ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president Brig (R) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and secretary Olympian Shahbaz Ahmad Senior categorically denied allegations against the federation’s involvement in human trafficking .

Speaking at the ‘Meet The Rawalpindi Islamabad Sports Journalists Association (RISJA)’ at PMDC office on Thursday, the PHF president completely rubbished the claims made by a few individuals denying saying neither the federation nor any PHF official are involved in human trafficking . “We are neat and clean and have nothing to do with such crime. Three groups contacted me to conduct indoor hockey events and I, after consulting with Shahbaz Senior, gave them permission to hold it, but we didn’t issue any permission letter to any one for international participation.

“If anyone has proofs on the PHF letter pad or any PHF official is involved in human trafficking , one must bring into my notice, it is my promise I will take action and give exemplary punishment to the culprit,” he added.

Brig Sajjad said they suspended Tiger Hockey Club immediately and also wrote a letter to all the affiliated associations in this regard. “Shahbaz attended Aamir Salman’s event in Dubai, but he had no personal relations with the guy. In fact, he attended the event just for the promotion of hockey at international level. I also attended the prize distribution ceremony, but we were not aware of the hidden facts. Now we have formulated a high-level inquiry committee and waiting for their report to be submitted. As soon as we get the report, we would duly act and take the culprits to task.” He said he had taken over the PHF president charge with some clear goals and vision. “Let me assure all, if I fail to implement my vision and ideas, I will step down and will not waste a single day in the office. Yes, I have given a few plans and some of them are implemented and some are in the pipeline.”

He said the biggest achievement of our eight-month tenure was that the junior team managed to beat India twice and booked a place in the Junior Hockey World Cup. “I accept, Pakistan senior team conceded too many goals in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and we lack behind even in Asia, but we know the direction and we have people, who could take Pakistan hockey back to same old glory days heights, but it will take some time,” he added.

Brig Khalid said when he took over, they had only 30 players to form a national team, but in short span of time, now they had enhanced the pool to 130 through open trials. “We are also working tirelessly on grooming and inducting U-16 level tournaments. We have made our annual events’ calendar and their details are mentioned in the calendar.”

He said in short span of time, they managed to hold national championship, women championship, send two junior and one senior team abroad and conducted open trials. “People talk about Rs 70 million funds released by the government, but they don’t know, we had around Rs 30 million liabilities, which we managed to clear. It was our top most priority to clear the dues of players, officials, vendors and travel agency. It is not possible to conduct the championships, camps and send teams abroad for international events in such a meager amount.

“I have met with the officials of the prime minister’s office to discuss in detail the hockey related matters. I requested them to allocate Rs 250 million annual grant to the PHF. When our hockey team will start producing results, private sponsors will come forward but right now nobody is ready to rescue the national game of the country,” he added.

When asked about Pakistan Hockey League (PHL), Shahbaz said: “We have received a highly satisfactory response from international players. We have hired two companies and will give go ahead to the one which will offer us the best revenues. They promised us to provide at least two international players for each of the five proposed participating teams, while they also assured participation pf European players. In case, the PHL is not possible at home soil, then we will go for neutral venue, while our negotiations with Haier Pakistan are also on track and within two weeks, the deal will be finalised.”

About Gojra, he said: “Gojra is the nursery of hockey as it has provided so many players to the national team, but unfortunately, groupings hampered the progress. We are working closely and trying to resolve their issues so that hockey may not suffer and the players of the city get representation in national team.”

Shahbaz Senior said they had been working hard to revive school and college level hockey and to activate academies in different cities. “If the government gives the PHF control of only one stadium either at Lahore or Karachi, we don’t need to depend on government for funds. We can easily generate sufficient amount of funds. We lack quality goalkeepers and short corner specialists and want the former Olympians to help us in finding fresh and promising talent in this regard.”

In the end, the PHF chief and secretary also lauded RISJA for successfully conducting PSWF general council meeting and elections and extended heartiest greetings to newly-elected president Amjed Aziz Malik, secretary Zahid Farooq Malik and office-bearers and also offered their all-out support.