KARACHI: The intentions have now got a seal of approval. A week after it was disclosed that FIFA intended to send a delegation to Pakistan to assess the situation of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), its Member Associations Committee has decided to do exactly that.
It could very well be the first step towards resolving the dispute in the PFF that has afflicted the game in the country for the best part of four years. However, the situation would only be closer to resolution if the global body actually goes by the mission’s findings.
FIFA had also sent a mission to the country when the dispute broke out in 2015 and Dawn very reliably learnt that it had serious reservations over how Faisal Saleh Hayat, the PFF chief recognised by FIFA, conducted presidential elections that year.
However, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) put FIFA under a lot of pressure to accept Hayat’s election with then FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke writing to the AFC that there was no way that FIFA could uphold those contentious polls.
In the end, however, Hayat was given a two-year mandate in September 2015 to ratify PFF statutes and hold fresh elections. That didn’t happen with Hayat not in control of the PFF domestically during a legal wrangle that saw an administrator appointed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to oversee PFF matters.
Hayat eventually regained control of the PFF in March last year — a move that saw FIFA lift a six-month suspension on the PFF. However, that wasn’t the end of the dispute. The matter went to the Supreme Court, which ordered fresh elections and Ashfaq Hussain Shah elected PFF chief in December last year.
With FIFA not accepting the court-ordered election, and having last year extended Hayat’s mandate — till March 2020 — to hold fresh elections, it has left Pakistan football in a limbo. FIFA prohibits any interference from local courts or the government in the affairs of its member associations.
Upon lifting the ban on Pakistan last year, FIFA had said it would send a mission to the country. Sanjeevan Balassingam, FIFA’s Director of Members Associations Asian and Oceania, did visit Pakistan in March last year but FIFA did not confirm whether it was a part of the mission.
FIFA didn’t disclose on Thursday who will be in the mission or when it would arrive in Pakistan, however, a source has told Dawn that it will be in the country from April 24 to 25.
“The Member Associations Committee has decided to send a FlFA/AFC fact-finding mission to Pakistan to discuss with all parties, assess the situation and at a later stage make concrete proposals for the way forward,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn a day after the meeting was held. “Further updates will be provided in due course.”
Both parties in the PFF dispute had been appealing to FIFA to send a mission to ensure all the stakeholders were heard. The AFC, this time, played a vital role in ensuring that and preventing an immediate ban on Pakistan, which FIFA had warned of ahead of the court-ordered election.
“Taking into consideration the recent developments, we would like to propose a joint AFC-FIFA fact-finding mission to the PFF to meet with all the stakeholders and assess the current situation,” AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John had written to retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi in a letter, seen by Dawn, on March 25. “We look forward to hearing from FIFA on our proposal so that we can coordinate further regarding the dates and logistics of such a mission.”
The letter came as a reply to Lodhi’s letter to the AFC and FIFA’s Member Associations Committee four days earlier in which he informed FIFA of the Supreme Court’s order to their appeal against the December elections.
With the Supreme Court having allowed the appellants to “avail the remedy, if available to them, before the appropriate forum in accordance with the law,” Lodhi wrote that a mission should be sent to “have detailed discussions in order to adopt a consensus on the way forward”.
The news that FIFA was intending to send a mission came to the fore when FIFA’s Head of Member Associations Governance Services Luca Nicola sent an email to PFF vice-president Sardar Naveed Haider Khan last week.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2019