One would have thought that recent events in Sahiwal would have prompted the Punjab police to keep a low profile, but apparently that isn’t the case. In a brazen display of thuggery, a Fatehsher police team raided the World Snooker Champion Academy (WSCA) and subjected the academy’s owner, Muhammad Naseem Akhtar, to verbal and physical abuse in front of his students. Muhammad Naseem Akhtar has won many laurels for Pakistan in the sport of snooker, winning the title of junior world champion in 2018. He is also a three time under-18 champion in Punjab and a one-time under 18 national champion. Apparently, the police team had raided the snooker academy because it was being kept open “late at night”. However, this seems absurd considering the raid took place at 10:30pm, a time when countless businesses across the country remain operational without the owners having to worry about police raids and harassment. Furthermore, Akhtar has also informed the press that he had not received any prior legal notice his club’s timings. Reports in the press also state that Sahiwal Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Zaman Wattoo had marked an application by Akhtar to district sports officer Abdul Qayoom to allow him to keep his club open till midnight a few days ago. Keeping a snooker club open at night is hardly a criminal offence and certainly doesn’t justify police harassment. If anything, this seems like another case of the police overstepping their bounds. It should also be considered that Pakistani athletes hardly receive any support from the provincial or federal governments and therefore they are left to provide for themselves, with coaching being the easiest and most viable option open to them. The tragedy here is that despite Pakistan having a lot of raw talent in the sport of snooker, the game and its players hardly ever get the recognition they deserve. In a press conference last month, Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) co-chairman Alamgir Sheikh stated that it was likely that the association would soon not be able to send Pakistani participants to competitions abroad because of lack of funds and government support. Given these state of affairs, police harassment of a bright young snooker player is only likely to further discourage the youth from participating in this sport. As such, the Punjab government must take the police to task for their actions at the WSCA and prevent such incidences from transpiring in the future. If the government cannot support Pakistani snooker players, the least it can do is to protect them from police harassment. * Published in Daily Times, February 9th 2019.