KARACHI: The government launched a scything attack on the current Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) setup on Thursday in an expression of its interest to contest the elections of the country’s football governing body.
Ali Haider Noor Khan Niazi launched his bid for the presidency of the Punjab Football Association (PFA), calling the district representatives for a meeting at the Sports Board Punjab (SBP) headquarters in Lahore — a move believed to be the government’s first step towards taking control of the PFF.
Noor, a former MPA from Mianwali and the son-in-law of the Nawaz family, Pakistan’s ruling party, accused PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat of rigging the elections “to make sure his favourites” remain in power.
FIFA says ‘monitoring the situation’
“It is a conspiracy against football and on part of the PFF to elect its favourites in the PFA polls [on April 17] to get its support in the upcoming presidential elections [in July],” Noor told reporters in Lahore.
“I’ve come forward to contest the elections of the PFA to serve the game and to thwart all such efforts.”
Noor, who will be up against PFF marketing consultant Sardar Naveed Haider Khan and incumbent Arshad Khan Lodhi in the PFA polls, accused the PFF chief of manoeuvring the elections by appointing his brother-in-law as the election commissioner for the elections.
“Faisal Saleh Hayat has appointed his brother-in-law [Syed Nayyar Haider] as the election commissioner for the PFA elections which speaks volumes about favouritism and nepotism,” he said.
The PFF responded strongly to those allegations.
“They really don’t know what they are talking about,” a top official of the PFF told Dawn on Thursday. “Nayyar Haider is serving on the FIFA and AFC disciplinary committees so he’s the best man to be the election commissioner.”
The meeting at the SBP headquarters was also addressed by Punjab sports minister Rana Mashood and SBP Director-General Usman Anwar and it is alleged that the provincial government had pressured district representatives to attend the meeting.
The PFA elections will see the 35 district football association presidents cast their votes for the president and five vice-presidents.
“Usman Anwar was tasked with making sure that all the district representatives were attending the meeting,” a well-placed source told Dawn. “They had used force and warned the representatives with dire consequences if they failed to do so.”
Even then, the meeting saw just 11 out of 35 representatives attend.
“This is an arm-twisting technique being used by the government,” the source added. “They also disclosed that Capt Safdar Awan, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will contest the presidency elections.”
Government interference could prompt action by FIFA with the statutes of world’s football governing body stating that is member associations have to “manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties”.
Dawn understands that if the elections are held in a free and fair manner without ‘force’ and if a government-backed candidate is elected, there will be no action provided the elected representative severs his/her government ties and runs the body independently.
A FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Thursday that it was “monitoring the situation and can’t comment further at the time of writing”.
Noor, meanwhile, alleged the current PFF setup of embezzlement in the funds it receives from FIFA and the AFC for development projects.
“The PFF is getting millions of rupees on a monthly basis from FIFA but the money is being spent on non-football affairs including buying luxury cars and paying huge salaries to its staff,” he said.
“Unfortunately, football coaches are not being paid despite that fact that they are making efforts at grassroots level for the development of the game.”
Noor also urged the Prime Minister to take notice. “The Prime Minister should look into the matter and take notice of the corruption in the present regime of the PFF,” he added.
The PFF, meanwhile, slammed the allegations of misusing funds.
“The funds that we receive from FIFA and AFC are regularly audited,” another top official of the PFF told Dawn on Thursday. “These are baseless allegations on us.
“We’ve had no government support for the last several years but despite that we’ve managed to hold events consistently. We’ve seen international teams come and play in Pakistan whilst at the same time managed to send our team for foreign tours.
“That’s where the funds from FIFA and AFC is being used. The current PFF setup has brought stability to Pakistan football. It has provided Pakistan football with the platform to grow.”
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2015