Election 2024: Will parties play by their sports’ promises?

Sporting activity is an important part of any healthy society which is why it consistently requires adequate measures for the wellbeing of athletes and institutions.

However, people in charge at the centre and provincial level normally dictate how sports are run in the country which is why elections will have a major bearing on how things will pan out going forward

Ahead of the general elections on February 8, 2023, here is a look at the manifestos of all the major political parties and what it could mean for sports in Pakistan shortly.

In its manifesto for the upcoming elections, MQM-P aims to ensure that all types of educational institutions have sports facilities.

It also said that the national policy on sports must focus on infrastructure development, competition structure, sports science, availability of modern and latest equipment as well as apolitical appointments in all sports boards, associations and Olympic bodies.

The need for strict audits of sports boards and Olympic associations was also highlighted.

It also called for mandatory participation of students in sports at primary, secondary, and high school levels. Meanwhile, school licences will be made conditional with the provision of sports grounds and sports facilities.

Key takeaways

MQM-P is the only political party which recognised the importance of sports science in its manifesto, which is crucial in terms of training, injury prevention, technical analysis, nutrition, and mental health issues. Pakistani athletes have struggled to keep up with the rest of the world due to a lack of emphasis on this particular subject in the country.

The audit of sports bodies is also crucial because alleged embezzlement and improper use of funds is a recurring issue in multiple organisations.

Awami National Party’s (ANP) manifesto is restricted to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; however, it made some important points ahead of the elections.

The manifesto stated that indigenous sports in all areas will be promoted. It also promised that multipurpose sports grounds will be provided at each tehsil and sports stadium at each district headquarters like Abdul Wali Khan Sports Complex Charsadda and Mardan Sports Complex.

Additionally, sports academies will be established for nurturing and training the youth for different games. Civil society will be involved in organising sports gala, events, sports festivals, and arts and literary events regularly in urban centres.

The ANP also said it will provide adequate sports avenues for girls and women to contribute to a healthy environment. Exclusive sports grounds will be constructed on a priority basis and sports academies for coaching and training will be established at tehsil and district levels.

Key takeaways

While ANP’s manifesto is only restricted to KPK it was good to see that they recognised the need to promote sports among women in the province. Women have limited opportunities to pursue sports in KPK due to cultural barriers but hopefully, these measures will be a step in the right direction.

Girls play football in Chitral. – X/@ChitralwomensSC

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) vows to allocate funds from the provincial and federal budget for sports activities for both rural and urban areas. The budget will be used to provide better sports facilities.

The selection of players in the national team will be based strictly on merit.

Meanwhile, bearing in mind Islamic values, separate grounds will make young women interested in taking part in sporting activities.

Special measures will be taken to promote cricket, hockey, tennis, basketball, squash, football, weightlifting, and other sports played in the country.

Key takeaways

Jamaat-e-Islami called for merit in national team selection which is crucial since there have been instances of players doing well but not getting a chance to showcase themselves at the international level. Recently, Pakistan captain Ammad Butt was dropped from the hockey team just because he spoke against the federation.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) aims to establish Pakistan’s first sports university, construct 250 new state-of-the-art stadiums and AstroTurf pitches, provide world-class facilities for aspiring athletes, establish sports academies at all levels to identify and nurture talent from grassroots to professional levels.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is seen playing cricket in this photo taken in 2012. —SANA
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is seen playing cricket in this photo taken in 2012. —SANA

It also wants to launch a national Talent Hunt Youth Sports League and promote inclusive sports programs across all educational institutions.

PML-N also said that it will upgrade existing facilities and invest in new ones through Public-Private Partnerships. It will also improve the governance of sports bodies by reforming governance structures in line with international best practices.

It also wants to incentivise women’s participation in sports by providing facilities and ensuring the availability of female coaches, while also ensuring equitable pay for female sportspersons.

Encourage and conduct regular e-sports tournaments and encourage funding for e-sportspersons by corporates under CSR.

Key takeaways

It’s good that PML-N aims to improve current facilities and build new ones through Public-Private Partnerships but it will need professionals in charge to complete the projects.

It was also encouraging to see the manifesto mention e-sports since gamers like Arslan Ash, who is globally known as the King of Tekken, get little support in terms of facilities and promotion back home.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest political parties in the country, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), gave little attention to sports in its manifesto.

In its manifesto, it promised to provide well-equipped sports facilities while also promising to develop support systems and resources for students with special needs in sports.

Key takeaways

PPP’s manifesto back in 2018 had a lot more detail as far as sports is concerned but the same can’t be said this time around. Hopefully, if the party comes into power, proper attention will be given to sports in the country.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in its manifesto, PTI recognised the transformative power of sports for youth development.

They promised to invest substantially in sports programs and the development of infrastructure. This includes creating modern facilities in both urban and rural areas, ensuring equitable access and fostering talent nationwide.

Key takeaways

PTI’s manifesto only had a brief section on sports which is disappointing especially because the party is led by a former cricketer in the shape of Imran Khan.

While it is good to see promises of substantial investment in sports facilities, one can’t ignore the fact that the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) returned to the government unused funds amounting to Rs440m when the financial year ended in 2021 — at a time when PTI was in power. Only time will tell whether things will change this time around.

Imran Khan meets the 2019 Pakistan Cricket World Cup squad. - PMO
Imran Khan meets the 2019 Pakistan Cricket World Cup squad. – PMO

While all the political parties make some really good points for the betterment of sports in the country past experiences have left a lot to be desired despite tall claims.

However, sports athletes and institutions in Pakistan hope that the people who form the government, post elections, will walk the talk rather than just leave the promises on paper. 

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