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Arif rejects government’s allegations; stresses all should work within their jurisdiction for sports development

By our correspondent

LAHORE: Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) president Lt General (retd) Syed Arif Hasan has said that sports can only be developed if the respective sports governing bodies work within their domain.

“We have to work together. Everyone should work within their domain. We want to work harmoniously. We are ready to give advice on matters of sports development,” Arif told a news conference. “We should work together and make a system which could help develop our sports,” Arif was quick to add.

“The POA does not want to play a blame game. We have been compelled to come to the news conference because some allegations have been levelled against us. The Prime Minister has been given a one-sided story. We have also written a letter to the premier and it would be good if he gives us an audience,” Arif revealed.

Arif, who was on video-link from the US, was holding the news conference in a response to the news conference of the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Shahbaz Gill and the IPC Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza a few days ago at Islamabad during which Arif had been asked to step down as the POA chief.

Responding to a question about his resignation Arif said he has been serving as the POA chief through a democratic way. “Yes I have been acting as POA chief for the last 17 years and that’s through a democratic process. The way the system is being misused no one will get the benefit,” Arif said.

“International Olympic Committee (IOC) approves the POA constitution and the world body only gives its approval when it becomes satisfied with each and every detail. Before every election the list goes to the IOC. In the 2012 POA elections the IOC representative was there and in the 2016 elections its rep was not there but it had asked for a complete list and details before it gave us go ahead towards the electoral process. The IOC also then sent us a letter of congratulations,” Arif recalled.

He was responding to the state’s functionaries’ allegations during their news conference about the transparency of the POA elections.

“Why these people felt after two years that the POA’s elections were not fair. Who has briefed them? I leave this on you to understand,” Arif said while seemingly hinting towards the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) president Major General (retd) Akram Sahi.

“Every demand has its basis. I have talked about the role and responsibility. If sports development is not the responsibility of the POA and it is the responsibility of another body then why this responsibility is being associated with me and the POA,” Arif explained.

Arif recalled that only ten days had been given by the IPC ministry to the POA to respond on the proposed National Sports Policy. “You are going to seek an opinion on such an important matter and give us only ten days. We had told them to show us what is the issue with the Ehsan Mani report and what were the flaws of the existing sports policy,” Arif said.

Asked if the state insists seeking his resignation Pakistan may face IOC sanctions Arif said he would not reply to the question as they will blame him for threatening them.

Arif made it clear that because of the strict rules of the Tokyo Olympics due to covid situation it was not possible to obtain accreditation for the PSB officials as the Board had applied for that too late.

About the tickets issue to explain, Arif was assisted by the POA secretary general Khalid Mehmood who said that had POA not purchased tickets on June 11 Pakistan could have missed the Tokyo Olympics.

Khalid said that they had even told the PSB if it faced any issue in the reimbursement of the tickets there was no issue as POA would bear that expenses and the amount which will be spared with the Board should spend on athletes who were aiming to participate in the Tokyo Olympics.

“We are even ready for inquiry about this issue,” Arif added.

Arif said the POA had objected to the surrender of Rs440m by the PSB at a time when the Tokyo-bound athletes direly needed support.

“I had told the state in September 2020 that there are certain athletes who have qualified and some have the capability to qualify. I told it if the state invests in these athletes they may finish at the victory podium. Even in 2018 we had sent a list to the PSB that these players can qualify and they should be supported. And they blame us that it was the responsibility of the POA that why they did not train these athletes,” Arif said.

Arif stressed that elite sports development is the responsibility of the state, adding, the state takes interest in seeing its players at the victory podium.

Arif said that the POA is an autonomous body and has also been confirmed by the Supreme Court, UN, IOC charter and the Pakistan government has also signed a deal with the IOC in Lausanne.

He said that the state is giving too meagre a fund to the national federations which cannot meet even the financial expenditure of a single tour of a squad.

“Look India’s sports budget is 21b Indian Rupees. “Their states spend their own budget, work on elite athletes development and infrastructure building. As compared to that we have an iota of budget. Arshad Nadeem put in splendid performance but look how much investment India had made in Neeraj Chopra who lifted javelin gold in Tokyo Olympics,” Arif said.

“We supported the National Federations and managed the IOC scholarship for shooters and also helped Talha Talib. Federations also contributed,” Arif said.

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