabad. Basically, I have a role to just coordinate with the provinces and to guide them to make their policies [on sports] in a uniformed manner,” Dr Fehmida told Dawn in an exclusive talk the other day.
“I have no mechanism at the grassroots level, where we all have to revive sports first. I have asked the provincial ministers to declare sports as mandatory at the school level, besides providing small playgrounds in every nook and corner of the provinces, instead of building huge sports complexes costing billions of rupees,” she said.
Dr Fehmida said now the major role in producing players is left with the provinces and national sports federations.
“We have the Pakistan Sports Board, under which comes the Islamabad Sports Complex, and that is also not in perfect working condition due to the negligence of the past governments,” she lamented.
“It is also a reason that we have now decided to review the National Sports Policy 2005 to get a clearer picture of the role of federal government in sports, in line with the 18th Constitutional Amendment,” she said.
“Unfortunately, media is also criticising the federal government for sports decline, whereas the major responsibilities in this regard are to be taken up by the provincial sports ministries, where resources have been made available after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment [in 2010],” she underscored.
On whether the federal government’s role in sports carries significance for any player who yearns to represent Pakistan at international level, the IPC minister responded in affirmative but emphasised that preparing athletes for international contests from grassroots is the task of the provinces which she said have the resources.
Meanwhile answering a question on when sports activities, which are currently suspended due to coronavirus pandemic, would resume in Pakistan, Dr Fehmida said safe and secure environment is needed before sports can be resumed.
“We have a plan to resume sports activities in the open area of the Islamabad Sports Complex. However, there is a big problem of gas leakage [there]. Therefore, in order to make athletes’ lives safe, I have decided to first get the gas pipelines repaired plus other sanitary works, before sports activities are revived,” she said.
The IPC minister said that the provinces are independent in their decision for resuming sports after assessing the Covid-19 situation.
”Six weeks ago I wrote a letter to all provincial sports ministries plus Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir for a virtual conference to move forward in a uniformed manner in deciding on how to support players and other stakeholders in this difficult time of Covid-19 and how to take other [related] steps,” she remarked.
“While the Sindh government has not responded to the letter yet, the advisor on sports in Balochistan fell victim to Covid-19, and that conference could not be held so far.”
Replying to a question, the federal minister said though a report on sports promotion made by Ehsan Mani, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, is on her table, she has some reservations on it.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the job to Mani to present him a report on how to promote sports in the country. However, that report has not been made public so far.
To a query, the minister said in fact no government department like Wapda, Railways and others should run sports, insisting “it is not their job”.
“Frankly speaking it is not the job of Wapda and Railways to run sports as they have their own specific jobs and they also have their financial problems,” she stated.
“The PCB has also abolished departmental cricket; it is a separate debate whether it is a right decision. Yes, cricketers, who are the employees of those departments, lost their jobs. I suggest all of them should be accommodated by their provinces,” she said.
Dr Fehmida added, “To change this culture of departmental role in sports, the IPC ministry has included two businessmen in the newly-formed board of the Pakistan Sports Board, one from Sindh, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi and another from Punjab, Shafiq Abbasi.”
While admitting that sports in Pakistan is on decline, she was quick to add that the deterioration did not happen just in the last two years. “Sports has seen gradual decline in Pakistan during the last many years.”
When reminded that while the PSB has issued annual grants to 16 national sports federations, it has missed a number of other federations, including Pakistan Federation Baseball, which attained fifth position in the Asian rankings, the minister said the PFB is also included in the list and would soon get the grant.
“We assisted the baseball federation in the past and we will continue to support all those who have achieved honours at the international level,” the IPC minister concluded.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2020