ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) patron Senator Dilawar Ababs has lashed out at the government for not giving due importance to sports and slashing down PTF annual grant, instead of giving it substantial raise.

Talking to The Nation, Dilawar, who is also Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) senior vice president and member of International Tennis Federation (ITF), said: “Other countries have been giving top priority to sports and investing billions to promote sports and sportsmen. China is the prime example, as a few years back, they were nowhere in international sports, but not only Chinese government but also well off people invested heavily in sports and ensured athletes get all the facilities.

“Chinese government buck up their wealthy people to invest in athletics, football and other sports, which resulted well as Chinese are buying top soccer clubs of Europe and Chinese League is gaining popularity with each passing day, but in Pakistan, nobody is ready to pay heed in ensuring to lift the standard of sports in general and athletes in particular,” he added.

He said when he took over as PTF president, he had made his top priority to first ensure a complex for the players, as when infrastructure was constructed, the players would get the facilities. “I know very well tennis players cannot run their kitchens by playing only tennis. But they can participate in ATF and ITF features and earn handsome cash prizes which will help them live a healthy and wealthy life. With the active help of ATF president Anil Khanna, the PTF has now enhanced the tournament’s prize money and ensured the players must pocket reasonable prize money. We have also introduced incentives for the players as the number one at Asia level will earn a whopping $15,000 cash bonus, number two in Asia $10,000, number three and four $5000 and from number six to 10 will get $2500 each,” he added.

When asked why the PTF failed to conduct a single event in last three months, Dilawar said: “Salim Saifullah has been working very hard and arranging funds for conducting the tournaments and sending players abroad, but the government must also lend a helping hand to the PTF. Salim has suggested that the government should deposit Rs 50 million in the federation’s account, and it will use only profit on the given amount and the actual amount will remain with government, but no heed in this regard was paid.

“Instead the PSB has slashed down the PTF annual grant. We are getting only Rs 3 million annual grant, which is not enough for day-to-day affairs and for sending players abroad for international events. The PSB has also refused to give Rs 2 million special grant to the federation sighting short of cash. Under current circumstances, how one can expect tennis to flourish in the country,” he added.

He said: “Samir Iftikhar and Abid Ali Akbar are making waves in USA university tennis and winning titles. They have also represented Pakistan in Davis Cup ties, so they should be lured, sponsored and the PTF must offer them incentives to play in local events and pay their tickets. Yes, it is true the federation has not produced a single player in around two decades after Aisam and Aqeel, but it has been working seriously on that particular issue and grassroots level activities have been given top most priority. But until international events like past are not conducted in Pakistan, youth will never choose tennis as professional career.”

“I suggest government should allocate Rs 1 billion for four or five sports and then see the results. The government is only taking keen interest in cricket or hockey, while other sports are badly ignored. Under prevailing situation, when international teams and players are not coming to Pakistan, our players are not getting enough opportunities, no one can expect tennis players to perform miracles. The PTF is striving but corporate sector and government must step forward and provide much-needed help to other sports including tennis,” Dilawar concluded.