The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) banned Olympian Rashid-ul-Hasan for 10 years on Thursday, purportedly for his insulting criticism of the country’s hockey on a social media platform. This is an unusual occurrence that may raise voices in support of freedom of expression.
Rashid, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist from Los Angeles, is considering challenging the ban in court, despite strongly disputing the claims of using derogatory language.
Rashid was investigated by a PHF investigation committee to examine if he used harsh language towards Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also the PHF patron-in-chief. According to a press release released on Thursday, PHF president retired Brig Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and secretary Asif Bajwa gave the orders in this regard.
The committee under the PHF president’s directions imposed the ten-year suspension after Rashid failed to react to two notices provided to him on the topic. A copy of the notification was also given to the Standing Committee on Sports of the National Assembly.
Speaking on the subject, Rashid debunked any suggestion that he used abusive language towards the prime minister on any social media platform.
“I have always showed [proper] respect to the prime minister on social media or any other public medium,” the 62-year-old Rashid told Dawn.
“On a WhatsApp group, I merely remarked that on the container, despite Imran Khan’s claims that he will put hockey back on track, nothing has surfaced in the last three years.” “I also claimed Imran will not do any good work for hockey,” the Olympian added as a clarification.
Rashid noted that as a citizen of the country, he had the right to talk, but that he “didn’t use any offensive words.”
Rashid expressed his surprise at the PHF’s announcement, saying he was currently without a position in the organisation.
“It didn’t carry any solid material, so I didn’t think it serious,” Rashid said of the initial notice from the PHF, which he got five months ago.
“I received the second explanation notice 45 days ago,” he stated.
He continued, “I wrote a short response to the PHF refusing to accept the claims because I did not use any derogatory language against the prime minister.”
Meanwhile, the PHF has asked the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to send letters to PEMRA and other relevant institutions, requesting that they take further steps to enforce Rashid’s ban.