LAHORE: Workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Friday raised slogans against former hockey stars who gathered at the National Hockey Stadium (NHS) to protest against removal of the AstroTurf to hold a public rally on Saturday (tomorrow).
Dr Tariq Aziz, who represented the Pakistan team which won the gold medal in the Mexico Olympics in 1968 and silver medal in Tokyo Olympics, was prominent among the protesters. As the hockey players entered the stadium, a number of PTI workers who were already there to make arrangements for the event raised slogans against them.
Two former international players, retired Col Abdul Rauf Sindhu and retired Maj Pirzada, along with some hockey lovers, continued their protest.
They displayed the posters inscribed with slogans demanding that the stadium should not be destroyed, a new turf be laid and efforts be made to save hockey.
Olympian Tariq Aziz told Dawn that he was disappointed over the government’s decision to allow a political gathering at the stadium despite the fact that there were many open places which could be used to hold such rallies. He said the attitude of the political party workers was unfair as the hockey lovers had the right to protest against any decision detrimental to the game.
He said Imran Khan as a sportsman should promote sports instead of destroying the grounds. As a former hockey player, Aziz said, it was his duty to highlight such an action as he had no link with any political party and he was raising the issue solely out of his love for hockey and for its future.
“Our aim is to save hockey as the game has given us respect and pride,” he said.
Retired Col Abdul Rauf said although the government claimed that a new turf would be laid, it was not an easy job as it would take at least one year and the players would be deprived of a world-class venue until that time. He condemned the attitude of the political party’s workers.
Pirzada also expressed his concern over the government’s move and made it clear that the protest was being registered without any political motive.
Meanwhile, during the media talk, the party workers continued to heckle the event while raising the volume of the sound system through which some of them delivered ‘hate speeches’ against the protesters.
The PTI — the ruling party in Punjab — shifted the public rally from Islamabad to Lahore a few days ago and selected the hockey stadium as the venue. It is the first time a political event is being held at the NHS which hosted World Cup-1990, Champions Trophy in 1988, 1994, 1998 and 2004, besides many other international events.
Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2022