RAWALPINDI: Federal Minister for Planning and Inter-Provincial Coordination Ahsan Iqbal has called for resumption of sporting ties between Pakistan and India.

“Sports should be kept separate from politics. The political tensions between India and Pakistan did not affect sports in the past,” he said in an exclusive interview with Geo News on Saturday.

The planning minister also urged India to send its team to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy in 2025.

“Instead of fighting, India and Pakistan should compete in the field of education, sports and health,” he added.

Iqbal also revealed the government’s plans to promote sports in the country.

“Unfortunately, over the last few years, sports have been ignored in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan Sports Board failed to play its key role in promoting sports in the country. However current government has included sports in its priorities,” said Iqbal.

Talking about his future plans, Iqbal said: “National Games will be held at the end of this year likewise a successful event was held in 2017 where teams from every province will be invited to participate.

“Efforts are being made to hold SAFF Games in Pakistan in 2025 whereas 2025 has also been declared as the year of revival of sports in Pakistan. We have planned to organise a sports conference where officials from every province, athletes and other stakeholders will participate in which a road map for 2025 will be made in relation to sports.”

Iqbal expressed his disappointment over current condition of Pakistan Sports Board.

“In 2017, government released special funds for Jinnah Stadium Islamabad but unfortunately they were not utilised properly,” he said.

“The air-conditioners will be installed in the Liaquat Gymnasium of Sports Complex Islamabad so that international level competitions can be held in near future. Four AstroTurfs for hockey will be installed in the country next month while a plan to install ten more AstroTurfs has been prepared.

“We have also planned along provincial governments to build another 250 mini sports complexes.”

Iqbal also recalled that he met former cricketer Majid Khan during his engineering days.

“Majid Khan predicted in 1981 that Pakistan will disappear from the squash circuit in coming years. It was strange to hear at that time because Pakistan’s squash was at its peak in that era. The prediction of Majid Khan became a reality later because Pakistan faced a decline in squash,” he said.

“The elimination of departments from sports was the biggest mistake of recent times. The government singlehandedly cannot provide resources for sports. Hence the departments will be taken in confidence now,” he added.

Speaking about hockey, Iqbal said: “A hockey league based on the pattern of Pakistan Super League is planned to be introduced. We have also directed the Higher Education Commission to start University Olympics in order to revive sports scholarship.”

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