KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation’s Normalisation Committee on Saturday altered the composition of some of the provincial football association bodies while also appointing a committee for the Gilgit-Baltistan.

The PFF Normalisation Committee, appointed by the game’s global body FIFA in September last year, said in a news release that the changes were made “to ensure consistency in the number of members in all provincial Normalisation Committees, while also seeking to address concerns regarding conflict of interest”.

The Normalisation Committee was given a nine-month mandate upon its appointment to organise fresh elections of the country’s football governing body. The provincial normalisation committees are to conduct club scrutiny, the first step towards the election process. But with the coronavirus pandemic halting football activities, it seems that the committee’s mandate will be extended.

“The PFF Normalisation Committee again stressed that it is striving to ensure that transparent elections of the PFF are held at the earliest with the expectation that it will usher in a new era in Pakistan football,” it said in a statement.

“The changes have been made in the Punjab FA Normalisation Committee, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa FA Normalisation Committee and the Sindh FA Norma­lisation Committee.”

The Punjab FA Normalisation Committee initially comprised six members and it has now been slashed to five, in keeping with the number of members of the rest of the provincial bodies.

Aneeq-ur-Rehman, Rizwan Asif and Shaukat Ali Khan remain from the body that was first announced, with Naveed Akram, Mohammad Khan Malik and Mohammad Moazzam Ali Khan being replaced by Mohammad Ashraf Khan and Amir Mahmood.

The Sindh FA has also been revised with Najaf Hussain Iqbal being replaced by Irshad All Makhdoom while a normalisation committee has also been set up for Gilgit-Baltistan FA, which isn’t a voting member, comprising Imtiaz Ahmed, Nisar Ahmed and Sikandar Khan.

One of the key decisions has been taken in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa FA, where the normalisation committee chairman Basit Kamal has been replaced by Salahuddin Qureshi.

Former KPFA general secretary Basit Kamal’s appointment to the normalisation committee had raised questions due to his long working relationship with potential PFF presidential candidate and KPFA chief Syed Zahir Ali Shah.

It prompted former Pakistan international Mohammad Essa to claim that the PFF Normalisation Committee was “supporting Zahir Shah”. Essa was an assistant coach of the Pakistan national team during the tenure of former PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat, who was replaced by FIFA in June last year.

The final years of Hayat’s tenure were riddled with crisis and controversy and there was less football and more politics.

Asked by Dawn last week whether he should be making political statements when in the past he’s said that he will accept whatever FIFA’s decision is, Essa said: “I have said we all go by what FIFA says and we will continue doing that if we see right decisions being taken. We hope the elections will be fair and help football in the country.”

Nasir Ismail, who was assistant coach of the Pakistan team during Hayat’s tenure and was handed the same job by the Normalisation Committee, argued that players and coaches shouldn’t be making political statements especially after FIFA had appointed a committee that had the representation of all stakeholders.

“We should isolate ourselves from electoral process and continue working on Pakistan football,” he told Dawn earlier this week. “We should be giving technical advice rather than focussing on the elections.”

He also took a jibe at those criticising the Normalisation committee, saying “those people who were once backing FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), are now against the world bodies”.

One of the main reasons for football being so politicised during the divisive reign of Hayat was because players and coaches were made part of the electoral process. Pakistan’s current head coach Tariq Lutfi was a member of the PFF electoral committee for the 2015 elections, which plunged Pakistan football into years of crisis.

And Lutfi, who left the electoral committee due to the controversy sparked by the Punjab FA elections in 2015, said that the past practices should end.

“The elections of the past were purely selections and that’s why FIFA intervened and appointed the Normalisation Commi­ttee to bring things back on track,” he told Dawn on Thursday. “The Normalisation Committee is making a lot of efforts and it is hoped that a transparent election is held. The stakeholders should be patient and let the Normalisation Committee do its tasks.

“The Normalisation Committee officials are here to conduct a task which is to deliver the PFF of the future. The officials of the Normalisation Committee are like a breath of fresh air, ending the foul play that was prevalent in the past and should be backed. Coaches and players should in the meantime continue working for the betterment of the game.”

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2020

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