Pakistan's performance in sports under PM Imran Khan

Things have taken a turn for the worse

When Imran Khan was sworn in as Pakistan’s Prime Minister in August 2018, many believed that the cricketer-turned-politician will breathe a new life in sports across Pakistan. Being a former sportsperson himself, athletes in Pakistan were hopeful that Khan would turn around their fortunes but instead, after three and a half years, things have taken a turn for the worse due to multiple reasons.

An important part of PM Imran’s vision in the field of sports was the implementation of regional structure as opposed to departments. This idea made sense, among other benefits, in terms of offering better career paths to players and revival of local rivalries. However, lack of a proper transition plan, from departments to regions, has left local players in dire straits with many struggling to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the National Sports Policy, which forms the basis of how the sporting activities are conducted across the country, was only approved few days before the no-confidence motion against PM Khan. Even after being delayed for more than three years, the stakeholders, which includes several national sports federations, were not satisfied with the proposed sports policy as it gave too much power to Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

In its manifesto for Election 2018, Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), had highlighted the lack of athletes in 2016 Summer Olympics and had vowed to improve infrastructure for sports in the country.

“Sports in Pakistan, except cricket, have faced systemic neglect from the Government. In the 2016 Summer Olympics, Pakistan had only 7 representatives, none of whom had originally qualified, and were given wildcard entries by the Rio Olympics. From a population of nearly 200 million, this means one athlete per 27 million people, an abysmal performance,” the PTI manifesto said.  

“We will provide play-grounds at tehsil level, training centres and gymnasiums at divisional level to be used for training provincial and national teams and category ‘A’ sports complexes at the provincial level through a phased approach,” it added. “We will hold inter-district, inter-division, provincial and national games annually for young people.”

However, in the following Olympics Pakistan were once again starring down the barrel as it only had 10 athletes taking part in the prestigious games. Whereas in the Winter Olympics, Pakistan’s embarrassing tally halved from two in 2018 to one in 2022. Pakistan also failed to win any medal in both Summer and Winter Olympics.

Below we take a look at Pakistan’s performance in different sports, since Imran Khan took charge, bearing in mind that the prime minister’s tenure is drawing to a close. As numbers indicate, Pakistan's performance in sports was far from impressive.


Cricket


Infograph: SAMAA Digital
Infograph: SAMAA Digital

Hockey


Infograph: SAMAA Digital

Football


Infograph: SAMAA Digital

Other Sports


Squash: Four Pakistan men’s players were among top 100 in PSA World Rankings, along with one female player, before Imran became prime minister. That number was reduced to three men’s players only as of April, 2022. Both men and women players failed to win any major international squash titles over the last three years.

Weightlifting: Talha Talib narrowly missed out winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He also won a bronze medal during the 2021 World Weightlifting Championship in Tashkent.

Although, he could be banned for four years after returning a positive dope test recently.

Javelin throw: Arshad Nadeem became the first athlete from Pakistan to qualify for the Olympics and the first to reach a track-and-field final. He finished in fifth place.

Wrestling: Inam Butt won the gold medal in Beach Wrestling World Series in Rome, Italy, during 2021.

Snooker: Ahsan Ramzan, 16-year-old, become the youngest person in the world to win the IBSF World Snooker Championship title last month. Before Ramzan, his fellow Pakistan cueist Muhammad Asif won the title in 2019.  

Imran Khan

Sports

no-confidence motion

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