Sports is an intrinsic part of any nation’sway of life. Any country that desires establishing finest bilateral relations harbours onits sports. A sportsperson enjoys status of a good-will ambassador in any country. In Pakistan, constant progressive measures have been taken on national levels by the government to ensure a soft image of the country. Recently, private sector has also stepped into sports promotion by taking it as a corporate social responsibility.
PIA, the country’s most trusted national carrier has always celebrated sports and the spirit of sportsmanship by extending generous sponsorships in a bid toretain the reputation of the green flag. PIA venturedout to create a division solely dedicated to sports, in the year 1958. Speaking of sports division, the name Air Marshal Nur Khan deems a mention. It was following the vision and guidance of Air Marshal Nur Khan in the year 1978, that Pakistan International Airways Investment Limited(a brain child of Air Chief Marshal Nur Khan) was formedwhich opened doors of hospitality sector for the country’s national air company.Nur Khan also initiated PIA’s Colts Team, as a tool to search for promising young sports talent throughout the country. These talents were paid a monthly stipend, along with coaching and training sessions. Having pioneered the idea of launching the colts scheme in cricket, hockey, football and squash,PIA helped in discovering a number of promising youngsters who went on to become stars in the following years.
Speaking of sports promotion, Squash has remained agame wherein Pakistan gained most victories. Pakistandominated squash like no other country in the world. This prominence lasted under PIA’s patronage, consecutively for 5 years. Most of Pakistan’s successes in the world of sports can be attributed to Pakistan International Airlines. It was because of PIA Sports Division that legends like Qamar Zaman, Jehangir Khan, Jansher Khan, Gogi Alauddin, Sohail Qaiser and Zarak Jahan Khanwere introduced to the world.Jahangir Khan was one magnificent player that resultedfrom among the PIA Colts.
In addition to Squash,the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) under NurKhan flourished to its optimum. PHF, the national game of Pakistan produced some of the star players who raised the country’s flag by securing two Hockey World Cups (1978 and 1982), two events of the Champions Trophy (1978 and 1980) and two Olympic Gold Medals in 1968 and 1984. The defeat of Germany after a very tough tug and pull in 1984, at Los Angeles, was a shining moment not only for PHF but for PIA as well.Prominent hockey players included Pakistan’s 1994 World Cup hero Shahbaz Ahmed Senior, Manzoor Senior, Manzoor Junior, Abdul Rasheed Junior, Saleem Sherwani, Shahid Ali Khan and Kamran Ashraf.
Moving over to cricket, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) under PIA went ahead and producedHanif Muhammad, one of the finest batsmen of the 50’s era. The airline’s in-house cricket team facilitated cream of cricketers such as Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Waseem Akram, Sohaib Akhter, Abdul Razzak and Sarfaraz Ahmed, etc.These playersproved their worth and became a sign of international prestige for homeland, time and again.
Air Chief Marshal Nur Khan’s contribution in PIA Sports Division, as the Managing Director and Chairman, to PIA Investment Limited as its first Head and to Pakistan Hockey, Squash and Cricket as a guiding force deserves acknowledgment.
PIA did a remarkable job by introducing some of the best sportsmen. A lot of player’s success is attributed to this organization. It was PIA that procured sports talent, moldedplayers, mentored them to reach their optimum and succeeded in not only improving but elevating the status of sports in Pakistan. Apart from squash, hockey and cricket, PIA also groomed players in the field of polo, tennis, bridge, chess, snooker, table tennis and body building.
PIA is much more than just a proud national carrier. It has now grown into a full-fledged national institution, in continuation to its firm resolveto develop sports in the country.The visionarymanagement at PIA provided an impetus for the airline to establish a unique career development plan for the country’s talented sports people. The contribution of PIA in the advancement of Pakistan’s sports would remain matchless. So far, no other organization in the country has dedicatedly campaigned for the development of sports. PIA dramatized the world of Pakistani sports by transforming popular games into knockout national sports, shapednational sportsmen into international heroes, and turned national tournaments into international sports bonanzas.