The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) have been at loggerheads over the implementation of some of the clauses of the National Sports Policy — 2005 and the rules of the PSB. The issues are self-made and nothing more than a storm in a teacup. But undoubtedly, its consequences will be severe and sports in the country will suffer if both parties fail to solve the issue. Pakistan may have to pay a huge price by losing the membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and ultimately of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

The IOC resolves to ‘uphold’ the Olympic Movement which rejects any interference by the government in the affairs of the national sports federations and the POA. It has suspended the membership of many countries, due to violations of the IOC Charter and Olympic Movement either by governments or by sports federations and the National Olympic Committee (NOC). The case is no different in Pakistan, since the government has made a few changes in the rules unilaterally, which gives it a free-hand to intervene in the affairs of the federations.

According to one of these amendments, the PSB empowers to "approve, amend and repeal the constitution of the national sports federations." The second amendment says that the PSB can "potentially take sanctions against office-bearers and to impose tenure restrictions for all office bearers of the national sports organisations."

The third policy has been under debate for a long time: it restricts the national sports federations' president, secretary and treasurer from taking office for more than two times.

The IOC and the OCA have declared all these clauses as interference of the government and against the IOC Charter, in a letter written on June 21, 2012. Earlier, the IOC had invited the joint secretary of PSB Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the POA president Lt. Gen (retd.) Arif Hasan to its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to hear their points of view.

In its decision, the IOC demanded the elimination of controversial clauses from the PSB rules. Regarding the national sports policy restriction, it empowered the national sports federations' general council to decide the term of their three main office-bearers, and not the government.

As far as the tenure restrictions for the office bearers are specifically concerned, the IOC and OCA do not discuss in substance whether there should be a limitation or not of the number of terms. The IOC and OCA add that these issues are internal matters, which fall under the jurisdiction of each national sports organisation and must not be imposed by the government authorities, but should be decided freely on a case-by-case basis by each of the national sports organisations concerned through their respective constitutions adopted by their respective general assemblies.

The IOC had set Sept 15, 2010, as the last date for the PSB to submit its reply over these rulings; however, there’s no indication that a letter of confirmation had been dispatched till then. Moreover, in review petition of the PSB, the Supreme Court has ordered that the sports federations, which want to remain registered with the PSB, should follow all the sports policies. This leaves them between the devil and the deep blue sea, since they are in the need of affiliation of both the PSB and the IOC.

In the latest development, the federal sports minister had summoned general body meeting of the PSB in Islamabad on October 1. But it could not be held after the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) got an order from the Lahore High Court, binding the federal minister not to take any decision about the two-term tenure restriction in that meeting, since the federation has already filed a review petition in the Supreme Court in this regard. There are reports that the minister had a hidden agenda behind announcing a parallel body of the POA through this meeting. The ministry has already increased the members of the general body of the PSB quietly by raising its members from 36 to 80 by including various government departments into it.

The POA president has appealed to the president and prime minister of Pakistan to help both the parties in taking a wise decision, but there has been no positive response from either of the high offices. Interestingly, the entire situation rose after the elections of the POA, held in the first week of February this year. Hassan succeeded in retaining his seat for the third tenure. His rivals — Major General (retd.) Akram Sahi, president Athletic Federation of Pakistan and Qasim Zia, president Pakistan Hockey Federation — had put their weight behind the PSB, and since then the Olympic family had been divided.

It seems Sahi and Qasim are interested in getting rid of Hassan, as they both believe the two-term restrictions of the sports policy also apply to him. However, the Supreme Court's order says that before parting with this judgment, “We may note that the matter before us was confined to a controversy between the appellants on the one hand and respondents Nos. 1 to 4 on the other. Respondent No. 5 namely, the Pakistan Olympic Association was not affected by the impugned judgment and remains unaffected by our present decision.”

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