By Umaid Wasim,
KARACHI: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Faisal Saleh Hayat says the Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections were held on Friday which saw Sardar Naveed Haider Khan elected its president while the rival group claims they were never held.
“Sardar Naveed is the PFA president after the elections were held according to FIFA and AFC statutes,” Hayat told Dawn on Saturday as controversy reigned a day after the polls were scheduled to be held.
The supporters of Sardar Naveed’s rivals, Rana Ashraf and Arshad Khan Lodhi — both backed by the government, however insisted that no elections took place in which they had the backing of 20 out of 35 district representatives.
“They [PFF] postponed the elections,” former PFF secretary Hafiz Salman Butt told Dawn on Saturday.
“They never held them whilst we were there at the PFF House [a controversial venue for the elections of the football association of country’s largest province],” added Hafiz Salman, a former Hayat ally who helped the incumbent chief rise to power in 2003.
“We had support of 20 members of the PFA congress and they were all present at the PFF House from 1:30pm-8:00pm (PST) before we were conveyed the message that the elections are not being held — a blatant violation of AFC and FIFA rules.”
Hayat, though, was adamant that the elections were indeed held at the PFF House which saw Sardar Naveed being elected with 15 votes in his favour.
“Out of 35 members of the PFA congress, we’d suspended eight of them which means there were 28 eligible voters and out of them, 15 gave their allegiance to Sardar Naveed,” he said.
But controversy remains with the PFF informing about the results through a text message at 10:00pm (PST) on Friday — eight hours after the elections were supposed to be held.
Hayat said that was because the PFF House had been occupied with “government goons” while Hafiz Salman said that it was because “40 armed men from Jhang [Hayat’s hometown]” had seized control of the auditorium where the election commissioner was also present.
“The government workers had surrounded the PFF House and there was no place for us to get out,” Hayat alleged. “They used obscene language and threatened us.”
Hafiz Salman, meanwhile, said that the election commissioner — Syed Nayyer Haider, a member of the FIFA and AFC disciplinary committees who happens to be Hayat’s brother-in-law — had locked himself in the auditorium and there were 40 of Hayat’s guards protecting him.
“They had automatic weapons with them and when one of the voters [from our side] tried to enquire why the elections weren’t being held, Hayat and [PFF secretary] Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi used the butt of the guns to beat him up,” was Hafiz Salman’s view.
“The police also saw the incident but they refused to take action since Hayat used his sources and forced them not to register an FIR against his men.”
However, on Hafiz Salman’s side is the fact that PFF’s election committee secretary Col Farasat Ali Shah seconds his view of Friday’s ensuing.
“There was a huge gathering at the PFF House with a fierce competition expected for the PFA polls,” Farasat told Dawn on Saturday. “The election commissioner came at 1:30pm but locked himself in the room as he didn’t have the guts or the courage to face the people.
“Hayat brought his 40 guards who surrounded the room and didn’t let anyone in. I was running from pillar to post with the representatives of Arshad and Ashraf constantly asking me what was going about in my position as secretary of the PFF electoral committee.
“It was at 8:00pm that Hayat told me that the elections have been postponed and that I convey this to them. They had the 20 district presidents with them [an overwhelming majority] and they asked me to accompany them out of the PFF House and give them a notice that they had with them the support of 20 representatives.”
“An hour after we left, I was told that Sardar Naveed had been elected the PFA president. I don’t understand how they can conduct such elections when I wasn’t present there,” added Farasat.
“Hayat has deceived FIFA and AFC and his PFF fiefdom is going to come to an end this year. Pakistan football has been suffering for the last 12 years under him.”
Farasat, who is also PFF Director Member Associations and Projects, added that he remains an employee of the country’s football governing body and has no intention to resign. “I’m still employee of PFF and have no aim of resigning,” he said.
Farasat’s admission could have a telling impact on what action FIFA decides to take regarding the controversial polls with its member associations accountable to world’s football governing body in every action it takes.
Dawn tried to contact FIFA but was unable to receive a comment with its Zurich offices closed for the weekend.
The PFF, meanwhile, was yet to issue a news release regarding the PFA polls till the filing of this report.
“We can’t issue it until the election commissioner announces it himself. That will be on Monday,” said a PFF spokesperson when pressed by Dawn why the news was being delayed.
Sardar Naveed, meanwhile, said that he was now PFA president.
“I’m the legally-elected PFA president now and if they [rivals] have any reservations, they can take the case to court but they can’t take away my right from me,” Sardar Naveed told Dawn on Saturday.