ISLAMABAD - Federal government once again neglected sports in the 2017-18 budget and allocated only Rs 3.4 billion for sports infrastructure uplift.

Federal Minister for planning Ch Ahsan Iqbal once again managed to get lime share of sports budget for his long-pending Narowal Sports Complex completion, as he managed to get a whopping Rs 500 million allocated in the next budget for the said complex, which is consuming huge national wealth for the last 3 years and nowhere near completion. To be exact Rs 499.53 million were set aside for Narowal Sports Complex.

Last year, Ahsan allocated whopping 70 percent of the sports development budget for the current fiscal year to his city Narowal. Last year, the government had allocated a Rs 630.8 million development budget for Pakistan sports in the fiscal year 2016-17 in which 450 million had been included in the budget for the completion of ongoing construction works at the sports complex in Narowal.

The long-standing issue of laying down blue astroturf at Naseer Bunda Stadium was once again completely ignored from the next fiscal year. Despite repeated promises by suspended PSB Director General, IPC Minister Riaz Pirzada, PHF president Brig (R) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar that PC-I of the Naseer Bunda was approved, but in reality, the lone international standard hockey stadium in Federal Capital was once again baldy ignored.

The national hockey players, coaches and even PHF openly admitted that they always get over-the-moon facilities at Islamabad and the high ups are also keen in resolving the issue, being faced by hockey players there. But to utter disappointment, the special budget for Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium was ignored.

Had Naseer Bunda astroturf replaced by the new blue-astroturf, it could have host international matches there. The proposed hockey league might take place on the said venue, as Islamabad is declared as the safest city in South Asia, but no one bothered to take up the issue, the IPC minister’s fate still hangs in air and PSB DG Akhtar Ganjera is suspended for more than a month. It is Brig (R) Khalid Khokhar and Olympian Shahbaz Senior’s national and moral duty to take up the issue and meet with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to get the required funds for the laying of astroturf.

The Federal government set aside Rs 50 million for Karachi Boxing Gym construction, Rs 50 million for Quetta Boxing Gym construction, Rs 25 million for Chaman Football Ground, Rs 25 million for laying down of synthetic turf at Swat hockey ground, Rs 20 million for Islamabad, Faisalabad, Wah Cantt, Peshawar and Abbottabad hockey turf replacement and a whopping Rs 2 billion for infrastructure up-gradation in different cities of the country.

There was good news for long depriving athletes as the government allocated Rs 90.2 million for conducting National Games this year. After a gap of almost 4 years, as lastly the Games were conducted in 2012 and 2013 by POA led by Lt Gen (R) Syed Arif Hassan and in 2013 by government backed POA led by Maj Gen (R) M Akram Sahi.

The government finally realizes the importance of establishing a state-of-the-art bio-mechanical lab in Islamabad and allocated Rs 60 million for the said purpose. It is pertinent to mention here that PSB Deputy Director General Medical Wing Dr Waqar had long submitted the report and informed about the importance of the bio-mechanical lab, but after long delays, the grant was finally approved. Rs 15 million were also allocated for laying down synthetic hockey turf at Gilgit.

Overall, it was once again highly neglected budget as far as sports are concerned. No special grant was set aside for athletes training programmes, which could ensure medals at international level. The way, Pakistani athletes performed in the recently-concluded 4th Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, is more than enough to open up the eyes of government high ups.