Pakistan bans Olympic hockey gold medallist Rashid-ul-Hasan for criticising PM Imran Khan

Pakistan’s sports authorities have banned for 10 years hockey player Rashid-ul-Hasan, a member of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics gold medal winning team, for allegedly using offensive language against Prime Minister Imran Khan, a media report said on Friday.

Rashid, 62, while categorically denying the allegations of using offensive language, is considering the option to challenge the ban in the court of law, the Dawn newspaper reported.

He was banned by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Thursday for 10 years after he criticised Prime Minister Khan — who is also PHF patron-in-chief — on a social media platform over the decline of the sport in the country, it said.

Expressing his surprise over the ban, Rashid said that currently he was not even holding any position in the federation.

The move is expected to raise voices in support of freedom of expression.

A PHF inquiry committee was constituted to see if Rashid had used abusive language against Khan.

The instructions were given by the PHF president Brig. (retd.) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and secretary Asif Bajwa, according to a statement.

After Rashid did not respond to two notices, the committee on PHF president’s instructions imposed the 10-year ban. The copy of the notification has also been sent to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Sports.

Speaking on the matter, Rashid dispelled the impression of abusive language he was alleged to have used against the prime minister on any social media forum.

“On social media or any other public media, I have always given (due) respect to the prime minister,” Rashid told the Dawn newspaper.

“On a WhatsApp group I only said that on the container though Imran Khan was claiming that he would put the game of hockey on the right track, nothing came on the surface during the last three years. And I also said Imran will not do any good work for hockey,” the Olympian remarked while giving his clarification.

As a citizen of the country, Rashid said, he had the right to speak, but “I didn’t use any abusive language”.

According to Rashid, he received the first notice from the PHF some five months ago, adding “it didn’t carry any solid material, that’s why I did not consider it serious”.

“The second explanation notice I received some 45 days ago. I wrote a short reply to the PHF refusing to accept the allegations as I did not use any abusive language against the prime minister,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PHF requested the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to issue letters to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and other relevant institutions to take further steps for implementing the ban on Rashid, the report added.

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