On 18th January 2021, Pak Afghan Youth Forum held a cross-border dialogue through video conferencing between notable athletes, commentators, and institutional professionals, from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Webinar’s timings were 3:00 PM- 5:00 PM Pakistan Time and 2:30 PM Afghanistan Time.
The session focused on the role of sports and athletes in bettering relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the future regional goodwill. The session was moderated by Ejaz Ahmed, a cricket commentator. The Afghan panel included Dr. Yonus Popalzai, the Secretary-General of the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee, Muhammad Arif Paiman, the Spokesman for the department of sports, and Karim Sadiq Khan, a national cricketer. The Pakistani panel was made up of Mr. Gohar Zaman, a retired national cricket player, Amir Atlas Khan, a squash champion and nephew of the legendary Jansher Khan, Kulsoom Hazara, a Taekwondo champion and one of the first Pakistani women in that field, as well as Noorena Shams, who is an international athlete and an athlete rights activist. The key takeaway was that at the level of individual athletes and even sports associations, there is a deep desire to collaborate more, and the hurdles are mostly due to security issues, and politics. There were
many suggestions of cross-border sports camps and tournaments to eliminate mistrust between players on both sides, as well as their families and wider communities. It was suggested that experts in sports on either side can help coach players on the other. For example, Afghans can help Pakistani footballers train, and Pakistan can do the same for games like squash. It was highlighted that not only are Pakistan and Afghanistan’s culture, language, and religion similar or the same, so are our problems, even at the level of athletes. There needs to be a focus on supporting passionate youth and giving them the facilities and training so that they might realize their sports dreams. The need to empower women in sports was also stressed upon. The nature of the event allowed the panelists to talk openly about sports diplomacy and associated issues, and interact with each other.
For more on this event:
Noorena Shams International Athlete, Athletes Rights Activist
Aamir Atlas Khan Squash Champion
Karim Sadiq Cricketer
Kulsoom Hazara Karate Player
Asif Khan Journalist
Gohar Zaman Retired National Footballer
Dr.Yonus Popalzai Secretary-General of the Afghan Olympic Committee