By Mohammad Yaqoob,
LAHORE: The crisis within Pakistan football snowballed into a major row on Wednesday as the war of words and blame-game reached fever pitch with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) seemingly split into two factions.
A day after the rival group of PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat had summoned an Extraordinary Congress in Islamabad, the country’s football governing body issued a statement in which it claimed Tuesday’s meeting was illegal.
Tuesday’s meeting in the capital, which had as many as 17 Congress members out of 26 participating in it, had elected Arshad Khan Lodhi and Col Farasat Ali Shah as the acting president and secretary respectively of the PFF whilst suspending Hayat and terminating Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.
It may be mentioned that both Arshad and Farasat were banned by Hayat for forming and supporting a parallel body of the Punjab Football Association (PFA), which emerged after the controversial PFA elections in April.
Although Arshad’s group has a majority in the PFA, Hayat wasn’t ready to give any room to the body fearing it could create a problem for him as he seeks to be elected PFF chief for a fourth term in its presidential elections on June 30.
In a reaction to Tuesday’ meeting, Hayat’s group issued a statement on Wednesday in which they slammed Kashmala Tariq, a political figure, who claimed in a news conference in Islamabad that she was the new chairperson of the PFF’s Women’s Wing.
“The PFF (Faisal group) has taken a serious note on the claims and so-called decisions announced by illegal people who have no standing or nexus with Pakistan football. These frivolous, false, malafide and self-serving claims have been made by individuals who are banned and suspended from all football related activity,” the statement said.
“The very fact that the so-called ‘press briefing’ was conducted through the government-controlled PID at late night and addressed by a woman speaks volumes of the nature of the ‘sham affair’.
“It is a publicly known fact that the woman [Kashmala] conducting the government-sponsored press briefing has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with football once again shows the illegal and moral bankruptcy of the instigators of this ‘sham affair’.
“It is not only highly illegal but also hilarious that Kashmala who has sought to impose herself as chairperson of the PFF Women’s committee is attempting to draw a parallel with the existing constitutional and legal chairperson of the PFF’s Women’s committee, the highly respected and admired Senator Rubina Irfan.
“Senator Rubina Irfan brings the rich and varied background of football along with a series of major achievements in the field, which today have propelled women’s football in Pakistan from total obscurity to a position of pride and prominence.
“This so-called invisible meeting where no credible observer or persons from the media were invited is another attempt by the official quarters to impose their arbitrary rule on the PFF, which attempts have already been thwarted in the past and which shall again be dealt with in accordance with existing statutes, laws and the determined aspirations of the million of football fans and lovers across Pakistan.”
The PFF also called their rivals as ‘usurpers’ in the news release.
“It is equally unfortunate that the present government has not learned its true lesson from the recently concluded Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) saga. It is still licking its wounds after having being forced to take a complete U-turn in its ill-conceived and unconstitutional attempt in installing an illegal parallel POA,” it said.
“The same illegal attempt is now being made on the FIFA-recognised PFF which has been running its affairs independently, totally devoid of any government support since the last several years.”
Responding to the statement, the spokesman from Arshad’s group, Khalid Mahmood said it was time to get rid of a “corrupt man like Hayat”.
“During his 12-year tenure, football has been on the decline as huge funds have been wasted due to bad governance and corruption,” he told Dawn. “Although FIFA had awarded the PFF several Goal projects, just one — the PFF headquarters in Lahore — is operational and this is a sheer example of bad governance. Moreover, Pakistan are languishing at 170th place in the FIFA rankings.”
Khalid said his group would meet in Lahore on Thursday to chalk out a plan of how to get occupation of the PFF headquarters.
He dispelled the impression that his group had the backing of the government and added that all 17 members, who met in Islamabad were the genuine voters of the PFF elections.
Earlier, there were claims that the meeting in Islamabad saw 18 members but Sadia Sheikh of Diya WFC denied she was there. “I am fully behind Hayat in the elections,” she told Dawn.