By Umaid Wasim,
KARACHI: The FIFA mission probing the elections of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) left on Sunday after protracted meetings with both rival factions of the country’s football governing body with early indications suggesting fresh polls will be held.
The meetings were held under wraps in Lahore with officials of both warring groups which met the FIFA mission led by Cyprus FA President Costas Koutsokoumnis, also a member of the FIFA Associations Committee, disclosing very little except that “talks were conducive”.
Well-placed sources, however, told Dawn that the FIFA mission noted the constitutional violations in the lead-up to the PFF presidential elections, adding it was “very likely that fresh polls would be held”.
The three-member FIFA mission, which had its head of member associations Primo Corvaro and Si Song Mun — a member of the member associations committee of the Asian body AFC, will now report its findings to the relevant FIFA and AFC bodies before a final decision is taken.
“The mission was very keen on having a compromise reached [between the two factions] but it was unable to do so,” the source told Dawn after the concluding talks on Sunday with two sessions each held with both the parties.
The PFF has been hit by crisis and controversy since the elections of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) on April 17 when the polls were first postponed before Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, who was being supported by the country’s football chief Faisal Saleh Hayat, being declared winner.
It led to the PFF being split in two groups and Hayat’s former ally and PFF’s senior vice-president Syed Zahir Ali Shah turning on him and announcing that he will run for the PFF hot-seat in its presidential elections on June 30.
But as several violations in the PFF constitution were noted along with reports of financial corruption during Hayat’s 12-year reign as PFF chief, an Extraordinary Congress was held which suspended him but allowed him to contest the elections.
Hayat termed the decisions of the Extraordinary Congress as “government interference” as the PFF split into two factions with the splinter group — under interim chief Arshad Khan Lodhi — seizing control of the PFF headquarters in Lahore.
It led to separate elections being announced with Hayat deciding to hold them at Changla Gali and the interim body holding them at Lahore but the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervened and announced a stay on the elections.
Hayat, however, went ahead with the elections, citing he did not receive court orders, and told local media that his election had been ratified by the AFC. The AFC, however, did not confirm that claim when approached by Dawn while FIFA said it hadn’t been notified.
Hayat was subsequently issued a contempt notice by the LHC which declared the elections null and void whilst appointing an administrator to take charge of the PFF for the next four months.
It led to the FIFA mission coming to the country to hold talks with both the factions with sources telling Dawn that its aim was “to look for solutions”.
“They never pointed at anything but just held talks,” the source added. “They were unhappy at the court’s action but were told that the PFF had to abide by national laws in the first place. Also annoying them was the freezing of the PFF accounts by the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency].
“They spoke on the election rules and agreed to a few violations in the current PFF constitution on which they held lengthy discussions with both parties. They sought verifications and explanations on them.”
The matters of the constitution which were discussed at length were the number of women voters and the exemption of three departmental votes from the PFF elections.
“The mission sort of agreed that the elections that were held weren’t in accordance with the constitution and it’s likely that fresh elections will be held,” the source added.