Ashfaq group willing to vacate PFF HQ if NC holds elections in September

Published April 28, 2021
In this file photo, Ashfaq Hussain Shah (second L) gestures during a news conference in Karachi.—UW/File
In this file photo, Ashfaq Hussain Shah (second L) gestures during a news conference in Karachi.—UW/File

KARACHI: The group led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah is willing to negotiate with the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee in order to overturn the suspension the global football governing body FIFA has imposed on Pakistan.

Ashfaq’s group of officials, who came to power after a PFF election held by the Supreme Court in December 2018, seized control of the PFF headquarters from the Normalisation Committee last month, claiming that the FIFA-appointed committee had failed to deliver its mandate of holding fresh elections of the country’s football governing body.

It saw FIFA impose a ban on Pakistan until Ashfaq’s group vacates the PFF headquarters.

But a day after PFF NC member Haris Azmat met Inter-provincial Coordination Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza who in turn said that the government was eager to resolve the football crisis, Ashfaq’s group is willing to come to the table. But they have a certain set of conditions.

“We are willing to have a meaningful dialogue with the PFF NC if they are in agreement to conduct fresh, honest, fair and transparent elections of the PFF at the earliest,” Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, a vice-president of the court-elected PFF, told Dawn on Tuesday.

Sardar proposed that the three groups vying for control of the PFF nominate a member each to form a stakeholders’ coordination committee which is approved by FIFA and works with the NC to hold elections of the PFF to be held by September 15.

The mandate of the Haroon Malik-led NC, initially appointed in September 2019 under the chairmanship of Humza Khan, is until June 30. Initially, the Ashfaq group wanted elections to be held by that date but their stance has now altered slightly.Even if the election date is met, one of their proposals, however, isn’t likely to be approved. Sardar Naveed argued that club scrutiny — the first step of the elections — should be conducted on the lists that were issued in the lead-up to the 2015 PFF elections; polls that ultimately plunged Pakistan football into crisis for the better part of the last decade.

Upon the appointment of the PFF NC, FIFA clearly stated that fresh club scrutiny has to be conducted for the elections of district football associations, which would in turn elect the provincial football associations.

Haroon, who took over the NC following the resignation of Humza in December last year, had been working on using the FIFA Connect programme, which provides a unique identity to each individual, for club scrutiny.

Last month, Dawn exclusively revealed that Haroon had been given massive FIFA backing to clean up Pakistan football before holding the PFF elections.

The Ashfaq group seemingly has strong government support in the form of one of its vice-presidents Malik Amir Dogar, who is a special advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan on political affairs and has been successful in nailing down their point that elections should be held as soon as possible.

Even though the IPC minister, who is also the president of the Pakistan Sports Board, reiterated the “government’s policy of non-interference in the affairs of PFF” during her meeting with PFF NC, she stressed that the “Normalisation Committee may follow the FIFA roadmap and the timeframe for conducting the elections in a fair, free and transparent manner”.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2021

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