KARACHI: The rival group of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) took control of its headquarters in Lahore on Saturday although confusion reigned whether it was by use of force or not.

The group led by Arshad Khan Lodhi, who says he is the interim PFF chief in place of Faisal Saleh Hayat, said it was only acting upon the decisions of the Extraordinary Congress on Tuesday while Hayat’s group claimed the move was unconstitutional.

The group held an Extraordinary Congress on Tuesday, which they said was according to the PFF constitution, where Hayat was suspended and PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi was terminated.

Hayat and Lodhi claimed that the Extraordinary Congress held no value although Col Farasat Ali Shah, who had been appointed acting secretary till the PFF elections on June 30 during the meeting, said they had only “assumed their responsibility” by taking over the headquarters of the country’s football governing body.

“I have assumed responsibility as PFF secretary in my office,” Farasat told Dawn from Lahore on Saturday. “We had a letter issued by Extraordinary Congress which empowered me and Arshad to run the PFF as per the FIFA and AFC statutes till the elections.

“The elections will be held at the PFF headquarters in Lahore.”

Farasat added that the holding of the Extraordinary Congress was entirely constitutional.

“We’ve written to FIFA and the AFC and informed them of the meeting which took place on Saturday,” he said. “We had it after twice writing to the PFF to hold it and with the majority of the PFF Congress members.”

At the time of the takeover, Hayat wasn’t in the building although Lodhi was in his office. “We went inside the office and asked Lodhi to kindly leave,” Farasat said. “If Hayat was in the office at that time, we would’ve asked them to do the same as we have the decisions on the Extraordinary Congress in our favour.”

Lodhi, however, claimed that it was an unconstitutional move. “How can they say they have a decision from the Extraordinary Congress when we didn’t recognise it?” Lodhi questioned while speaking to Dawn on Saturday. “They came with more than 100 men, started hitting the PFF employees and took over the headquarters with a show of force.”

Farasat, meanwhile, admitted that there were a number of supporters who were members of District Football Associations (DFAs) and PFF congress members but denied there was any use of force. “We have large support and I will not deny that,” he said. “But, we did not use any force and took over in a very polite manner. In a couple of days, everything will normalise.”

For normalcy in the affairs of Pakistan football, however, an intervention by FIFA and the AFC will be needed to decide which of the two warring factions is right.

FIFA’s offices were closed on Saturday although a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Thursday that the world’s football governing body was “currently monitoring the situation” and had “no further comment at this stage”.

A spokesperson of the AFC, meanwhile, struck a similar tone on Friday, telling Dawn: “On Tuesday’s events in Pakistan, we don’t want to comment at this stage.”

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2015

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