KARACHI: The FIFA decision finally came. However, it wasn’t totally satisfactory for any of the two warring factions of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
The Executive Committee of the world’s football governing body met in Zurich on Friday in which the PFF issue was discussed and it instructed the crisis-riddled Pakistan body to hold new elections within two years.
“The PFF has to revise its statutes and hold new elections within two years,” FIFA said in a statement.
“FIFA will also act on the recent appointment of a court administrator to the PFF, which is considered as interference. The PFF must report to the FIFA Associations Committee every six months on the progress of this revision process.”
The PFF has been mired in controversy over the last several months after it split into two factions ahead of its presidential elections which were scheduled for June 30.
The split in the PFF saw one faction headed by incumbent president Faisal Saleh Hayat and the other by presidential contender and vice-president Zahir Ali Shah before the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervened.
It ordered a stay on the elections but Hayat’s camp went ahead and conducted its election in Changla Gali which saw him being re-elected before he was issued a contempt notice and the LHC appointed an administrator — Justice Asad Munir — to take care of PFF affairs.
The LHC also declared those elections null and void.
In the meantime, FIFA sent a fact-finding mission to Pakistan last month which discussed at length the matters of the PFF with the two warring groups, findings of which were discussed at last Monday’s FIFA Associations Committee meeting before being passed onto the ExCo.
The Hayat faction had been claiming since last week that their elections were upheld but the FIFA decision didn’t clarify that.
FIFA’s media office was closed for the weekend as Dawn sought clarification but a well-placed source in the world body said that it is the 2011 elected PFF Congress that would continue for the next two years.
“Since FIFA has asked PFF to hold elections with updated statutes in the next two years, therefore, the 2011 Congress would continue,” the source told Dawn.
That would see Hayat and Zahir — as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association (KPFA) chief — work together again after a bitter feud between the two after April’s disputed elections of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) saw the PFF turmoil escalate.
In a letter addressed on Friday to Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi — the secretary of the Hayat faction of the PFF — which was released to the media on Sunday, FIFA warned that Pakistan could face a suspension due to the appointment of a court administrator.
“The appointment of an administrator for PFF by the High Court of Lahore is contrary to articles 13.1 let. i) and 17 of the FIFA Statutes that request the Member Associations to manage their affairs independently and without influence from any third parties,” it read.
“The violations of such obligations might lead to sanctions, including the suspension of the PFF.”
A source within the Zahir faction didn’t delve into FIFA’s reservations with the court order but added: “This is FIFA v local court and they will have to solve this out.”
The letter added that it expected elections within two years after amendments to the constitution of the PFF — an issue which led to the row in the country’s football governing body.
“The FIFA Executive Committee decided that the current leadership — led by Faisal Saleh Hayat — would be given two years [until September 2017] to revise the PFF statutes and organise elections accordingly,” it said.
“Furthermore, this process would be carried out under supervision of Mr Costakis Koutsokoumnis, member of the FIFA Associations Committee, who would report every six months to the Associations Committee until the end of the process.”
A source in the Hayat faction claimed that the “current leadership” means the election winners of this year’s provincial elections.
“The current leadership means the provincial representatives who were elected this year,” said the source.
The PFF row began with the contentious elections of the PFA in which Sardar Naveed Haider — of the Hayat group — was declared winner.
That victory came after several voting members of the other group of his rival and incumbent Arshad Khan Lodhi were banned by the PFF’s Disciplinary Committee — which incidentally had members of the PFF Congress.
FIFA rules call for the disciplinary body to have independent members and in its letter, it asked the PFF to revoke the bans and form an independent judicial body.
“The FIFA Executive Committee deemed that the PFF judicial bodies, including the disciplinary committee, were not properly formed,” it said.
“It is therefore recommended that the PFF reorganises its judicial bodies in order to comply with international standard regulations and lifts the sanctions linked to the recent electoral process that were imposed by the disciplinary bodies of the PFF.”
It is interesting to note that the PFF Congress approved the formation of the judicial bodies according to FIFA regulations during its meeting in November last year but it wasn’t implemented in the lead-up to the June 30 elections.
The minutes of that Congress meeting have been seen by Dawn.
FIFA, tarnished by recent scandals, now has given Hayat the mandate to reform the PFF for the next two years. Questions remain however on that decision as the appointment of the leader for Pakistan football has to be done by the PFF Congress.
Another twist is the spectre of bitter enemies of the last several months now sitting together at the Congress. With the honourable court and FIFA now at crossroads, the reform process wouldn’t be as smooth as it seems.
Published in Dawn, September 28th , 2015