Land of confusion: Riddles in the sand

Published: June 15, 2011

There is no strong argument to spend state funds on a sport like golf.

The view from the bunker is perhaps, one of the most worrying sights for the amateur golfer.  The dual impact of a poor stroke and bad luck usually strikes a nerve that will further hinder the player’s already disadvantageous position. Chances are, at least one poor shot will follow. But that’s OK, because even the worst round of golf can be erased by another famed Scottish export.

Ah, the golf courses of Islamabad. If there were ever a place in this city to forget poverty, illiteracy and disease, and everyone’s favourite – terrorism – these are the places to be. While for ages avid golfers had only the Islamabad Club’s course available to them, there are now at least three lush, green courses where golf enthusiasts flock to have a round or two, play a hole or two, and chat among friends and colleagues.

But what about the 99% of Pakistanis that can’t afford to even look at a golf course?

What about the people who can barely afford to go to our ‘public’ parks, where entrance fees alone have gotten to the point where a poor family can’t even spend a few hours picnicking?

Golf, for all of its merits, is ultimately a sport for the rich. If people want to pay good money to play a round, no one should have a problem. After all, golf itself isn’t harmful; in fact, like any sport, it might help keep those extra inches off and all that walking is definitely good cardio.

The problem though, is that golf, for some strange reason, is being directly subsidised by the state. Here is a sport that by its very nature is only open to those with means.

Consider this – the military clubs are all publicly subsidised, either directly or because the military itself is tax-funded.


Unless someone walking the corridors of power thinks that the next Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh is in the military or bureaucracy’s employ, that money could be much better spent on giving the general public some breaks, rather than helping a few generals have a laugh.

However, if the argument that our civil and military leadership need more avenues for entertainment is to be accepted, recent events prove that golf needs more funds, because only when the millions of rupees needed to maintain the courses and the thousands of gallons of water needed to water the fairways are accounted for, can we think about lesser things, like improving security at and around our military bases.

Or maybe pay our jawans better. After all, those are the young men, if you can even call a teenager a man, who put their lives on the line, often ending up with debilitating injuries, and if they are lucky enough to avoid injury, will be retired around age 40, with a pension so low that most of them return to the poverty they rose from.

If those in the upper echelon of power want to play out of their own pockets, fine. If our ‘poor’ upper class can’t afford to, here’s a suggestion – play another sport! As long as it’s not polo, it’ll be a lot cheaper on the national exchequer.

There is no strong argument to spend state funds on a sport like golf, we have almost nothing in terms of world class talent, and unless Tiger Woods took a detour in Pakistan during his global love-fest, I don’t see the need to try and groom it.

Published in The Express Tribune.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.