KARACHI: It took them four days but finally the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) issued a news release on the winner of the contentious Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections on Monday.
Friday’s elections for the football controlling body of the country’s largest province were mired in controversy with both the PFF-declared winner, PFF marketing consultant Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, and his rivals, the government-backed Rana Ashraf and Arshad Khan Lodhi, claiming they had won the polls.
The twist in the story, however, continues with world’s football governing body FIFA reiterating its previous stance to Dawn on Monday that it was “monitoring the situation” and the PFF electoral committee secretary reaffirming that the PFA polls “were postponed”.
A PFF news release on Monday said: “The following have been officially announced as the newly-elected presidents of Provincial Football Associations in the elections held on April 17: Sardar Naveed Haider Khan (Punjab), Syed Khadim Ali Shah (Sindh), Syed Zahir Ali Shah (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Abdul Rauf Notezai (Balochistan).”
While Khadim and Zahir were elected unopposed, Notezai won his presidential seat through a coin toss after he and his rival got eight votes each.
But it’s the PFA elections which were even more fiercely contested.
The government-backed candidates claim they had the support of 20 out of 35 voting members while the Sardar Naveed maintains that eight of those 20 were suspended from voting and with him having the support of 15 members, he is the rightful man for the seat.
His rivals claim that the elections were never held on Friday and so does the PFF Electoral Committee secretary Col Farasat Ali Shah.
“I was told that the elections have been postponed and I communicated that to the government-backed candidates,” Farasat told Dawn on Monday.
“I maintain that the elections had been postponed. A clause in the PFF constitution says that the elections can be postponed due to unavoidable circumstances.
Those circumstances were the occupation of the PFF House on Friday with both parties claiming the other was involved.
The PFF news release did not give a copy of the notification of the election commissioner declaring the winner but Dawn had received a copy of the notification of the PFA elections early Monday morning through Sardar Naveed himself.
Addressed to Col Farasat and signed by the election commissioner, it declared Sardar Naveed as the winner of the PFA polls for the four-year term from 2015-2019.
Col Farasat, however, said that he had not seen the notification. “I have no information about this,” he said.
Confusion remains although PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Monday that “there should be no argument now that Sardar Naveed is the PFA chief”.
Sardar Naveed’s election will be a blow to the government’s hopes of securing victory in the PFF presidency elections where it hopes to pit Capt Safdar Awan against incumbent Faisal Saleh Hayat.
With Capt Safdar being a son-in-law of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Hayat has repeatedly said that government interference would harm Pakistan football and incur a ban by FIFA.
But Brig Arif Siddiqi, the former Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) director general and former head of Army Sports Directorate, said in a statement to Dawn on Monday that Hayat himself got the PFF hot-seat in 2003 through government interference.
“How can he say now that government is interfering?” Brig Arif, an eye-witness to those elections, asked. “He’s forgetting that he himself got into the PFF through government support and he’s transformed the PFF into his own fiefdom.
“He was supported well by then sports minister Rais Munir Ahmed. I’m sure he will never leave the PFF despite Pakistan football suffering so badly. Our FIFA ranking now is 172 while it was 138 when he took over.”
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2015