KARACHI: A screengrab shows Humza Khan speaking during a conference call with reporters on Saturday.
KARACHI: A screengrab shows Humza Khan speaking during a conference call with reporters on Saturday.

KARACHI: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee chairman Humza Khan on Saturday issued a strong rebuke to claims that external forces were at play during the decision-making of his body.

Accusations have been hurled at the PFF Normalisation Committee that despite Humza being the chairman, it is at the whim of former FIFA development officer Mohsen Gilani and Karachi United’s Taha Alizai.

Mohsen played an active part in Pakistan football at the early part of this decade in his role with FIFA. He worked with the PFF to advise them on the Goal projects and was behind relief efforts made by the global football body after the 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan.

“I only met Mohsen after I was made the Norm­alisation Committee chairman [in Septe­mber],” Humza told reporters on a conference call. “As the PFF Normalisation Committee chairman it was my job to talk to people who were involved in good work that was done for football in Pakistan and seek their input. That’s that.”

Taha acted as legal counsel for one of the two warring factions of the PFF — led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah — which saw FIFA appoint a Normalisation Committee to hold a fresh election by June this year and end the crisis and controversy that has engulfed Pakistan football for the last several years.

“It isn’t the first time that my link with Taha has been played up,” Humza said, referring to the fact that he played with Taha at Karachi United. “It came up when I was named the PFF Normalisation Committee chairman [in September] and it still continues. At my appointment, even FIFA official Alexander Gros said that playing together doesn’t mean we share the common political thinking and that’s what I’d like to reiterate again.”

He added that if FIFA or the Asian Football Federation (AFC) felt the Normalisation Committee was acting inappropriately, “they would’ve taken action”.

With the Covid-19 pandemic having put a hold to football activity across the world, it seems unlikely that the PFF Normalisation Committee would be able to hold elections within the mandate it was given.

The PFF Normalisation Committee has announced bodies for the provincial FA’s but work regarding the elections is halted with the formation of district bodies to be made which will conduct club scrutiny — the first step towards the presidential polls.

“We’re in contact with both FIFA and AFC regarding the extension of the mandate but as of now we cannot set a timeline to when the elections can safely take place since uncertainty remains when things will come back to normal,” said Humza.

Humza informed that the PFF Normalisation Committee had offered the Quetta Goal Project to the Balochistan government for coronavirus relief and that it was also working with FIFA partners World Health Organization (WHO) to start an awareness programme.

STAKEHOLDERS’ CLAIMS

Humza also dismissed claims made by some football stakeholders as “baseless and false”.

Over the last few months, the political dynamic of Pakistan football has changed. Initially the Ashfaq group — the one recognised by the government — had cooperated with the PFF Normalisation Committee, handing over the headquarters of the country’s football governing body.

However, it has now become critical of the Normalisation Committee with one of its members, Malik Amir Dogar made claims regarding accountability of the body.

The other group led by Faisal Saleh Hayat — which was recognised by FIFA — has had a no-cooperation stance since day one, organising shameful protests on the streets against the Normalisation Committee since it was named.

“The Normalisation Committee was formed with members nominated by both groups,” said Humza. “If both the factions have an issue with us, it means we might be doing something good. We’ve strived to remain as neutral and impartial as possible. It’s okay to criticise us if we’ve done something wrong but making wrong accusations is totally uncalled for.

“All the spending done by the Normalisation Committee, all the decisions we take are done with FIFA and AFC being informed. If wrongful accusations continue, which are of defamatory nature, the judicial bodies that we have formed will take action.”

Humza was questioned about the changes made to the provincial FA bodies and he said those changes were made “to make sure that the fairness of the election isn’t compromised”.

Dawn has learnt that the Ashfaq group has split into two sub-factions, one being led by Ashfaq and the other by former PFF vice-president Zahir Ali Shah. Accusations have been made about the Normalisation Committee being partial to Zahir.

“If we were being partial to Zahir, we wouldn’t have removed former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association (KPFA) general secretary Basit Kamal, who is known to have close ties with Zahir from the KPFA normalisation committee,” reasoned Humza.

Political affiliations in Pakistan football fluctuate rapidly and there is every chance that there will be new alliances formed or old alliances reconcile heading into the PFF elections — whenever they happen.

But Humza said the PFF Normalisation Committee was focused on putting a transparent system in place so that football in Pakistan gets back on track.

“We’re bringing new systems in place for the effective running of football in the country as well as a fair election process,” Humza said. “We’ve been appointed by FIFA to do something good for Pakistan football and we will do our best to ensure that.”

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2020