KARACHI: Another international window and once again Pakistan’s national football team will be missing in action.
In the past, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) often cited financial hurdles in arranging friendly matches for the national team. They didn’t have to arrange matches for the latest window that opened on Monday and runs until next Wednesday with Pakistan slated to feature in the qualifiers for the 2020 AFC Under-23 Championship.
Instead, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) recognised by global football body FIFA withdrew the team from the qualifiers in Tajikistan where they were due to face the hosts, Uzbekistan and arch-rivals India, meaning Pakistan went out of the race for the 2020 Olympics without even kicking a ball. The AFC Under-23 Championship in Thailand next year was to act as Asian qualifiers for the Olympic in Tokyo.
That withdrawal was the latest in a string of pull-outs by the PFF of Faisal Saleh Hayat, which isn’t recognised domestically after the Supreme Court ordered fresh elections of the country’s football governing body that saw Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah elected as Pakistan’s football chief.
The election did bring to a close a long-running legal wrangle that has afflicted Pakistan football since the last four years. With that chapter coming to a close, FIFA will now decide how to proceed further having earlier called the election as “third-party interference” in the affairs of its member associations.
The PFF issue will be discussed by FIFA’s Member Associations Committee for the first time since that election when it meets early next month. “The FIFA Member Associations Committee is scheduled for 3 April 2019 and the situation of the PFF will be on the agenda,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Monday.
Dawn understands that the Committee has reached out to the PFF of Hayat for further details after the Supreme Court last week dismissed a review petition against the elections filed by Hayat.
Hayat, Balochistan Football Association (BFA) president Rauf Notezai and former PFF Women’s Wing chairperson Rubina Irfan were the petitioners with the Supreme Court last Wednesday declaring the review petitions as an attack on the elections.
The Pakistan issue would’ve been discussed earlier had the FIFA Member Associations committee met last month. According to the FIFA calendar, its standing committees were due to meet from February 11 to March 4 but those meetings did not take place.
In October last year, FIFA’s Member Associations committee had given the Hayat-led PFF an 18-month period — until March 2020 — to hold fresh elections.
After a controversial PFF election in June 2015, that sparked a dispute in the football body, FIFA had given Hayat a two-year mandate to ratify the PFF statutes and hold fresh elections.
The PFF was banned for six months for “third-party intervention” before FIFA lifted the suspension in March last year after Hayat was restored as the PFF chief on the orders of the Lahore High Court, which had appointed an administrator to oversee PFF affairs in 2015. The case went to the Supreme Court the very next month with the country’s apex court ordering fresh elections.
Ahead of the election, FIFA had warned that the PFF faces possible suspension. If the Members Association Committee proposes a ban, it will be ratified at the next FIFA Council meeting scheduled for June 3 in Paris, two days before the FIFA Congress to be held in the French capital. Dawn understands however that there is a strong chance that the committee would decide to send a fact-finding mission to the country.
Since the Ashfaq-led body came into power, the Hayat-led PFF has terminated the services of almost all of its employees. The approval of the termination of services, signed by Hayat and his general secretary retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi and seen by Dawn, has the PFF disbursing an amount of Rs2,849,400 amongst its 18 employees.
The PFF also returned funding worth $530,000 to both FIFA and AFC, who have suspended development funding due to the current situation.
Last week, Ashfaq was named as an ex-officio member on the Senate Committee for promotion and development of football in the country. The committee is led by Senate Chairman Mohammad Sadiq Sanjrani.
Not recognised by FIFA or the AFC, Ashfaq remains powerless as Pakistan miss out on playing in yet another international window.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019