January 29, 2014

Ashraf Tai wins another bout against illness


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Grand Master Mohammad Ashraf Tai, acclaimed as the most famous martial artist of the country, has survived another bout of critical illness, second time in less than a year. He has been discharged from the hospital, after being there for a couple of weeks. 

“Yes indeed it was another close call and I consider myself fortunate enough to have recovered again. I have a history of diabetic for the last many years but the sugar level had gone down to alarmingly low level a couple of weeks ago and the doctors had to work overtime to stabilize it,” Ashraf Tai disclosed in a recent interview in Karachi. 

“I am feeling better now and it’s a great relief to return home after being two weeks in hospital. The doctors, however, have not allowed me to resume training until my condition improved further,” he added. 

Not very long ago, last March to be precise, the Grand Master had collapsed at the international headquarters of the Tai’s Karate Centre, located on Karachi’s busy M A Jinnah Road, and was rushed to a hospital in a precarious condition. 

His kidneys were badly affected when his blood pressure dropped to the dangerous levels as he remained in intensive care unit for quite a few days before being finally discharged after five weeks. 

At the strength of his awesome will power and continuous medical treatment he had recuperated steadily and returned to the karate centre he had founded more than four decades ago.

His return was warmly greeted by the trainees and their parents who didn't believe their eyes of watching the Grand Master perform again, after having learnt and heard all sorts of stories during his prolonged stay at the hospital. 

Ashraf Tai himself was in very high spirits at having made a comeback at his own centre after being away for more than six weeks.

He trained his students in the usual enthusiastic style of his in the two-hour classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Now another comeback awaits him at the Tai’s Karate Centre. In fact it was quite a miraculous comeback after the serious illness last year. 

Those having visited him in extreme trauma at the ICU of the Liaquat National Hospital were mighty relieved at watching him train his students with the same intensity and passion at his Tai’s Karate Centre.

President of Pakistan's Pride of Performance winner Ashraf Tai has been hailed and recognized for having played the lead role in launching and promoting martial arts across the country. 

He had become the pioneer martial arts teacher in Pakistan when he introduced bando karate in early 1970s, having emigrated from Burma.

He also had a stint in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) before coming over to Karachi. 

He started coaching a group of six students at the Hill Park. As the number of young karate enthusiasts kept growing, he moved to the KGA Gymkhana at M A Jinnah Road where the centre is still housed.

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January 21, 2014

Veteran sports journalist Afaq Ahmad is no more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Writing the obituary or a condolence note of someone who has been a dear colleague for decades is one of the most painful tasks to perform. Yet it’s a moral, if not necessarily official, duty of the surviving members of the fraternity to remember the deceased. 

Afaq Ahmad, who began his career has a sports journalist and rose to the position of the News Editor of a famous daily, breathed his last, after a protracted illness, in his hometown Karachi on January 11. He was believed to be over 70. 

Unfortunately the news of his death didn't find its way in the media circles and the only place where he was provided the due space was none other than Daily News for whom he had worked for a number of years before his retirement in the capacity of the News Editor in 2001. 

Afaq Ahmad was suffering from the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for about three years. He was admitted to a private hospital in a critical condition on the morning of January 11 and he passed away later in the day. 

His funeral prayer was offered the following day after Namaz-e-Asr at the Jaamia Masjid in Paposh Nagar, Nazimabad Number 5, and he was laid to rest in the Paposh Nagar graveyard. He had lived in Nazamabad for a number of years. He has left behind two children, a son and a daughter. 

His wife, an educationist, had expired about a year ago. His son, Uzair Afaq, has played competitive cricket in Karachi before relocating in England where he continued his passion with the sport while pursuing higher education. 

Afaq Ahmad remained associated with the media industry for over four decades. He had started his career as crime reporter in Morning News. He later joined Daily News, the largest circulated evening newspaper of the country, as a Sports Reporter where he was promoted to the post of the Sports Editor before being finally appointed the News Editor, a position he retained until his retirement. 

 Upon retirement from Daily News, he had a stint at Daily Business Recorder for a few years. He continued visiting the Karachi Press Club occasionally where he was able to touch base with many of his colleagues and contemporaries. 

The death of Afaq Ahmad is another saddening blow to the local sports circles, having already lost the personalities like Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, Munir Hussain, Ahmed Mustafa, Razaullah Khan, Hasib Ahsan and Shamsuzzaman during the course of one year or so. 

Afaq Ahmad, who was quite popular in the sporting arena in particular, played his role admirably in the promotion of sports. The sight of the weekly colourful sports pages of Daily News, which were also rich in content, pleased many eyes. The pages were usually punctuated with high quality action photographs which also helped in increasing the circulation of the newspaper.

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January 17, 2014

Hockey legend Anwar Ahmad Khan recuperating after freak accident


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The condition of the 80-year-old hockey legend, Anwar Ahmad Khan, has improved following a freak accident at his house a couple of weeks. He has been discharged from the hospital.

His son Dr Adnan Anwar, who is himself a vastly experienced physician, revealed that the former Pakistan captain, regarded as the greatest-ever centre-half to have graced the hockey arena, has had an extended stay at the hospital due to the various complications caused by his sudden collapse while having shower. 

“Quite a few bones of his have been damaged as he appeared to have slipped in the portion right below the shower. The lungs have been disturbed and there are marks of swelling on his head as well. Various tests are being carried out and that’s why he had more than one week stay at the hospital.” he disclosed. 

The great Olympian remained in great spirits and he didn't even mind meeting friends and acquaintances who came to visit him in his room of Karachi’s leading private hospital which is a stone’s throw away from his residence. 

“I have had numerous injuries during my playing career but this one looks little serious. As I do have the knack of seeing off tough moments, I am confident that, with the prayers and best wishes of family members and friends, I will be able to regain my composure soon,” Anwar Ahmad Khan remarked in a confident manner but his voice choked momentarily. 

Although he was surrounded by a team of doctors, the hockey memories were still shaking his mind and he was able to recall the breaking of his teeth during an Asian Games encounter against Korea in 1958. 

“Trust me I had returned to the field after taking the first-aid and played the rest of the match to ensure that no goal was scored against Pakistan. I also played the following game against India and didn’t let them score a single game. And we won the gold medal due to better goal average than India,” he recalled with pride in his eyes. 

His family members felt greatly relieved and her daughter, Dr Shahneela, described the recovery as a new lease of life. 

“The manner in which he was brought to the hospital on January 2 had really scared us. He was in such critical condition after the collapse that we were not even sure if he would be able to reach here. Thanks God he responded to the treatment and his condition started improving,” she observed. 

“As the whole nation knows my father is a brave man. He is never short of will power. We are hoping and praying for his quick recovery,” she added. 

The great Anwar Ahmad Khan, who was instrumental in earning as many as five medals for the country in the Olympic Games and Asian Games from 1956 to 1964, has had health issues during the last few years in particular. His eyes had to be operated upon while he is also suffering from diabetes.

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January 9, 2014

Pakistan snooker fly high in 2013


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), while awaiting the government support, looks to consolidate on the glories earned by the cueists as well as the administrators during the course of the just concluded year.

“2013 was probably the most fruitful year in the history of the Pakistan snooker as our cueists accomplished outstanding feats at the international level while we also made a breakthrough in the development of infrastructure facilities for cue sports,” Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, remarked in an interview at the Karachi Club. 

“Now we are looking forward to the new year with realistic hopes of capitalizing on the good work of the recent past. The momentum is with us and we desire to make it count despite the resource constraints,” he asserted. 

“During 2013, Mohammad Majid Ali ended as the runner-up in the 14th Asian U-21 Championship at Indore, India, in April while Mohammad Asif won the inaugural Asian 6-Red Championship at Doha, Qatar, in May. Then Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sajjad won the IBSF 6-Red Championship at Carlow, Ireland, in October while Mohammad Sajjad finished third in the IBSF World Championship at Daugavpils, Latvia, in December,” the PBSA President recalled. 

“Add to this the historic triumph of Mohammad Asif in the World Championship at Sofia, Bulgaria, in December 2012. We have had a terrific run of 12 months. Never before in our history so much had been achieved within a year,” Alamgir Shaikh pointed out. 

“While the PBSA continued holding the national rankings tournaments at the designated time throughout the year to let the cueists maintain their excellent form and fitness, the Association also worked in the areas of creating the infrastructure for snooker. The work continued on developing a snooker academy in Karachi while an academy was established in Faisalabad to facilitate the cueists of the upcountry region,” he continued. 

“We have been able to achieve this with negligible support from the government sector. The promises on their part have not been fulfilled yet, despite assurances, which put us in very awkward position. But we haven’t let the sport suffer and we have managed to do it with untold problems at our end,” the PBSA President complained. 

“The government functionaries at the top level are sporting enough to acknowledge our contribution in bringing laurels for the country but, for some unexplained reasons, they have not been able to extend us the support we have deserved,” Alamgir Shaikh stated. 

“We have had numerous meetings in Islamabad and every time we have been told that the outstanding funds will be released shortly. We do understand the administrative problems at their hand but, as they have agreed, our Association merits special consideration in view of our outstanding performance in the recent past,” he said. 

“Our plans for 2014 might suffer if the government didn't release the payments which are long overdue now. It will be a national tragedy if the sport of snooker, which was earned continued glories during the last 12 months, is made to suffer due to red-tapism,” he warned. 

The PBSA hoped that the Ministry of the Inter-Provincial Coordination and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) would be considerate enough not to let snooker suffer by taking positive actions at the start of the year.

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January 2, 2014

Happy New Year 2014


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