EDITORIAL: Stand up for the Champions - Saturday, November 27, 2010

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\11\27\story_27-11-2010_pg3_1

On Thursday, after a hiatus of 20 years, Pakistan hockey returned to its rightful place as champions of Asia. It was also a momentous day for the men’s squash team who upset Malaysia to clinch the team honours. Earlier, the Pakistan women’s cricket team made the nation proud by winning its maiden T-20 Asian Games gold medal.

The hockey team won gold by beating Malaysia 2-0 in the final. In winning this tournament, Pakistan has automatically qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Although hockey is Pakistan’s national sport, its development has largely been neglected. For years, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has been lacking professionalism. For too long it has played second fiddle to cricket. There are only seven Astro Turf fields in the country, out of which only 2-4 are in proper working condition. In comparison there are over 400 Astro Turfs in Holland. With this win it is hoped the hockey team can turn a new leaf and return to its glory days. So deep is our history in this sport that the PHF, under the initiative of Air Marshal M Nur Khan, introduced the World Cup Tournament and the Champions Trophy Tournament. It is imperative to praise our new Pakistan hockey coach Michel van den Heuvel, who brought cohesion into the team that was previously missing. Also, goalkeeper Salman Akbar must be honoured for his heroics in the semi-final against South Korea, where he saved four out of seven penalty strokes. After this match Sohail Abbas was criticised and it was alleged that he was beyond his prime and should be put out to pasture. It is commendable how Sohail Abbas bounced back to show that he is the king of penalty corners. But we should not let this victory go to our heads and plan for the future. The London Olympics 2012 are just around the corner. Let us hope we also bring back that coveted trophy after 28 years.

The men’s squash team defeated their Malaysian counterparts in the team event. During the reign of the Khans, Pakistan had no equals in this sport. Sadly, even with such role models we have failed to increase our talent pool in this discipline. The Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) must incorporate schools, colleges and universities to discover and nurture future talent.

Our women’s cricket team also won gold at the 16th Asian Games. These women were an example on and off the field. They are the epitome of professionalism, a lesson our men’s team can learn from them.

Individual admiration must go to Ijaz Ahmed for winning a silver medal in the men’s sanshou 75-kilogramme category. Moreover, Aamir Atlas Khan delivered on his potential during the games by winning a silver medal for Pakistan in men’s individual squash.

The manner in which these victories were celebrated back home shows how starved the people of the country are for good news. Sports is one of the few reliefs the citizens have in the midst of the ongoing war on terror. We are on the frontline of this war. Pakistan has lost more due to terrorism than any other country. The government and establishment must have a united and firm stand against this menace. Our duality on the Taliban has brought the country and its already fragile economy to a standstill. We as a nation must build on our victories in the 16th Asian Games and build for the future, a future that is free of terrorism and offers hope and progress. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Land grabbing by the mighty

The Punjab government has found itself under the glare of intense international criticism with calls going out for human rights organisations to become actively involved in a gross violation of rights. UN Special Rapporteur Oliver De Schutter has singled out the provincial government because of its alleged land grabbing schemes that aim to lease fertile agricultural lands to rich foreigners — particularly Arabs — at the expense of the poverty stricken masses. Describing these ‘projects’ as “lacking in transparency” and shunning consultation with the concerned communities, Schutter aptly summarised them as only “benefiting the investors and some of the local elite.”

Notable among these land-grabbing projects is the Ravi National Park scheme where on the private residential land agricultural land of owners in five different tehsils all forms of construction, development, sale and transfer have been banned. It is lands such as these that are to be leased to the highest bidder.

In a country where the citizen is denied basic amenities and sources of livelihood, where the rising costs of living are pushing people towards crime or suicide and where enough land-grabbing mafias exist to make life a living hell for the common folk, to have the government partake of such nefarious activities is repulsive. The Punjab government is manipulating the people and their land illegally. Loud protests show that the people are being pushed up against a wall but, because it is the provincial government that is allegedly at the helm of these despicable acts, there is no one they can turn to for justice.

In the case of leasing land to rich foreignerd, stead of providing the land to the poor for small-scale farming purposes, the government is lining its pockets to secure the food resources of other countries.

Balochistan was recently in the news for the same reason. The provincial government there is contemplating leasing out land in Lasbela for the hunting of the endangered Houbara Bustard. Not only is this a violation of animal protection laws, it is a gross violation of the rights of the people. The people in Balochistan have known nothing but strife and denial of their rights, now they have to contend with foreign dignitaries being handed their land on a silver platter.

Enough of this circus where the rich only serve the richer and the impoverished are denied even the semblance of a dignified existence. Land grabbing by those in power is criminal and it must be stopped at all costs. The protests must get louder and the international human rights community must intervene to reverse this alarming trend. *

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