ISLAMABAD - The International Olympic Committee (IOC)-backed Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) started training camps for preparations for the Commonwealth Games at three different venues including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

The camps will start today (Thursday) at Pakistan Sports Complex. Major shift in Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) policy was witnessed as previously, the camps were established only those federations, which were backed by PSB-led POA president Maj Gen (r) M Akram Sahi, but all of a sudden, all the previous camps were shut down, only exception of athletics camp, which is still continuing. The Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) is headed by Gen Sahi, while athletics camp of Gen Arif-led AFP will start in Lahore today (Thursday).

The inside sources have confirmed to this scribe that Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) secretary Chaudhry Ejaz, in his visit to Switzerland on 18th of last month, has given in writing about the government policy and assured the IOC that Gen Arif-led POA would be accepted by the government and only the athletes recommended by Gen Arif would be allowed to represent the country in Commonwealth Games and other international events. The PSB in line of new developments, without wasting time, gave a go ahead to Gen Arif backed federations to start camps for Commonwealth Games in different centers.

A total of 12 teams would participate in 12 different events, which include athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, gymnastic, judo, longball, shooting, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling. The most interesting thing to note in all the fuss is huge national exchequer was previously spent on Gen Sahi-backed federations for training camps and now the amount of Rs 40 million will be spent on Gen Arif-led federations’ camps.

The sources have confirmed that shift in government stance has caused huge disappointment in players, who went through months of excessive training but now all of a sudden, they were told that their services are not required and instead Gen Arif-led federations players got nod of approval. It also means after groupings in the POA and the federations, now this disease will spread among players as well. Who is responsible for all that drama as it is not the players’ fault who had given their all for the last few months, going through intensive training, hoping to get a fair chance to excel at international level? No one else, but poor policies of IPC and divide and rule policy of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) were behind the entire drama.

Why parallel POA was encouraged, why Gen Sahi was forced to take driving seat, on what grounds the POA elections were conducted last year and why elections were duly recognised by not only the PSB and IPC but also by the govt.  The sources revealed that Gen Arif is now rewarding his close aides with lucrative and countless benefits. Ten persons were nominated by Gen Arif in different capacities to travel with Commonwealth-bound contingent, which include Pakistan Handball Federation president Haji M Shafiq, who will travel as team manager, Pakistan Boxing Federation president Doda Khan Bhutto, team general manager. M Jahanghir, Syed Ali Raza, M Shahzad, Kifayatullah, M Afzal Awan, Javed Shahmsahd Lodhi, Saeed Iqbal Khan will travel as administrative personnel while Idrees Haider Khawaja as cycling official and Waqar Ahmed as medical personnel.

When and who is going to stop these irregularities? The PSB has released millions of rupees grants to Gen Sahi-led federations. Now same grants will likely to be issued to Gen Arif-backed federations. Genuine players will be deprived of participating in not only Commonwealth Games but also in other mega events. The government must come up with clear-cut plan and should ensure sports policy implemented in true letter and spirit, or stop crying about rules and regulations.