GILGIT: Three Special Olympians who won silver and bronze medals at the recent Special Olympics World Winter Games received a rousing welcome as they returned to Gilgit–Baltistan (G-B) with their coach this week.
Tehmeena, Hameezuddin, Pervez, and Amina Beg all hail from G-B. Their heroics at the games, however, failed to draw any financial incentives from the government – which led to scathing criticism of the regional establishment.
In contrast, Peshawar Zalmi’s owner Javed Afridi announced a cash prize worth Rs100,000 to each member. The special Olympians won big at the international sporting event where 3,000 athletes from 110 countries took part.
The athletes were received by G-B Assembly Deputy Speaker Jafarullah Khan as well as other senior government officials to laud their efforts, while residents also thronged Gulmit in the Gojal Valley to honour the athletes.
Similarly, officials of the district administration along with local community leaders received the athletes in Aliabad, Hunza’s district headquarters.
“This is very disappointing,” a participant reacted to the government’s lacklustre attitude towards them.
“We were not expecting a great deal from the government, however, they [government] could have at least rewarded us for our efforts,” one of the athletes lamented.
”We come from a special segment of society as well,” the participant added. Corresponding sentiments were echoed on social media platforms as the government came under heavy criticism.
“The government didn’t treat our heroes fairly,” local resident Muhammad Khalid posted online. “We should learn to respect our unsung heroes but that’s not happening, at least for now,” Khalid added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2017.