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Comment: Khokhar’s appointment smacks of nepotism as govt fails to uphold merit

Comment: Khokhar’s appointment smacks of nepotism as govt fails to uphold merit

The government has once again compromised merit while announcing retired Brigadier Khalid Sajjad Khokhar as the successor of Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) President, Akhtar Rasool, who was compelled to step down in the aftermath of hockey team’s failure to qualify for 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Despite Pakistan’s poor showing at Antwerp where the team finished eighth Akhtar was adamant not to quit, putting all the blame on the government for not providing sufficient funds.

The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), on the other hand, had conducted audit of the PHF’s accounts on the directives of prime minister and reached the conclusion that they were allegedly misused. In addition, a fact-finding committee was also constituted on team’s return from Europe which in the end made the PHF responsible for the debacle.

The committee further suggested that people who understand modern techniques of the game should be brought in for the betterment of the national game.

In Pakistan, it has become a practice that whenever PPP or PML N return to power, they manoeuvre and bring in their men at the helm of the PHF, PCB and a couple of other national federations irrespective of their merit.

Akhtar had served as the PHF chief previously also and on both the occasions under Nawaz Sharif-led government. Similarly, ex Pakistan hockey team full-back Qasim Zia served as the PHF chief during Benazir’s second tenure.

Zaka Ashraf and incumbent chief of the executive board Najam Sethi are the two notable names among others who were brought in at the helm of PCB on political grounds.

This is not the first time that PHF chief was politely asked by the ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) to bid adieu but there are many similar examples in the past.

Former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was asked by the then sports minister Najamuddin Khan to resign as the PHF chief or face action after Pakistan hockey team finished eighth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Then the government had also formed a three-member committee to investigate the reasons and causes for the green shirts’ pathetic performance at the Beijing Olympiad.

Khokhar, who is a close relative of federal minister for Planning and National Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, has once accompanied Pakistan hockey team abroad as manager. His daughter Mehak plays tennis and had represented the country in the Fed Cup. What the critics are asking is that are these credentials enough to make him the PHF president?

It is high time that the government should lay down a criteria and do away with the practice of appointing blue-eyed people at the helm of affairs at important sports organisations like the PHF, PCB, PSB and few other through manoeuvring.

Decline in various sports can not be turnaround through change of guard. Posting people on merit and reopening of sports departments in the commercial organisations and financial institutions is vital and only that can bring a positive change in the country’s sports.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2015

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