ISLAMABAD - After several delays and lapse of almost two years, Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada has finally handed over long overdue cash awards to former world snooker champion M Asif and M Sajjad, while recently-crowned Asian Snooker champion Hamza Akbar is given assurance that a cheque will be delivered at his residence.

A simple ceremony was held at the IPC Minister office Wednesday where the IPC minister handed over Rs 1 million cheque to M Asif, Rs 2.5 million to M Sajjad. Pakistan Billiard and Snooker Association (PSBA) president Alamghir Sheikh, IPC secretary Ejaz Chaudhry and Hamza Akbar were also present there.

Talking to The Nation, M Asif said: “I am quite amazed and was not aware about the exact amount of cash incentive. I was expecting around Rs 10 to 15 million as per PSB rules, but was very surprised when a cheque of Rs 1 million was handed over to me. The IPC minister has made it very clear that this is all the PSB could offer me. I was told that only Prime Minister could hand over lucrative incentives, the IPC ministry had time and again sent written recommendations to PM secretariat. Now the ball is in the PM court. I told the IPC minister that the champions were shower with countless benefits all over the world and also given residential houses. If deserving cash incentives are not possible than at least allocate me a house where I may reside with my family. The minister promised me to look into the request and would send my case to PM secretariat for approval.”

“I had won snooker world cup, Asian snooker team championship and most recently, I helped Pakistan win bronze medal in Asian Snooker team championship in Iran. The set criteria in the PSB rules of business regarding winner of world cup was Rs 10 million and runner-up was supposes to be handed over Rs 5 million, but I was very surprised when only given Rs 1 million were handed over to me. I am grateful to Punjab CM for delivering me Rs 1 million payment, which he promised some 18 months back. I request Prime Minister, Punjab CM and IPC Minister to consider my case of a house allotment for my family,” Asif concluded.

M Sajjad told this scribe that he was surprised as well, as according to criteria, he was supposed to get much more than what was handed over to him. “I had won a number of international titles for the country way back in 2010. I was runner-up in Asian snooker championship in Thailand and 2010 open snooker champion in Thailand. I along with M Asif won 2013 snooker world cup in 2013 in Ireland, we were runners up in 2014 snooker world cup team event in Egypt, I was losing finalist in 2014 Asian snooker championship in Karachi, I won bronze medal in 2013 snooker world cup in Latvia and in 2014 I lost the snooker world cup final in Banglore, India, world cup winner according to PSB rules of business pockets Rs 10 million and loser Rs 5 million, it is quite discouraging that instead of enhancing prize money. The PSB is decreasing the prize money, which is quite alarming and will discourage the youngsters. Instead of further trimming the set prize money, the PSB must give considerable rise to the cash incentives so the players get motivation and do more to win laurels for the country.”

Newly-crowned Asian Snooker Champion Hamza Akbar said: “The IPC Minister Mian Riaz promised me to deliver cheque of Rs 2 million at my residence very soon. I am leaving for China to play Snooker World Open with M Sajjad and I would leave for UK to join professional circuit at the end of July. The IPC minister has promised me of financial help in this regard.”

PSBA president Alamghir Sheikh termed the IPC minister’s step very beneficial for snooker promotion in the country. To a query regarding the very low amount of cash awards, the PSBA chief replied: “Asif was given Rs 1.45 million by former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and he also received different cash incentives. His request for allotment of residential home will be sent to PM for consideration. Both lads deserve more, but I was handed over copy of letter written to the PM House for release of grant for snooker players. We were told the IPC and the PSB had handed over what they were authorized. Now the PM house will decide on further incentives.”

“I am very astonished when cricket team wins a one-day match, congratulation messages start to pour in from PM and President to others, but when a snooker player manage to win world cup and Asian titles, no one bothers to say a few words of appreciation, announcement of cash incentives is a far cry. The PM must understand there are other sports as well and he is the PM of entire country and all the athletes deserve same treatment, which the cricketers are enjoying,” Alamghir concluded.