Sports for Development Programs and FATA Youth Festival

“The people of FATA have suffered tremendously, their landscapes marred by the decades-old wars of others, their cultural values under constant threats, they deserve the utmost treatment under incubation”

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Sports is defined by UN as ” All forms of physical activity that contributes to physical fitness, mental well being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organized or competitive and indigenous sports and games”

If sports is meant to promote social interaction and helps an individual attain mental and physical fitness, it comes under the category of fundamental human rights. Like dismal show on others human rights index, our policy makers have neglected this fundamental right as well.

On 30 December, 2015, KP government organized a FATA Youth Festival, co-sponsored by FATA Sports Board and UN Development Program. After an extensive publicity campaign, the event concluded amidst scathing criticism from the participants. Almost 30 different games were selected for the events to be played with 1785 males and female players on the list. Olympics Games logo was used in the event as it was a co-sponsored event but the rules and regulations of the international event were ignored. According to the participants, the accommodation provided was of cheap nature, most of the expenses were bored from their own pockets as there was no one to look after them. As one of the leading newspapers termed it as ‘ FATA Youth Festival becomes a farce’

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This apathy on the part of the organizers points to their general interest in the well-being of the people. If such a mega event is used for a publicity campaign and no home work is done, then the organizers have not only squandered public funds but have played with the talent of the sports community.

Sports, if given due attention,  can be a strong antidote to our patriarchal  zealots because it will not only inculcate strength and confidence in the women but can also help reconfigure the notion of women as weak, irrational and cooking maniacs

The people of FATA have suffered tremendously, their landscapes marred by the decades-old wars of others, their cultural values under constant threats and their very indigenous self uprooted, they deserve the utmost treatment under incubation. Sports ,in this regard, is one of the most viable tools that can help them harness their energies and can provide them with a sense of self, the self that is blemished by wars.

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Apart from promoting the physical wellbeing of individuals, sports can be an enabling tool in educating the people of Fata. This can only be done when effective programs that give priority to developmental objectives are designed. These programs must be inclusive only the they can fulfill the purpose of educating the masses.

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Across the world, sports is being used to harness the energies of people. Aliva Bauer, a South African  researcher working on the primates (baboons) saw the Maasais, the nomadic tribesmen  having the potential of playing the game of cricket. She introduced cricket to them and in a very short span of time, the whole community started wielding cricket bats. Aliva’s sole purpose of introducing the game was to create awareness among them of HIV/ AIDS, preservation of wildlife, women’s issues and their rights, child marriages and to keep them away from poaching the rhinos. Her mission was an outright success. The captain of the Maasais’s team expressed his view of the game in the following wordsfata04

“We now know things outside our own culture and understand a lot more about conservation and problems that we encounter in our day to day life. The game has surely taught us the other way of life”

This realization on the part of the captain should act as an eye opener for our sports authorities that ignore the power of sports.

Sports can be a powerful tool for development and learning because it promotes participation, inclusion, human values, acceptance of rules, discipline, health promotion, non violence, tolerance, gender equality and team work. Don’t we see these issues as gnawing at the very existence of our tribal areas? Why does it take that much time and energy when it involves the people of FATA? Perhaps there is no will on the part of our policy makers.

Sports be it cricket or any other game can be a great source of empowerment. The recent marvelous performance by our women cricket team at WT20 is a proof that if given proper attention and provided with suitable platforms, women too can excel beyond any doubt. The age-old myth of boys sports no longer stays intact.

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FATA Youth Festival can act as a catalyst for development projects provided that our policy makers realize the value of sports. It is a step in the right direction but the reports of embezzlement of funds and other anomalies must not deter our sporting spirit. Sports, if given due attention,  can be a strong antidote to our patriarchal  zealots because it will not only inculcate strength and confidence in the women but can also help reconfigure the notion of women as weak, irrational and cooking maniacs.

Writer: Muhammad Arif Khan

The writer is an Mphil research scholar at GCU, Lahore. He can be reached at

mister.arifkhan@gmail.com

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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