Until six years ago, Usman Chand regularly made weekend trips to India. And it never took him more than two hours to cross the border: he hit the fast road from his hometown of Sialkot to Wagah, drive for an hour and a half, park the car and just walk over to the other side.
“I had a multi-entry visa,” Chand says. “My business partner picked me up from Wagah Border on Thursday. We spent a day talking business, a party over the weekend and on Sunday, I returned to Pakistan. ”
This time, the gun shooter’s trip to New Delhi, for the World Cup, was not so easy. At first, waiting for the visa was anxious. Then, the difficult case of international travel in the midst of a pandemic. He was unable to make a road trip as he had to carry his weapons and ammunition for the tournament. So, on a flight to Dubai, he spent 18 hours waiting for a connection before finally arriving in the Indian capital.
“The flight from Lahore to Delhi is just 45 minutes. But that option is not available due to the current constraints due to the pandemic, ”says Chand. “But I’m happy to be back.”
Chand is the only Pakistani hunter to take part in this year’s World Cup. In February 2019, a three-member Pakistani firing team was denied a visa to compete in the Delhi World Cup, which brought about the isolation of India’s sport.
Accusing India of violating the principles of ‘non-discrimination’, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended talks with the government and the Olympic Association of India for hosting sporting events . The talks resumed after the government gave a written assurance that Pakistani sportsmen would not stop coming to India.
Politically, too, things have changed. In February 2019, when the visas were denied, India had made airstrips in Balakot after the Pulwama attacks. This time, the sentiment is different, with the two countries issuing a joint statement last month in support of the ceasefire signed in 2003. “The talks are peaceful. good. The tension is affecting both my business and sport, ”Chand laughs.
Business between neighbors
His relationship with India extends beyond sport. Shooting is, of course, accidental. For years, his company has been supplying medical equipment to India.
In 1947, shortly after Partition, Chand’s grandfather started two new businesses: the Punjab Music House and Chand Manufacturing Company. Over the years, Chand Manufacturing Company became their core business, manufacturing equipment used for cardiovascular and dental centers. Their main export destination? “India,” says the 36-year-old. “Seventy per cent of our business is done in India. But the market is closed right now. ”
Chand is in charge of the production side of the company while his father, Rahat, is in charge of the marketing side. And while minding the family business, Chand also acquired something else from his grandfather: “The gun,” he says. “My grandfather and father were hunters. I did some hunting too, but this was more interesting. In hunting, all you have to do is shoot. But here, we need to show our skills. ”
What started out as a hobby became an obsession. In 2008, a friend gave Chand a look at the Pakistan National Championship. He later set up a firing range near his home in Sialkot, working non-stop and by 2012, became the country’s champion. “For the past five years, the gold medals for all events – skeleton, trap and double trap – have been with me,” says Chand, lighting up a photo on his mobile phone where all his gold coins are piled on the barrel of his rifle. “There are very few gunmen in Pakistan because it is so expensive. My thing is self-funded. ”
Seriously at home, Chand has not made a mark in Asia or around the world in his finite events – his best is finishing in fifth place at the 2018 Asian Games, where he says he was chewed by Indian hunters Angad Vir Bajwa and Mairaj Khan. “I have known Angad for four or five years. We first met in Italy and have stopped since. Mairaj, too, is a good friend. If my brother is a finalist, I have to support him, ”says Chand. “At the 2018 Asian Games final, Angad and Mairaj were celebrating. It’s a game after all. ”
Chand recently received a scholarship from the IOC, which fueled his desire to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. “Earning rating points in Delhi could help me qualify. My goal is to at least reach the final of my event, ”says Chand.
But even if opportunities for his qualification hang in the balance, the Pakistani hunter is happy just to be back in India. “I saw almost the whole country because of my business trips,” he says. “It is good that there is communication between India and Pakistan at the moment. It will help both business and sport. ”