Committed to Promote
Peace and Stability
Exclusive Interview with
Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Sports
Elected as a member of National Assembly of Pakistan from 1990 to 2008, Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani was appointed as Pakistan's Federal Minister for Sports since 2008. He has a MS degree in Agriculture from University of Tando Jam in Sindh Province. For more than a decade, he was a member of Pakistan's National Cricket Team.
What was the purpose of your trip to Iran?
I came here to attend the 2nd Asian Sports Ministers' (ASM) meeting, hosted by the Government of Iran. A number of sport delegations from 28 Asian countries, including; Japan, Syria, China, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Qatar, South Korea, China Taipei, India, Brunei, Lebanon, Tajikistan, The Philippines, Singapore, Nepal, Jordan, Oman, Cyprus, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka also took part in the three-day event. The 1st ASM meeting was held in Osaka, Japan, on August 27, 2007.
What were the main topics discussed?
The main topics were expanding sports ties across the Asian continent and eradication of doping in sports. The meeting also took measures to ensure better results in international sports competitions. Moreover the meeting discussed sports cooperation between the Asian countries as well as sharing of each other's experiences in the field.
The Asian Sports Ministers discussed on exploring ways to counter doping and improve sporting facilities in local areas. Altogether, six important issues were brought up as the agenda of the meeting and fortunately all were covered and decisions were reached.
Among the decisions made was the establishment of a temporary secretariat in Tehran. This result was taken on the basis of consensus. A committee has been set up wherein deliberation would be taken for a permanent location of a secretariat and for the final drafting of the constitution. It was also decided to maintain "competition programs" among Asian countries.
It was also decided that the venue for the 3rd Asian Sports Ministers' meeting will be in China.
How would the government of Pakistan contribute in the overall development of this initiative?
Upon establishment of a permanent secretariat of Asian Sports Ministers, the Government of Pakistan would fully support the proposal for establishing a permanent secretariat of Asian Sports Ministers to coordinate various steps for promotion of sports and strengthening existing friendly ties among the Asian countries. "Also, we will offer our assistance as a human resource for operation and management of the secretariat including technical assistance in preparation of its rules and regulations."
What is the principle objective which your Government wishes to achieve in this organization?
Addressing the Meeting, I on behalf of Pakistan, said that, we at this point of time are looking for genuine efforts, assistance and enhanced cooperation from Asian countries to allow this concept of peace through sports to work more effectively in country like Pakistan. We believe that extended cooperation and increased focus will surely bring more people together, help rebuilding confidence and greatly facilitate our national efforts to arrest forces of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. Referring to the recent research and development of sports science, the Government of Pakistan is conscious of the vital importance of the research and scientific know-how for the promotion of sports and taking steps for setting up of the 1st National Sports Training Institute in the country.
The Government of Pakistan is a WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) compliant country and is taking all the necessary measures to curb the tendency of doping in sports. We have already ratified the Instrument of Ratification of the International Convention Against Doping in Sports in 2007 and Pakistan is strictly implementing the W ADA regulations.
Did you discuss bilateral issues with your counterpart from other countries?
Yes, on the sidelines of the conference, I had meetings with my counterparts from Iran, Malaysia, Japan and Sri Lanka and discussed various issues of mutual interests and planned for future cooperation in the field of sports.
How is the sports organization set up in Pakistan?
Pakistan Sports Board was established under the Ministry of Education through the Sports Development and Control Ordinance in 1962. It was structured for the purpose of promoting and developing uniform standards of competition in sports in Pakistan, comparable to the standards prevailing internationally. In July 1977, with the creation of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the administrative control of the Pakistan Sports Board was transferred to it.
The Board has a general body, with its headquarters at Islamabad. The general body consists of 76 members. It lays down the policy and 22 members Executive Committee are assigned to implement this policy. Pakistan Sports Board being the supreme body of sports, monitors the activities/affairs of National Sports Federations affiliated to it and ensures proper utilization of annual and special grants given by the Board. The annual grants are released to the National Federations to meet their day-to-day expenses whereas special grants are meant for participation and holding of international sports events. These grants are approved by the Executive Committee of Pakistan's Sports Board keeping in view the popularity of games, achievements at international level and activities of the Federations. At present, 40 national sports federations are affiliated with the Board. Each federation is responsible for promotion and development of its respective game/sports.
Do you think sport activities among the ECO countries would enhance economic cooperation among them?
It is possible and it is a good idea, but it requires strong initiatives. ECO was established to strengthen economic activities among the Member States, but by enhancing sports activities, there would be even more encouraging results among its members.
Should the resources be available, sports certainly would have the global appeal and the potential to address multiple issues of developing countries.
How could Pakistan help sport activities in the region?
Pakistan has been playing an important role in sports like cricket, hockey, squash, snooker and rowing for many years and is in a position to organize sports competitions among ECO Member States in athletic fields such as kabaddi, hockey, cricket etc. Also, Pakistan being one of the leading nation in cricket, can offer services of its coaches in the field of cricket as well as squash and kabaddi.
Have you visited any other cities beside Tehran?
No, but Insha'Allah, in my next trip I am planning to visit Esfahan, Shiraz and Mashhad. I have heard a lot about the attractions of these cities. Sheikh Sa'adi, Hafiz and Omar Khayyam are not only well-known elites in Iran but they are also very much popular with the people of Pakistan. This also shows the closeness of the two nations of Pakistan and Iran.
Is this your first trip to Iran?
Yes it is.
From your name it looks like you have ancestral ties with Iran. Is this the case?
Yes, I myself belong to Gilani family which is very big and widespread in Pakistan, which has links to Gilan Province in Iran. And that is why I am eager to visit the Gilan Province in northern Iran. I have also heard a lot about its natural beauties.
It would be almost impossible to talk about Pakistan and not mention Iqbal's name. What are your thoughts on Iqbal?
It is nice to see that Iran is also holding Pakistan's famous poet «Allama Muhammad Iqbal» so great. In Pakistan, Allama Muhammad Iqbal is known as Sha'er-e- Mashriq (the Poet of the East), whose writings were mostly devoted to the revival of Islam. He was a philosopher and a statesman, born in Sialkot and his poetry in Urdu, Arabic and Persian is considered to be among the greatest of the modern era. His vision of an independent state for the Muslims of British India inspired the creation of Pakistan. It is so refreshing to know that Iqbal is popular among every stratum of Iranians. I even have heard that the Supreme Leader of Iran, His Eminence Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, spoke about three hours on the personality of Allama Muhammad Iqbal in a seminar. One thing so amazing about Iqbal is that although he was not a Persian speaking poet, he had written so many remarkable poems in Persian that have captured the minds and thoughts of so many Iranians.
In addition to Allama Iqbal, there are many renowned mystics unknown to the world. Whom do you admire the most?
I should say Shah Abdul Latif Behittai, who is a famous poet of the Sindh Province. He had delivered his messages to all peoples the world across. He is a Sufi and his poetry is based on the Quran-e-Karim. In Pakistan there are many famous Sufis which needs to be recognized.
Anything else you would like to add?
At the end, I would like to add this point that, coming to Iran really impressed me. During my short stay here, I think so many misunderstanding about Iran have been cleared up from my mind. There are so much false fabrications and negative propaganda against Iran in the international media which needs to be eradicated. I have to admit that before coming here, I had different ideas about Iranian people. Actually, I came to realize that Iran is a very progressive and an open society, based on justice and equality. I could visibly see that in this society, men and women are bearing equal opportunities. Women, while practicing their moral duties, are heavily engaged in private sector entrepreneurship as well as governmental activities. I was especially impressed by the speech delivered by the Honorable President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the subject of «sports». It was full of new ideas which we should follow. I have no doubt that he is a real knowledgeable person.