LAHORE: Haroon Malik has a very measured approach when it comes to talking. He says every word carefully and meticulously.

He probably needs to do that considering he’ll be measured by every word he says during his tenure as the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee chairman.

In his first news conference, in a novel setting in the gardens overlooking the PFF House due to coronavirus concerns, Haroon’s every sentence was thoughtfully crafted.

Haroon talked about doing a lot of things — doing wrongs of the past right in particular — but with five months left in the mandate given to the Normalisation Committee, he understands it won’t be easy.

PFF Normalisation Committee chairman optimistic of completing mandate given by FIFA

He knows he’s been handed a poisoned chalice.

“I wish I had a magic wand,” said Haroon, “so that I can make the sport of football in Pakistan a product which could give millions of people a chance to earn a livelihood.

“Five months is a very short time but a lot can be done,” he added. “There is a system of policies and good governance that doesn’t exist in the PFF. Key Performance Indicators and metrics don’t exist. There is no organogram. We can give those things a start and hopefully the elected body can take it forward.”

Haroon hopes that body could come by June 30, when the mandate of the Normalisation Committee ends, through a fair PFF election and a smooth transition of power.

“There is a lot of uncertainty and there could be legal challenges to the election process but I hope we can get the elections done by that time,” he said.

Haroon was appointed by FIFA as the Normalisation Committee chief in January, nearly a month after the resignation of his predecessor Humza Khan. Between that time, Munir Sadhana was named interim chairman and he reversed nearly all the decisions taken by Humza since his appointment in September 2019.

With Pakistan football splintered with deep political divide, Haroon acknowledges it will be a tough run to get all stakeholders on one page.

“We’re basically at square one [after whatever has happened in the last month],” he said.

“If I had a way of going back in time, I would but right now I would like to look to the future. But I believe that if we can share the whole process with the stakeholders and open the documentation for all, we can hope for transparency.”

Haroon believes that if the process of club registration and scrutiny — the first step to the election — is done fairly, things will fall into place.

“We will set out the details of how we want club scrutiny to be held, and get the stakeholders involved too but it won’t definitely be a consultation process,” he said. “At this point in time, we’re discussing ways of how to conduct a proper scrutiny.”

Haroon has been involved in Pakistan football during the last three years through a social media platform, which he says is aimed at promoting local players. Over the last year, he’s been to the headquarters of the Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur and the FIFA headquarters in Zurich.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really canvassing for this job,” he responded when asked about the nature of those trips. “Then, we didn’t know we would be sitting here. At that point in time, I was confident that there would be an elected congress. It was happenstance really and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

The mandate of the Normalisation Committee has been extended twice since it was first put in place. FIFA appears to be running out of patience with the situation in Pakistan and Haroon isn’t in any mood for another extension.

“Football is at a difficult stage,” he said. “Have to move forward from that. We need a fair, equitable and quick process.”

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2021

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