Pakistan’s football puzzle has become more perplexing. Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was on December 12 elected as President of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in the elections held at the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. The Returning Officer (RO) Amir Salim Rana, who is the Director General of the Human Rights wing of the apex court, conducted the Supreme Court-ordered elections.
FIFA-recognised PFF, being led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, stayed away of elections. FIFA had already given the PFF mandate till March 2020 with the instructions to revise the PFF Constitution and hold fresh elections.
The PFF had also filed a CMA in the apex court in which it had shown its reservations over working of the Supreme Returning Officer (RO) Shoaib Shaheen. The PFF had said in the application that the RO was not following the PFF statutes, while conducting the PFF elections. The federation’s plea that the names of nominees already sent by Punjab Football Association (PFA) should be considered final and that fresh names could not have been submitted. The apex court dismissed that application. However, Shoaib was replaced by Amir Salim Rana as RO.
On November 16, 2018, Punjab Football Association’s (PFF) President Sardar Naveed Haider wrote a letter to Shoaib Shaheen in which he wrote that in the 2015 Changla Galli elections the quorum was incomplete as only 11 out of 23 Congress members were present. He further wrote that the General Secretary manipulated the electoral list by deleting the names of PIA, Police and Higher Education Commission (HEC). Naveed had suggested to Shoaib that he should seek fresh names of voting delegates from all voting units.
Sindh Football Association (SFA) and Balochistan Football Association (PFA) also stayed away from the electoral process. These two provinces support Faisal. All those people of the Faisal-led PFF who had filed their nominations for various posts did not attend the electoral meeting.
KP, Punjab, Islamabad, WAPDA, Police, Army, Navy, Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Railways, Pakistan Football Referees Association (PFRA) and national women champions club (Army) attended the electoral meeting.
Out of 20 votes in the 26-member PFF Congress, Ashfaq got 17 votes. His rival Anwar-ul-Haq Qureshi of Sindh, who did not attend the meeting, secured three votes.
Malik Amir Dogar, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA from Multan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association’s chief Syed Zahir Shah and Punjab Football Association (PFA) President Sardar Naveed Haider got elected as vice-presidents. Dogar got 20 votes out of 20, while Shah and Naveed claimed 18 votes each.
Before PFF elections, the election of three women was held. Farzana Rauf (Lahore), a PTI MNA from Khushab, Javeria Zafar and Young Rising Star’s (YRS) head coach Tasawar Aziz were elected on these seats. These three women members of Congress then participated in the PFF elections.
Nasir Karim Baloch, Jamil Ahmed (Sindh), Rana Ashraf, Mian Rizwan Ali (Punjab), Said Rasool, Zulfiqar Ahmed (KP), Azizullah and Dost Mohammad Khan (Balochistan) were elected as members of the PFF ExCo.
The situation will become clear when the apex court releases its order on the electoral process.
“We also direct Amir Salim Rana, Director General Human Rights cell, to take over the entire record of PFF and prepare and retain video recording of the entire process of voting on the voting day. He shall submit the same before this court after the election by moving an appropriate application. He shall be paid a sum of Rs200,000 by the PFF has his fee,” the Supreme Court December 4 order says.
Ashfaq is an experienced campaigner and has been associated with District Football Association (DFA) Peshawar as president for years. An engineer by profession, Ashfaq is the brother-in-law of Zahir, a former health minister of KP.
Ashfaq is also the brother-in-law of former PFF Director Clubs and Projects Col (retd) Farasat Ali Shah. Ashfaq emerged as the sole candidate of the newly-emerged Dogar group when the nomination papers of Dogar, Zahir and Naveed were rejected.
After announcing his candidacy for the PFF presidency, Dogar had a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan at Islamabad. It seems that the meeting worked as the electoral meeting was attended by all government departments. FIFA, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) did not send their observers.
Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) was represented by Raja Zulfiqar. The PFF had already dissociated itself from the PSB.
How FIFA will react to the new situation is not yet clear. FIFA had hinted it might impose sanctions on Pakistan. “We can confirm that on 4 December FIFA sent a letter to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) stating that the Order issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 14 November 2018 seems to be incompatible with the decision taken by the FIFA Member Associations Committee on 26 September 2018. FIFA has reminded the PFF about the FIFA Statutes (particularly article 14 par. 1 let I and article 19 par 1) according to which member associations are obliged to manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties. Therefore should elections at the PFF take place on a date that is imposed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, this would be considered undue influence in the sense of the FIFA Statutes. Consequently the matter would then be presented to the relevant FIFA bodies for consideration and possible action, which may include the suspension of the PFF,” FIFA told me a few days ago.
As Pakistan football has already suffered a lot, it is hoped that FIFA would adopt the most appropriate procedure to ensure the sport does not suffer any more. The newly-elected president Ashfaq says that he will focus on developing the sport at the grassroots level.
“My main focus will be on developing football at grassroots level. It will be my priority to develop the sport in schools, colleges and even universities,” Ashfaq told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).
He rejected the impression that there was any government hand in the electoral process. Ashfaq said: “The elections were fair and transparent. The process was conducted by the RO who had been appointed by the Supreme Court. Had there been any government involvement in the process the nomination papers of Malik Dogar would not have been rejected,” he said.
Ashfaq said that he would have the support of skilled and professional people and major decisions would be taken with consensus. When asked if FIFA imposed sanctions on Pakistan what his body would do, Ashfaq said: “We will then focus on our domestic football. You know international football comes second. First we should look at our own domestic football. We need to improve our domestic system so that creative players could be prepared for national duty.”