LAHORE: History is repeating itself in Pakistan once again. The Pakistan Olympic Movement is in hot water once again. The Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ministry and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) have once again started their malafide efforts to dislodge the top officials of the country’s National Olympic Committee — Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) — and take control of it. The IPC and the PSB started their illegitimate and unconstitutional campaign of damaging the Olympic Movement of the country first by trying to introduce a new sports policy under which they can not only take control of the National Sports Federations, through elections, but also put an ad-hoc on them. This proposed new sports policy, without informing all stakeholders, was sent to the Prime Minister for approval but was sent back to the IPC Ministry with a direction to take all stakeholders on board. The POA has expressed its reservations over some clauses of the newly-proposed sports policy, which is yet to be approved. The POA concern is mainly about the clause related to the formation of the Election Commission and the Appellate Tribunal, which give the Government unbridled power to hold elections of the National Sports Federations and to hear appeals. The National Sports Federations have also rejected these clauses, considering these are against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter which gives autonomous status to the National Sports Federations to deal with their own affairs. After Pakistan failed to win a medal of any colour in the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, the IPC and the PSB turned their guns towards POA President Lt Gen (r) Syed Arif Hasan and told him to step down immediately or he would be removed. But Arif Hasan has informed the Government in clear terms that the POA is an autonomous body working under the IOC Charter in Pakistan and its General Council elects the office-bearers for four-year terms. “If anyone has ambitions to become the POA President, they can come and contest the elections,” Arif Hasan says. He has reminded that the Government interference in matters of the POA will incur the wrath of the IOC. It is pertinent to mention here that in 2005 an infamous National Sports Policy was introduced without taking all stakeholders on board, which led to court battles and ultimately the Government had to surrender before the Olympic Charter. It is no secret that the IOC does not tolerate any Government interference in working of its member country as is evident from the attempts by the Indian Government to dictate terms to the IOC which resulted in India’s suspension in 2019. Many governments around the globe have tried to dictate terms to the IOC in the past but its strict laws have always failed such attempts. Taking serious note of the latest ongoing conflict between the Government and the POA, the IOC has stated: “It will not accept any undue interference from any third parties in the internal governance of the NOC (National Olympic Committee).” In a letter, dated September 17, 2021, addressed to the POA, the IOC has expressed its hope that all parties can address these issues responsibly in the light of the Olympic Charter to avert any escalation of the dispute. In its latest letter, the IOC has advised the POA to meet the state authorities as soon as possible and recall what happened and what was decided among all parties during the past decade which had settled the earlier dispute. The IOC has shown great concerns and advised an appropriate solution with the view to ensuring full respect of the fundamental principle of autonomy of the Olympic Movement in Pakistan while developing harmonious relations and constructive partnerships between the state authorities, NOC and National Federations in the interest of sports and the athletes. The IOC has also termed the Supreme Court’s confirmation of the autonomy of the POA in 2019 as a “milestone for the recognition and protection of the autonomy of the NOC and the Olympic Movement” in Pakistan. The IOC has also pointed out that the PSB’s initiative to establish state-controlled Electoral Commissions to adjudicate disputes relating to the National Sports Federations and to appoint ad-hoc committees within the National Federations is not in line with the principle of responsible autonomy of the Olympic Movement. The IOC has completely backed the POA and the resolution of its General Council of May 3, 2021 to reject interference from the state entities with the internal governance of the National Federations, which should be determined in accordance with the rules of the International Federations. The IOC has made it clear that the pressure being built by the Pakistan Government on the POA Chief to resign due to results of Pakistan’s contingent in the Tokyo Olympics was against the Olympic Charter. Reiterating that the POA General Council is the supreme body, the IOC has observed that the POA General Assembly was the only governing body entitled to “elect or dismiss the members of the POA Executive Board according to the NOC’s statutes and the Olympic Charter.” The IOC has stated that the performance of a team at the Olympic Games is the result of the combined efforts and financial support from the state, the NOC and the National Federations with the assistance of the international sports bodies concerned. Olympic Movement under siege: The Pakistan Olympic Movement remained under a siege from 2013 to 2015 as a handful of disgruntled and mischievous sports elements with the help of the PSB, the IPC and some Federal Government officials left no stone unturned to destroy the very fabric of the sports in the country and invite the wrath of the IOC by openly and shamelessly violating the Olympic Charter. For the first time in the history of Pakistan sports, the intense and dirty power struggle, spearheaded by these disgruntled elements, resulted in Pakistan not participating in the Islamic Solidarity Games 2103 in Indonesia and Pakistan hockey’s ouster from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The sports scenario of Pakistan remained murky and polluted throughout these years with the formation of parallel National Olympic Committee and forcible occupation of Olympic House, unprecedented in Pakistan sports history. In October 2013, the IOC together with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) held a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, involving the POA and the Government of Pakistan. The IOC told the Pakistan Government in clear terms to respect the Olympic Charter, the Olympic Movement in Pakistan and revise the infamous National Sports Policy. The Government of Pakistan expressed a firm commitment to fully respect and comply with the Olympic Charter, in particular the principle of autonomy of the Olympic Movement in the country. It was, therefore, agreed that the Government of Pakistan would cooperate and refrain from any undue intervention. On 05th July 2014, the Pakistan Government recognised the legitimate National Olympic Committee headed by Arif Hasan to avoid suspension of the country by the IOC. On 22nd December 2015, after almost 841 days, the Olympic House, which was forcefully taken over, was finally handed over to its rightful office-bearers – the POA headed by Arif Hasan. In January 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a landmark and historic judgement, while deciding a number of appeals of the Pakistan Olympic Association, acknowledged that the National Olympic Committee Pakistan is an autonomous and independent body free of the Federal Government, Provincial Government and Pakistan Sports Board’s control, and that no writ, under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan, is maintainable against the POA. With the Apex Court’s judgement, years long misconception that the POA comes under the ambit of the Federal Government ended. The Supreme Court maintained that the Federal Government does not exercise substantial control on, or have dominance in controlling affairs of the POA, and no financial interest of the State lies in the functions of the POA. Government is to blame for sports decline in the country: Perhaps the biggest reason for the extraordinary decline in sports in Pakistan is lack of funding and vision. Pakistan’s sports budget is the lowest in South Asia, less than that of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan. Governments all over the world keep sports and education as their top priority, build infrastructure, hold talent development programmes for players and promote medical sciences in sports to compete the world of sports. But in Pakistan it is totally opposite because sports are not the priority of the Government. In other countries, the people running the sports affairs contribute by taking professional decisions and by executing them with competence rather than on the basis of personal preference and bias. But, frankly, we are not such a nation. In Pakistan most things defy logic. To rise above again, Pakistan sports requires strong financial backup, commitment and self-belief from the Government. Only hard and incessant efforts lead to success and not the blame game. Only then the elusive triumphs will replace the current tragedies that demean the country once basking in Olympic golds and world crowns. In the absence of these, we should not dream of reaching the skies.