KARACHI: Sports and physical education are hailed as vital for the physical and psychological development of an individual and community. Pakistan that was once a nation known for producing champions in a myriad of different sports, is struggling to fund even the last remaining sport of cricket in the country.
In a round-table session on the 14th of November, 2019, sports journalists, commentators, activists and athletes came together to discuss how sports can instill peace and harmony in our turbulent community. The causes of why sports are a neglected field of our culture were analyzed and resolutions to remedy this in Pakistan were also sought.
Naseem Rajput stated that the War on Terror had eroded all other priorities from the nation, and now our sole focus and funding is directed towards that. He was also of the opinion that there is too much nepotism in Pakistan and that lack of merit based selections in sport are not only demoralizing for our youth but also create a negative image of the country abroad, when none of our athletes are qualified enough to even be allowed to play in international tournaments.
“Sports have the power to overcome social divides and nowhere was that more obvious than when there was a campaign of Ramzan Night Cricket throughout Karachi. This one small movement brought together a myriad of different sects together in peaceful and fruitful sportsmanship,”Ashar Zaidi commented, “this not only involved the players but also their families and communities, bringing people together effortlessly.” Many of the round-table participants were of the opinion that parents must learn to prioritize sports and physical education for their children as the sole focus on academia was isolating many, thus contributing to the intolerance and bigotry running rampant in the country.
Iraj Khalid, coach for the United Zamzama Football Club, opined that the lack of positive role models for men and women are a factor in sports not being able to take root in the community like it used to in the past. If the youth is unable to see role models that they wish to emulate, they will scatter and become a part of negative activities that can further bring harm not just to themselves but also the community as a whole.
Qudsia Kanwal Raja, Founder and CEO of Sports Awareness Program, told of her experience as Pakistan’s only female international umpire who was not supported by the state, yet she is not demoralized and continues to work for sports awareness and sports promotion nationwide. She insisted that the most efficient way to bring sports back into the community is through grassroots levels, by galvanizing the working class and piquing the interest of the upper middle class.
Hamza Haider, Founder of GG Riders, explained that there is a catastrophic disparity between the sports material and facility available to the youth of lower social classes and those of higher social classes. This dependency on the quality of material available that the government will not provide for is enough to marginalize the youth that may have been interested in playing sports but because they cannot afford it, they give up their passion and perhaps the push and pull factors when it comes to radical elements can take the best of them in that vulnerable position.
The panelists all agreed that till the movements to rejuvenate sports in the country is not at a grassroots level, all else is simply superficial public relation stunts that will not create a sustainable sports industry that can combat intolerance, bigotry, racism and sectarian violence. They also agreed that sports are capable of transcending these social divides that otherwise mar a successful society.
Media Baithak serves as a community space for the cultural engagement of media and civil society representatives. It gives a platform to distinguished voices from the fields of journalism, politics, academia and other fields to discuss contemporary issues of the society.
The organization has previously conducted round-tables on the role of media, women and education in combating violent extremism. Media Baithak also focused on the role of freedom of speech and social media when it comes to a cohesive and collective society.