ISLAMABAD - The Zalmi Foundation and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) signed a ‘Partnership Agreement’ to work together towards the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Islamabad Thursday.

The ceremony was held here at the United Nations Information Centre while the agreement was signed by Peshawar Zalmi and Zalmi Foundation chairman Javed Afridi and Director UNIC Vlastimil Samek.

Sharing his views, Samek said that cricket programmes provide unique opportunities for youth as team captains, team managers, coaches as well as cricket officials. In these roles, they all become representatives of their communities and are thus required to show much greater level of responsibility. “I hope that this partnership will help to further deepen the understanding about the SDGs among the all strata of people, particularly the Youth of Pakistan.” he added.

Javed Afridi said that the foundation has been working relentlessly for the past three years to promote sports and empowering the youth in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They have also been working towards promoting gender equality and women empowerment. After the signing ceremony with UNIC, we hope to work even with more passion and dedication towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Pakistan.

Later talking to The Nation, Afridi said: “We have worked very closely with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) during the recent past and helped the PCB to launch Pakistan Super League (PSL). It was not about minting money or having nay personal agenda, but it was purely about the image of the country and cricket. I sincerely wanted to help Pakistani youth in the best possible fashion. The PSL in the first edition or even after the completion of three editions is not over the moon profitable investment at all, I am a businessman and if I have invested such huge amount in any other business, I would have earned 10-times more, but it was purely about cricket and about helping Pakistan.”

Javed said there were times in 2010, when Pakistan cricket was badly damaged due to spot-fixing and three main players Salman Butt, M Amir and M Asif were sentenced. “The PCB was facing huge financial problems, and at that time, we helped PCB in the best possible manner and now the board is firmly on its footings.

“Same is the case with Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), like cricket, I really want to help hockey as well. I had extended offer to PHF that we are ready to help the federation to clear dues of the players prior to departure to Asian Games hockey and my standing offer is to the federation and players that my doors are always open. Hockey is our national game and it is the responsibility of every individual to lend a helping hand to the national game,” he added.

When asked about political ambitions and present status-co and rumours about change in the PCB and PHF in the first phase and other federations gradually, Afridi said: “I am not bothered about any such things, as my main focus is to promote sports. Our youth needs healthy positive activities and especially youth of tribal belt, who are highly skilled, talented and well-built, but they just need good environment and training under best coaches and a chance to showcase their skills.

“Zalmi Foundation through our franchise Peshawar Zalmi will do whatever it takes to help the youth and it is indeed helping Pakistan cricket to find fresh blood and groom them into the best in the business. We will gradually expand cooperation to female sports as well as it is high time to involve females and give them platform. I firmly believe in gender equality and I know our girls have guts and talent to excel,” Afridi concluded.