THIS week, the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee chief Haroon Malik was in Zurich to hold meetings with FIFA officials over the progress made by his committee in talks with the government to resolve the football crisis in the country. The government has had to take sides in the dispute and is backing the Haroon-led NC against the court-elected PFF led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, whose takeover of the headquarters of the country’s football governing body saw FIFA slap a suspension on Pakistan in April. The support of the government, though, has come at a cost. The PFF NC has agreed on several clauses of the new National Sports Policy that the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and the Pakistan Sports Board are trying to implement in the country. They include oversight over funding and the establishment of a regulatory framework which is likely to see PFF elections being supervised by the government. One of the clauses of the new policy is the constitution of an independent election commission to hold sports federations’ elections. But global sports bodies, which advocate their members run their affairs independently, won’t accept that. And while FIFA isn’t saying anything on the PFF NC agreeing to the government’s demands, the International Olympic Committee has already fired a warning shot.

In the wake of the fallout between the government and the Pakistan Olympic Association after the Tokyo Games which saw the former ask the POA chief to resign, the IOC issued a letter saying it won’t accept interference in the POA’s internal governance. It also slammed the constitution of an independent election commission. The new policy also aims at abolishing the long-running departmental system in favour of a regional one which would, in the short term, lead to athletes losing their jobs. While there remains no doubt that sports governance in Pakistan needs reform, professionalism and transparency, the way the government is trying to force the implementation of the new policy will lead to a new crisis in Pakistan sports.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021

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