KARACHI: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ruled that Faisal Saleh Hayat is no longer the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president, Dawn can exclusively reveal.

The LHC judgement, of which an uncertified copy has been obtained by Dawn, says that Hayat — who has been the chief of country’s football governing body since 2003 — cannot be president for a fourth four-year term.

The judgement by Justice Mohammad Farrukh Irfan also dismissed the Writ Petition No. 21071-2012, filed by the PFF challenging the constitutionality of the Sports Ordinance 1962, which leads to the 2005 National Sports Policy that imposes a two-term restriction on Pakistan’s sports federations.

It has also ruled null and void the controversial elections of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) in April last year – an event which plunged Pakistan football into unprecedented conflict and crisis and saw the PFF split into two factions.

“The election of the PFA held on 17.04.2015 and the resultant notification dated 20.04.2015 and so also the election held on 12.05.2015 and the resultant notification dated 14.05.2015 and thereafter the so-called election of the PFF held on 30.05.2016 are declared as illegal, void, ab-initio, collusive and malafide, therefore, all are hereby set aside,” says the judgement.

In the PFA election of April 17 last year, Sardar Naveed Haider Khan — of the Hayat group — was declared the winner.

But his victory came after several voting members of the other group of his rival and incumbent president Arshad Khan Lodhi were banned by the PFF’s Disciplinary Committee, which incidentally had members of the PFF Congress.

That saw two factions emerge and the LHC directed the Sports Board Punjab (SBP) to hold fresh elections of the PFA under its watch and they were held on May 12 last year.

However, the big concern was the two factions — one led by Hayat and the other by Arshad — holding their presidential elections on June 30.

And the LHC intervened and ordered a stay on the elections.

The Hayat group however went on to hold the elections and that resulted in a drawn-out court battle before the LHC appointed retired Justice Asad Munir as PFF Administrator.

According to the judgement, the Administrator now has to assist in holding fresh elections of the PFF.

“A panel of three persons including secretary Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), secretary SBP and secretary Sports Board Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (SBKP) is constituted to act as electoral committee which will manage and conduct fresh elections of PFA and PFF in accordance with the relevant provisions of the PFF Constitution, Rules and Regulations within a period of four months,” says the judgement.

“The secretary PSB will be the chairperson of the aforesaid electoral committee. After the said elections, control of the PFF will be peacefully handed over to the elected office-bearers by the Administrator appointed by this Court. The Administrator will cooperate with the electoral committee in conducting the elections.”

LAW OF THE LAND

Now, it’s about global football body FIFA and the continental governing body Asian Football Confederation (AFC) adhering to the law of the land and accepting a fresh election.

Amid the turmoil surrounding the PFF, FIFA and AFC had sent a fact-finding mission to talk with both warring factions in August last year.

After the meeting both factions communicated with the two governing bodies. While the Hayat faction complained of “biased attitude” of the members of the fact-finding mission to the AFC, the Arshad faction wrote to FIFA hoping that it would have re-elections.

But in a strange decision in September, one which only served in snowballing the crisis, FIFA gave a two-year mandate to Hayat in which they asked him to correct the PFF Statutes – bringing them in line with the FIFA regulations – and conduct fresh elections.

While Hayat has issued a strict gag-order on the members of his faction, there have been whisperings from there that there will be a FIFA ban in case the court orders re-election.

The AFC, however, has indicated in the past that it follows the law of the land despite the Hayat faction claiming it is only answerable to FIFA and AFC and follows only the laws of the football bodies.

For the presidential election held by the Hayat faction – one in which he was elected for a fourth term – in an obscure location in Changla Gali on June 30 last year, the AFC had sent an observer, Sanjeevan Balasingam, and sent a letter of congratulations following the polls.

But when Dawn asked the AFC if it had known about the court ordering a stay on the elections, the Asian body said: “The AFC supports the democratically and legally elected PFF executive committee, and condemns any form of unsporting manoeuvre whether this is against FIFA, AFC or PFF statutes, or against national law.”

The Hayat faction, during the course of the case, has also said that putting the tenure-restriction clause in the National Sports Policy into effect in the PFF would also be taken as direct interference on part of the government by FIFA.

“The arguments on behalf of the petitioner are totally misconceived and devoid of any substances for the simple reason that PSB is a duly constituted legal body under the laws of Pakistan, mandate whereof is to regulate the functions of various bodies and federations which are involved in the promotion of sport throughout Pakistan,” says the judgement.

Some of FIFA’s member associations like the All India Football Federation (AIFF) already follow the term restriction clauses in their national sports policy.

It is a matter of merely complying with national laws.

FIFA did not have term restriction in its statutes until it was plunged in fresh turmoil last year with American federal prosecutors and the Swiss attorney general launching separate probes into widespread corruption engulfing the world governing body over the years.

‘DOWN THE PYRAMID’

The reform moves led by FIFA’s chief overseer during a crisis-laden last year, Domenico Scala, saw term limits imposed for the FIFA president and members of the new FIFA Council – a rebranded version of its Executive Committee.

Scala – the head of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee, however, resigned from his post last month following differences with new FIFA chief Gianni Infantino – the man who replaces the long-serving, scandal tainted Sepp Blatter on February 26 this year – over the independence of the supervisory bodies of the organisation.

Scala, though, had told Dawn during a conference call in December last year that the term limits “would go down the football pyramid”.

“I’ve addressed term limits at FIFA, the confederations and the member associations. I’ve been advocating them for a long time and I believe that the standards set will trickle down on the football pyramid and not just stop at FIFA,” he said.

“There are certain member associations which have term limits in place and I think that it is a necessary step to root out corruption from football.”

The LHC’s judgement makes note of the recent changes in the FIFA statutes.

“It would be advantageous to look at the statues of AFC and FIFA relating to the provisions of tenure/term for which the president of the said organisations can be elected,” says the judgement before noting the three-term restriction in both bodies.

“From the comparison of the statutes of AFC and FIFA when read in juxtaposition with the Revised National Sports Policy 2005 it is quite evident that office bearers cannot hold such office for life or an indefinite period.

“It is the case of the petitioner that its president Mr. Faisal Saleh Hayat after completing his two tenures in office was elected for a third term 2011-2015 as the president of PFF and that he is desirous of continuing for a fourth term. This act of Mr. Faisal Saleh Hayat is not only in direct contravention of the statutory bar of two terms provided in the National Sports Policy but is also in conflict with the restriction placed by AFC and FIFA on holding the office of President by any particular person for more than three terms of four years each.”

For the last year, the game has suffered in the country.

While members of the Hayat faction have enjoyed trips to FIFA and AFC meetings as well as workshops, the football team has been out of action.

The judgement has also asked the PFF Administrator to retrieve all property of the organisation from both factions while giving him the power to lodge criminal and civil proceedings against any “office-bearer found in embezzlement/misappropriation of funds”.

A free and fair election, with FIFA cooperating with the honourable court, seems the only way out to take Pakistan football out of the crisis it has found itself in for the last year.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2016

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