By Umaid Wasim/Mohammad Yaqoob
LAHORE/KARACHI: As the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) continues its investigation over the fate of its flood relief project in the Jhang district, it has asked three pertinent queries from the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
The project which was awarded in 2010, and saw funding of $400,000 from South Korea’s Dr Chung Mong-Joon and $250,000 from Asia’s football governing body, is yet to begin.
And in a letter addressed to PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi by the AFC’s Deputy Secretary General Windsor John on June 17, a copy of which was also received by Dawn, the AFC is seeking answers from the country’s football governing body.
Confusion reigns as PFF elections near; FIFA ‘monitoring’ situation
The AFC had earlier confirmed to Dawn it was “checking with the PFF the status of the project”.
Since then, however, the PFF headquarters have been taken over by a rival group through an Extraordinary Congress held last week in which PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat was suspended while the services of Lodhi were terminated for “incompetence and embezzlement of funds.”
Lodhi had earlier told Dawn that the PFF had “deposited the amount for the Jhang project [totalling $650,000] in a fixed deposit account to get monthly profit because the PFF could not find land for the project due to political reasons.”
At the Extraordinary Congress in Islamabad, Arshad Khan Lodhi was named interim president while Col Farasat Ali Shah was named acting secretary until the PFF presidential elections on June 30.
WHO WILL ANSWER AFC?
Since Hayat’s group doesn’t recognise the Extraordinary Congress, the PFF is visibly split into two groups, raising questions as to who will answer AFC’s queries on the Jhang project. The AFC has instructed Lodhi to submit a written report latest by June 30.
In the letter, the AFC asks Lodhi for “a copy of the bank statement of the last four years for the account number 10607900084710, tracking the two above-mentioned amounts.”
It also asks for the “updated status of the project presented in 2011, including contractor agreement and any other documents and information the PFF deem pertinent to submit in relation to the AFC request.”
Farasat endorsed that the letter had been received at the PFF headquarters but said that he was not the man to answer AFC’s queries. “My role is just to hold free and fair elections on June 30 and I have no mandate to consider such inquiries,” Farasat told Dawn on Wednesday. “The next elected body will deal with such cases.”
He said that after taking control of the PFF headquarters on Saturday, the staff had been advised not to come to the office till the next order.
Farasat also said that paying salaries to the employees was an issue but it had been resolved after Rs1million was raised through donation. “The financial issue is at hand because Lodhi had withdrawn huge amounts from different accounts in his last few days in office,” he said.
‘MONITORING THE SITUATION’
Farasat added that in the AFC letter, the Asian body told PFF that the Jhang project matter was also with the FIFA Investigatory Chamber.
On Wednesday, FIFA told Dawn in a statement that the world’s football governing body was “monitoring the matter [in Pakistan] in contact with AFC.”
The AFC, meanwhile, released a statement in which it said it too was monitoring the situation. “The AFC has taken note of recent developments in the PFF and has been closely monitoring the situation based on available information,” it said on its website.
“The AFC supports the democratically and legally elected PFF Executive Committee, and condemns any form of unsporting manoeuvre whether this is against FIFA, AFC or PFF statutes, or against national law.
“The AFC plans to be present, as per normal procedure, as observer at the elective PFF General Assembly scheduled for June 30.”
Farasat, meanwhile, added that FIFA and the AFC had been informed that the elections will be held in Lahore rather than Changla Gali, as announced earlier by Hayat. He said that in the past, there was no record of any representative of the AFC or FIFA attending the PFF elections.
Meanwhile, Hayat’s camp declared that “FIFA and AFC had recognised the body headed by him.”
“There will be an observer from the AFC at the PFF elections at Changla Gali on June 30,” Hayat told a news conference in Lahore on Wednesday.
WAITING FOR RESPONSE
Farasat, meanwhile, said that the decisions of the Extraordinary Congress had been sent to both FIFA and the AFC.
“We’ve also informed them about the elections venue but we haven’t received an answer from both the bodies,” he added. “But we’ve done our part of informing them of the decisions we’ve taken.”
The PFF headquarters, meanwhile, presents the look of a closely-guarded fort. While it has entry gates from the Punjab Stadium and Ferozepur Road, the gates are only open after getting permission from the PFF high command from the Punjab Stadium side.
No one can, however, enter from the Ferozepur Road side.
“These steps have been taken as precautionary measures but the gates will be open for all after the successful elections of the PFF are held on June 30,” Farasat said.
Meanwhile, at a news conference where Hayat addressed several members of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) — which itself is mired in controversy following its disputed elections on April 17 — it was learnt that several of them wanted to regain control of the PFF headquarters.
“They were stopped from doing that,” said one of the members. “We will take over the PFF headquarters in a lawful way.”
FIFA and AFC, meanwhile, have asked the PFF to clear the issue revolving around the number of Congress members who will vote in the elections.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2015