FIFA warns of suspending PFF over 'undue interference' as Ashfaq refuses to leave charge

Published March 30, 2021
FIFA has warned of suspending the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) over "illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters as well as the decision to take over the leadership from the normalisation committee" appointed by the global body. — Reuters/File
FIFA has warned of suspending the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) over "illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters as well as the decision to take over the leadership from the normalisation committee" appointed by the global body. — Reuters/File

FIFA has warned of suspending the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) over "illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters as well as the decision to take over the leadership from the normalisation committee" appointed by the global body, it emerged on Tuesday.

In a statement, PFF Normalisation Committee chairman Haroon Malik said he had received a letter from FIFA that stated the federation could be "suspended should the illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters not be lifted and the office bearers recognised by FIFA not be permitted free access to the building" by 8pm on Wednesday.

A group of football officials elected in a poll held by the Supreme Court in 2018 and led by president Ashfaq Hussain Shah had taken over the PFF headquarters in Lahore on Saturday evening.

Upon taking over control of the PFF headquarters, Shah had claimed that officials of his group did not fear FIFA and that the spectre of Pakistan being banned by the world's football governing body did not faze them.

In his statement today, Malik said the letter stated that if the occupants did not comply with FIFA's demands by Wednesday, the matter would be "immediately submitted to the Bureau of the Council for decision, which might include the suspension of PFF on the basis of [Article] 16 para 1 of the FIFA Statutes".

The letter said that FIFA "strongly condemns the incident and considers such actions to be totally unacceptable".

"We would like to remind all relevant parties, in particular the individuals who invaded the PFF premises, that the Normalisation Committee of PFF, established by a decision of the Bureau of the Council and later ratified by the FIFA Council, and which is currently led by your person (Haroon Malik), is the sole executive body of PFF recognised by FIFA," it added.

"FIFA further considers that the illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters, as well as any decision to take over the leadership of the PFF from the Normalisation Committee appointed by FIFA, constitutes an undue interference in the affairs of the Federation, therefore violating the obligations imposed on PFF by [Article] 14 para 1 let. i) and [Article] 19 of the FIFA Statutes."

According to FIFA, suspension of the PFF would lead to the federation losing all membership rights with "immediate notice, including, but not limited to, the right of PFF's national teams or any of its clubs to participate in any international competitions, as well as the right of PFF and its members to benefit from FIFA's financial/development programmes".

On the other hand, Ashfaq Hussain Shah refused to back down, saying he would "not leave the charge under any condition".

Speaking to Dawn.com, Shah said he had the mandate of the Supreme Court. "FIFA did not take us into confidence while forming the normalisation committee," he claimed.

"If FIFA wants to impose a ban or suspend [the PFF], it can," Shah added.

Saturday's incident was the latest in a series of grim happenings that have afflicted Pakistan football for the best part of the last decade.

Since having appointed the PFF Normalisation Committee, FIFA has come close to banning Pakistan several times due to the hindrances caused by football officials in the country in the working of the committee.

Those hindrances have been court cases and lack of cooperation but Saturday was the first time that the committee was directly attacked.

It was a long-running crisis in Pakistan football that had prompted FIFA to install a normalisation committee in Pakistan in September 2019.

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