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GILGIT: Global football body FIFA has said it is ‘monitoring the situation’ a day after the Supreme Court ordered fresh elections of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), in a fresh twist to the saga engulfing the country’s football governing body since 2015.

The apex court ordered that in the first stage, the elections of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) are to be held in the next two weeks after which the elections of the PFF will be conducted.

It was the controversial PFA election in April 2015 which saw the PFF break into two factions heading into its presidential election in June that year.

The FIFA-backed PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat conducted the election despite the Lahore High Court (LHC) having ordered a stay. It subsequently led to the LHC appointing an administrator to oversee PFF matters while FIFA gave Hayat a two-year mandate to ratify PFF statutes and hold fresh elections.

FIFA subsequently banned Pakistan for ‘third-party interference’ in October last year, with the suspension being lifted when the LHC decided in February to uphold Hayat’s election.

However, the LHC judgment also upheld the election of the PFA of Hayat’s rival faction instead of the PFF chief’s hand-picked candidate Sardar Naveed Haider Khan.

The SC has ordered Advocate Ali Raza, the legal advisor of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), to oversee the fresh election process and submit a report to the court.

FIFA terms any court or government interference in matters of its member associations a contravention of its statutes. “FIFA is monitoring the situation,” its spokesperson told Dawn on Wednesday.

“Updates will follow in due course.”

The situation is ripe for FIFA to impose a ban on Pakistan again although Hayat was confident it wouldn’t be the case. “It would be a matter of pleasure for them [FIFA] to hear of such development and as per SC orders if the elections are held according to FIFA, AFC and PFF statutes, they will be duly recognised by international bodies,” Hayat was quoted as saying after the SC verdict.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a query by Dawn whether the court order was a “matter of pleasure” for it or whether it would accept an election ordered by the SC.

The statutes of the PFF are also a matter of controversy. Even FIFA, when it gave Hayat a two-year term in September 2015, emphasised they needed to be brought in order before an election was conducted.

After lifting the ban on the PFF, FIFA sent a mission to Pakistan in March to “assess the situation and decide on the next steps”, adding that “updates will follow after the meetings in Pakistan”.

There has been no update since.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018