LAHORE, Aug 18: FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have clarified they have not imposed 10-year ban on a former Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary as claimed by Pakistani soccer officials.

It was disclosed at a press conference by Hafiz Salman Butt, nine years after the ban was imposed on him by present PFF president Mian Mohammad Azhar for creating a rival faction in 1994.

PFF had been claiming that football’s world governing body, FIFA and AFC had banned Salman for ten years to hold any office.

Salman said the AFC had replied in response to his letter dated Aug 12, 2003, asking it to clarify whether it imposed a ban on him. He had also asked the AFC if it had issued special instructions to PFF regarding the Aug 28 elections and if there would be any AFC representative for the elections.

The AFC’s reply to Salman read: “AFC has record of your suspension for 10 years by the PFF Congress in November, 1994. Only the PFF Congress can now revoke or confirm this. If they decide to lift the ban, then you are eligible to participate in football activities in accordance with the PFF statutes.

“PFF has notified AFC that the elections will be held on Aug 28, 2003. There will be no AFC representatives at this election”

A copy of the PFF Congress minutes in which it approved the controversial decision attributed to AFC/FIFA of imposing ban on Salman the same year says: “The decision by AFC/FIFA towards Hafiz Salman Butt declaring him ‘persona-non-grata’ was also discussed and everybody appreciated the action of AFC/FIFA but at the same time the role of some disgruntled elements in Pakistan was criticised by the House”.

The minutes were signed by PFF president Azhar and the then secretary Abbas Baloch.

Salman was PFF secretary with Mian Azhar as president from 1990 to 1994. Both parted ways due to some differences. Azhar succeeded in defeating Salman-backed Faisal Saleh Hayat by a single vote in 1994 elections.

Soon after the elections, PFF made the announcement that AFC/FIFA had imposed a ban on Salman for 10 years and also declared him persona-non-grata.

Efforts to contact PFF president Mian Azhar for comments went in vain.

Salman said he would not take action against PFF for misguiding the nation.

“I have decided to forgive them (the PFF officials) for the sake of unity at the time of elections,” Salman said.

Asked why he was not contesting the elections although he had not been banned by FIFA or AFC, Salman said: “I want to have unity during the elections and for that I have invited all the 21 voters at Islamabad on Tuesday to finalise an unopposed group for the elections.”

He hinted the federal interior minister Faisal Hayat and Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi were in fray for the presidency.

Salman, along with former hockey Olympian Akhtar Rasool convinced the Punjab chief minister for the elections. It has been learnt he has brought Faisal as next candidate and a meeting at Islamabad was also called to get vote for the interior minister.

He dispelled the impression the game had suffered due to Azhar’s political activities and business engagements of the secretary Agha Liaquat Ali.

“In fact weak coordination between the president and secretary damaged the game and a paid next secretary available for 24 hours for the federation will be beneficial for the game,” he said.

Our Karachi Reporter adds: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has stuck to its earlier stand saying Salman Butt had been debarred for 10 years by FIFA for what it said “illegal activities.”

Ghulam Abbas Baloch, the vice-president PFF, who was the secretary when Salman was banned in 1994, reiterated that PFF had nothing to do with the ban as it was purely a decision by FIFA.

“FIFA had banned Salman as he was involved in some illegal activities. PFF had welcomed FIFA’s decision which could be proved by the minutes of Congress meeting in 1994,” he said on Monday.

Abbas said although Salman had created a parallel federation, the action was taken by FIFA against the former secretary after he sent a `fake’ team to Dubai for a youth tournament.

“Two Pakistan teams reached Dubai in 1994 as PFF had already sent its team, while another one backed by debarred Salman also landed in UAE. Salman was not a PFF official, but despite that he sent a national team and that is too in separate groups from different parts of the country. That was the major reason he was banned by FIFA,” he claimed.

Abbas said PFF had imposed a life ban on Salman from holding any office in 2001 after he charged the present football officials with sending over-age players at a youth event in Goa, India.

“I do not know why he has raised this issue now nine years after he was banned. The only thing I can understand is that he wants to make room for himself by first supporting a candidate for the PFF at the forthcoming elections,” he said.



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