Bahawalpur inferno victims receive Rs2m whereas cricket players get Rs10m – ever heard of the word priorities, Nawaz Sharif
Pakistan won the recently held Champions Trophy despite all odds stacked against them. Victory tasted sweeter since it was achieved by crushing our arch rivals India in the final of tournament.
Pakistan’s victory was received extremely well by all sections of society. They didn’t just heap praise on the team for their commendable performance, but also presented expensive prizes to team members on their return to Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan, led by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, also announced hefty cash prizes for the national team and the total prize money gifted to the players and management of the victorious team amounted to Rs200 million without tax deduction. Yes, Rs200 million, let that sink in.
Each player received Rs10 million. Harris Sohail pocketed this amount without having to play even a single match in the tournament. Lucky him. Thirteen members, who were a part of the team management, including the manager, coaches, a security manager, social media manager, and a tour operations in-charge, pocketed Rs5 million each.
However, I am unsure about what motivation the security manager, Mr Azhar Arif, or tour operations in-charge, Mr Shahid Aslam, provided the team with before the final in order to deserve this handsome prize money.
Members of the team management are hired on weighty salaries and they continue to get their salaries irrespective of the team’s performance. If their salaries are not deducted according to the team’s poor performance, why then, should they be paid a huge amount on behalf of the team’s success?
Rewarding sportsmen with monetary prizes on bagging achievements is simply wrong, especially in cricket and hockey, but unfortunately, this practice is etched in our culture. Therefore, I believe the current government is following a dangerous and unpractical precedent.
The real issue here is the amount of the prize money – it is way too high and puts a huge onus on the economy of a country which is already suffering from tremendous foreign debts. Handing out Rs200 million on a whim in a country which has inadequate resources to invest in basic healthcare and education for its citizens is quite alarming. Ever heard of the word priorities, Nawaz Sharif?
According to a 2016 annual report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan only spends 0.9% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare. This is a shamefully low figure, and yet no genuine effort is made by the government to cut down on the wastage of finances in order to focus on the core issues gnawing our nation.
Our debts are more than 60% of its GDP, but instead of improving ourselves, we are continuing to spend billions of rupees on non-productive segments.
Just a day before Eidul Fitr, an unfortunate and heartbreaking incident took place in Bahawalpur where nearly 174 people burnt to death because of an oil tanker spill. The irony here is that the compensation package announced for the deceased is only 20% (Rs2 million) of the amount each member of our cricket team received from the PM.
This comparison proves that powerful and famous people, either from the field of sports or any other segment of life, receive more preference than the common man in Pakistan.
Cricketers earn vast amounts of money from their contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as well as their affiliation with various brands. There is really no obligation on the federal government or any provincial government to give them cash prizes. Government-possessed finances are earned either through obtaining a loan from international donor agencies or by squeezing indirect taxes from the people of this country. It is a pity and a matter of shame that governments in Pakistan spend money with such impunity and without realising the consequences of their actions.
We could have used this money constructively. Instead of doling out Rs200 million on the entire team and its management, it could have been spent on improving the strength of our national highway police so that in the future they could have better resources to prevent and handle incidents such as the Ahmedpur fire. I have travelled on the superhighway on numerous occasions and observed the lack of police resources present every time.
In a democracy, the government is answerable to the public, but in our country, even democratic governments take questionable steps. Regrettably, neither the opposition nor the public questions or protests their moves.
If the government of this developing country wants to award players for their effort and achievements, why not announce a more feasible sum, such as Rs1 million, instead of Rs10 million?
Worldwide, the norm is that such decisions are made public after a discussion between cabinet members, but Pakistan is one country where the PM makes his decision public first and gets an approval from the cabinet later.
The innocent citizens will shower accolades on the PM and his team for rewarding our cricketers, but in reality, it is just a wastage of public money.
It would be great if our cricketers and the team management exhibit some generosity and use this large chunk of money on public welfare. The media and our public portrayed these cricketers as national heroes, rightfully so, but now it is up to these heroes to display nationalism and help their countrymen who are in dire need of basic necessities.
People are still dying of poverty and hunger in Pakistan. Whose responsibility are they? Rather than proudly announcing vast amounts of prize money, why don’t our leaders try to empathise with the people of their nation for a change?