FOR quite sometime now, the change of guard in country’s general elections bring with it new faces at the helm of affairs in a couple of national sports federations, including the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In case of PML-N reversal in Wednesday’s election, a similar exercise is likely to be repeated with would-be winning party’s handpicked people destined to take reign of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) and the PCB among others succeeding the incumbents.
One need to curse none other than the government for compromising the merit which is one of a major factor of the declining standard of sports in the country for the last 25 years. One doesn’t need an iron rod to destroy the system but task can easily be achieved by appointing a wrong man at the top.
Retired Brig Khalid Sajjad Khokhar, a relative of former PML-N Interior Minister Mr Ahsan Iqbal was appointed PHF chief out of the blue in August 2015 as ex-Olympian Akhtar Rasool was compelled to step down.
The latter had remained at the helm of PHF earlier too, but was not in the liking of the PML-N hierarchy when removed to make way for the former.
Initially Khokhar was willing to take over as the PTF chief and had also filed nomination but Salim Saifullah got a go ahead from those who matter and finally the former had to withdraw his candidature.
A quick three-year look of the Khokhar-led PHF reveals a gloomy picture despite being awarded huge funds from the corridor of power.
2015: Back-to-back junior events — Sultan of Johor invitational tournament and the eighth Junior Asia Cup — both held in Malaysia, were the first tests of the new set-up. Pakistan finished at the bottom among six teams in Sultan of Johar event held in Johor Bahru and runners-up in the Asia Cup losing 6-2 to India in the final in Kuantan. The only consolation was that Pakistan qualified for the Junior World Cup in Lucknow.
2016: Pakistan missed the London Champions Trophy after being extended special invitation by the FIH due to financial constraints. The junior team was deprived to compete in the Lucknow World Cup. Besides, the green-shirts beat India in India twice — in the league and the final – to win the South Asian Games title.
2017: Though activities picked up momentum during the year but on the whole it turned out to be pathetic. Pakistan qualified for the 2018 World Cup slated in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar in Dec 2018, thanks to FIH for raising the number of teams from 12 to 16.
Pakistan won five-Test series against New Zealand on their soil 2-1 with two games ending in stalemate. In the second leg, hosts Australia swept the four-Test series against the green-shirts. The relations between Pakistan and Malaysia become sour when the latter for the first time didn’t invite the former in the 26th Azlan Shah Cup and the place was filled by Great Britain.
The Pakistan under-18 team won the Australian national junior hockey championship beating New South Wales in the final at Hobart.
Pakistan finished seventh among 10 teams in the World Hockey League in London and survived scare of getting eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.
The hockey fraternity demanded resignation from Khokhar and Shahbaz asking them to accept responsibility. Pakistan ended up third in the eight-nation Dhaka Asia Cup and fourth in a four-nation competition in Melbourne.
The Shabbir Sharif side won the Nishan-i-Haider 9ners hockey tournament that featured 11 low-profile goal-keepers from Australia and Argentina in Karachi.
The secretary of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hockey Association Syed Zahir Shah filed a petition against PHF in the Peshawar High Court leveling allegations of financial irregularities.
He alleged that the PHF had received Rs440 million during three-years from the federal government, off which Rs 220 million were withdrawn in hard cash from Habib Bank branches in Karachi and Lahore which is clear violation of the PHF constitution.
He further alleged that Rs120 million were withdrawn when the PHF chief was away for five months for treatment.
Khokhar announced that the PHF will introduce uniform coaching curriculum soon but unfortunately, it failed to see the light of the day.
The World XI that comprised players from half-a-dozen nations — the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Argentina, New Zealand and Spain — played two games against the Pakistan U-18 outfit at Karachi and Lahore and sent positive message to the world. On the sidelines, 12 celebrities of the games including foreign umpires were inducted in the Hall of Fame.
2018: Minnows like Oman and Japan entered their names in the annals of the game in a triangular series played on double league at Muscat in February. Oman drew 4-4 against Pakistan while Japan first drew 2-2 and later edged the green-shirts 3-2 in the final.
Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans flew to Muscat and besides watching the team in action, struck a deal with the PHF to take up as head coach for the second time from March 1, 2018 to Sept 1, 2020. Under Oltmans, Pakistan secured seventh position among 10-nations at the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast and finished at the bottom in the 37th and the last Champions Trophy in Breda.
The country echoed with ‘bogus elections’ as the PHF maneuvered and illegally brought in blue-eyed people across the country at all levels without taking all stake holders on board. Many associations have challenged the modus operandi in the court of law.
Asian Games are around the corner and the PHF has been targeting to win in order to earn a direct passage to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, it won’t be so easy as India, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan will give tough time to them.
Salim Saifullah Khan returned unopposed as the PTF president in December 2014. When he took over Pakistan were in Group II of the Asia Oceania Zone Davis Cup and outclassed by Thailand in Thailand 4-1 in the third round.
2015: Pakistan started the year on winning note and ended it in the same fashion to earn promotion in Group I in 2016 exactly after a decade Pakistan whipped Kuwait at a neutral venue in Colombo 3-2 in the first round, They outplayed Indonesia at Jakarta 3-1 in the second round and returned 3-2 victorious against Chinese Taipei in the third round at a neutral venue in Izmir.
2016: Fancied China whitewashed Pakistan 5-0 in the first round. The latter got a bye in the first round playoff at a neutral venue in Colombo before being blanked by New Zealand 5-0 in Christchurch in the second-round playoff to earn relegation in Group II in 2017.
2017: Pakistan defeated Iran 3-2 in Islamabad in the first round. In the next, Pakistan got a walkover against Hong Kong China and edged past Thailand 3-2 at home in the third round to again surge to Group I in 2018.
2018: Pakistan had a flying start winning 4-0 against South Korea on grass courts in Islamabad in the first round but failed to maintain the winning run losing 1-4 to Uzbekistan in the second round, also on grass courts in Islamabad.
Though international tennis returned to Pakistan after a long layoff, the writing is at the wall as the moment top duo of Aisam-ul-Haq and Aqeel Khan call it a day, the nation relegates to Group III and may stay there for long.
The PTF failed to find a suitable secretary to run the affairs as three people were appointed during the three-and-a-half year period.
Najam Sethi was appointed as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) by the then prime minister and patron Mian Nawaz Sharif in August 2017. He had two short stints as interim PCB chief earlier.
Incidentally, the Sarfraz Ahmed-led team is producing results and the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is flourishing but that doesn’t mean that the incumbent PCB chief should stay and block the door for a better administrator on merit and not ‘parchi’.
To sheer surprise, Sethi amended the PCB constitution only to accommodate one person, Islamabad Cricket Association’s Shakil Sheikh, within three months after assuming power.
“The International Cricket Council will intervene if any move is made to remove him after country’s general elections,” he told a private television channel when his comments were sought that there is likelihood that the new government will bring in a person of their choice.
He toes the line of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) president retired Lt Gen Syed Arif Hasan, who is taking shelter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the last decade and a half despite falling standard of Pakistan sports.
It’s time that the government stops interference and nominations at the top of national sports federations. The addiction of power of incumbents should also end and the vacancy advertised in newspapers.
If implemented, this will help select administrators on merit and in a transparent manner.