Tariq Rahim Baig
It is indeed a moment of pride for all of us, specially people of Gilgit Baltistan, that three of our athletes, and a coach, participated in the Winter Games Special Olympics 2017, held in Austria. Not only did they participate in the mega event, they were also able to win Silver and Bronze medals. It proves yet again that the youth in Gilgit-Balitstan are full of potentials. If they achieve such heights without any government support, then imagine the level of their successes when they are well supported, trained, equipped and prepared to complete at the global level.
The special athletes need our special attention, but unfortunately the special people are by and large ignored, living at the fringes of the society. They are treated through charities for photo operations, instead of being brought in the mainstream through mechanism and processes enshrined in the basic framework of the governance structure. Their physical, psychological and financial needs are ignored by the government and the civil society.
Last weekend, when the athletes landed in Islamabad early in the morning, only civil society members were there to receive them. There was not a single official, or a representative from the federal or GB government, to encourage the athletes by expressing support and solidarity with them.
Peshawar Zalmi’s owner Javed Afridi was the only one to come forward to express solidarity and support, by giving out 100,,000 rupees cash prize to the athletes. This is a good source for motivation, but will it suffice? No, it will not.
The question is, what will the government do for them? How will the government respond? How will the civil society support them in the long run? Will these garlanded heroes of today be the forgotten nobodies after a few months, or years?
We have read about Olympians selling their medals due to financial crisis. Let’s resolve to change this practice of neglect. There must be a process to remunerate the athletes on continuous basis, to ensure that the heroes are able to live with dignity in the future.
The government and the civil society needs to take concrete steps to promote the healthy activities for the people with different abilities. There are many others like these heroes who didn’t get proper attention and training to show their talent at national and international level. Facilities for training and care should be built to honor those special people who win medals, and also those who don’t. They are all special, and all of them need our due attention, when it comes to basic care, attention and respect.
Let’s hope that the government of Gilgit-Baltistan will not ignore the heroes and reward them in the short and long run.