ISLAMABAD       -        Timely intervention of Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza saved the day for Pakistan as the country narrowly escaped a huge embarrassment.

On the directives of the IPC Minister, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has arranged approval of foreign exchange from Finance Division for Pakistani contingent, which is participating in the 13th South Asian Games in Kathmandu, Nepal from December 1 to 10.

Talking to The Nation on Friday, PSB Director Media M Azam Dar said: “Pakistan was in very serious trouble of missing the SAG due to irresponsible and unprofessional behaviour of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), who are always busy in self-praise and seeking personal glory. Despite several reminders to send permit of the Pakistani contingent, so that the PSB might make all the required arrangements including arranging Rs 95 million for the Pakistani 305-member contingent, the POA kept lingering on the things and made them bad to worse.

“I informed the IPC Minister on Friday morning about the prevailing situation and she ordered me to get the amount released immediately for Pakistani contingent and saved the country from a huge embarrassment. She managed to get approval from State Bank of Pakistan in less than an hour, which was never heard before. Prior to this, for last week or so, due to non-cooperation of the POA, the PSB could not arrange permit from State Bank of Pakistan owing to lack of invoice from the organising committee. It was POA’s responsibility to provide the same weeks before but they never responded timely and wanted to spoil all the good work done by the IPC Minister and her team,” he added.

Dar said the laziness of the POA also deprived Pakistan football team of participating in the 13th SAG. “It is a huge setback for the football players, who were working tirelessly and were aiming high to win gold medal again for Pakistan, just like they did in Islamabad, but all their efforts, training and dreams were shattered by the POA, who badly failed to ensure accreditation of Pakistan football team.

“It was second time this year that Pakistan football team won’t be able to represent the country in a high-profile event and it is government’s failure as well. Prior to missing the SAG, national football team, which was trained for a month at Pakistan Sports Complex, were denied by Faisal Saleh Hayat, who picked his own team at Bahrain and adding insult to wounds, his selected team played FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying round against Cambodia.

“The government should have taken strict action against Faisal for fielding parallel team with the help of the AFC, but nothing was done for the betterment of sports, after Imran Khan took over the reins of the country as Prime Minister. Instead of going up, sports are declining fast in the country,” he added.

Dar said Lt Gen (R) Syed Arif Hassan once again managed to prolong his tenure for another four years, with the help of changing the POA constitution, but the government again failed to take action, as it was blackmailed in the name of IOC suspension. “When government is bearing all the expenditures and responsible for providing all the facilities, it must not be so hapless. The POA president is so powerful that he announced PTF President Salim Saifullah as chef-de-mission to lead Pakistani contingent in Nepal. Who is the POA to nominate chef-de-mission and force the IPC and PSB to send their favourite officials.”

The 54-member Pakistani contingent comprising tennis (10), table tennis (10), badminton (11) and taekwondo (18 athletes and 4 official) will depart on late Friday night to Nepal from Islamabad and Lahore. IPC Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani is the chef-de-mission.