Pak hockey Olympian banned for 10 years for ‘slamming’ Imran Khan

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In an unusual development which may raise voices in support of freedom of expression, Pakistans hockey Olympian Rashid-ul-Hasan was banned for 10 years by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Thursday allegedly for his criticism of the decline of the sport in the country on a social media platform, Dawn reported.

Rashid, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics gold medallist, while categorically denying the allegations of using offensive language, is considering the option to challenge the ban in the court of law.

A PHF inquiry committee was constituted to see if Rashid had used abusive language against Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also the PHF patron-in-chief.

The instructions in this regard were issued by PHF President Brig (Retd) Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and Secretary Asif Bajwa, said a press release issued on Thursday, the report said.

After Rashid did not respond to two notices issued to him on the matter, the committee on PHF President’s instructions imposed the 10-year ban. A 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 Pakistan premier on any social media forum.

“On social media or any other public platform, I have always given [due] respect to the Prime Minister,” the 62-year-old Rashid told Dawn.

“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 added, he had the right to speak, but “I didn’t use any abusive language”.

Expressing his surprise over the ban announced by the PHF, Rashid said that currently he didn’t even hold many position in the federation.

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 report said.

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