KARACHI: Global football body FIFA isn’t flinching. Nor is Ashfaq Shah, the court-elected president of the Pakistan Football Federation, whose takeover of the PFF headquarters from the FIFA-appointed PFF Normalisation Committee forced a suspension on Pakistan.
Something will have to give, most likely a fresh round of discussions, to see an end to the crisis that has plagued Pakistan football for the best part of the last decade.
The power play between Ashfaq’s group of officials and the PFF NC will go on at least for three more months after FIFA on Thursday announced the extension of the mandate of the committee until September.
“The Bureau of the FIFA Council has today decided to extend the mandate of the normalisation committee of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), which was due to expire on 30 June 2021, until 30 September 2021,” FIFA said in a statement.
“The Bureau took note that, since the suspension of the PFF, the normalisation committee has been working relentlessly in an effort to meet the criteria for the suspension to be lifted, which will occur when the PFF’s premises, accounts, administration and communication channels are once again under the normalisation committee’s full control and the committee can continue to carry out its mandate without further hindrance. At present, however, the PFF’s premises continue to be occupied and the PFF therefore remains suspended.
“On that basis, the Bureau deemed that the extension was necessary in order to allow the administrative and legal efforts on the ground to continue, with the aim of meeting the requirements for the PFF’s suspension to be lifted, thus enabling the normalisation committee to perform the tasks under its mandate.”
Pakistan was suspended by FIFA in April following the takeover of the PFF headquarters and since then the NC and the Ashfaq group have been involved in a legal battle regarding the accounts while the former has also tried to stop football activity in the country.
Ashfaq’s group of officials held an explosive press conference in May during which they presented the evidence of rampant manipulation and perversion in the working of the PFF NC.
And Ashfaq, who became PFF chief following an election held by the Supreme Court in December 2018 which wasn’t accepted by FIFA, said on Thursday that it was “unfortunate” that FIFA wasn’t taking any action on the evidence presented against the PFF NC.
“I once again reiterate that we took over the PFF headquarters, which we handed over to the PFF NC in September 2019 following its appointment, because we could see that it wasn’t doing its work properly and we exposed that,” he told Dawn. “I will once again say that we are willing to accept the NC but only after FIFA opens talks with us.”
Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, one of the vice-presidents of Ashfaq’s PFF, reiterated that stance in a statement to Dawn.
“The PFF NC and the stakeholders need to enter into direct talks/negotiations to find a perfect solution to end this impasse,” he said. “I propose that NC should invite the groups [vying for control of the PFF] to have a meaningful and purposeful dialogue to resolve all misunderstandings, apprehensions and move towards holding of fresh elections as per PFF Statutes.”
Sardar Naveed said that all the three groups vying for PFF control — led by Ashfaq Shah, Zahir Shah and former PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat — nominate a person to form a working committee which works with the PFF NC to conduct elections.
The PFF NC led by Haroon Malik, who was appointed in January following the resignation of his predecessor Humza Khan, last month warned players and teams from taking part in events organised by the Ashfaq group.
While the PFF NC has not spoken to the stakeholders since its ouster from the PFF headquarters, it has been holding talks with the Pakistan Sports Board and the Ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination.
While Haroon has been critical of the government’s role in failing to get the headquarters vacated, the IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza continues to look into the evidences presented by the Ashfaq.
The impasse is likely to continue until at least FIFA, like it has done in the past, opens dialogue with either the government or the groups vying for control of the PFF.
FIFA sent fact-finding committees to Pakistan several times since the dispute in the PFF broke out in 2015 before it finally appointed a Normalisation Committee in September 2019 to end the crisis and controversy once and for all.
But the situation hasn’t changed. The writ FIFA has globally has faced its strongest challenge in Pakistan and while the country may not be world-beaters on the pitch, the deep-rooted political intrigue in the game here trumps anything found in the rest of the world.
And while FIFA doesn’t accept third-party interference, from courts and governments in matters of its member associations, in Pakistan it has extended the mandate of the PFF NC in order to allow it to continue its legal efforts on the ground.
Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2021