by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: Another international window and once again Pakistan’s national football team will be missing in action.
In the past, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) often cited financial hurdles in arranging friendly matches for the national team. They didn’t have to arrange matches for the latest window that opened on Monday and runs until next Wednesday with Pakistan slated to feature in the qualifiers for the 2020 AFC Under-23 Championship.
Instead, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) recognised by global football body FIFA withdrew the team from the qualifiers in Tajikistan where they were due to face the hosts, Uzbekistan and arch-rivals India, meaning Pakistan went out of the race for the 2020 Olympics without even kicking a ball. The AFC Under-23 Championship in Thailand next year was to act as Asian qualifiers for the Olympic in Tokyo.
That withdrawal was the latest in a string of pull-outs by the PFF of Faisal Saleh Hayat, which isn’t recognised domestically after the Supreme Court ordered fresh elections of the country’s football governing body that saw Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah elected as Pakistan’s football chief.
The election did bring to a close a long-running legal wrangle that has afflicted Pakistan football since the last four years. With that chapter coming to a close, FIFA will now decide how to proceed further having earlier called the election as “third-party interference” in the affairs of its member associations.
The PFF issue will be discussed by FIFA’s Member Associations Committee for the first time since that election when it meets early next month. “The FIFA Member Associations Committee is scheduled for 3 April 2019 and the situation of the PFF will be on the agenda,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Monday.
Dawn understands that the Committee has reached out to the PFF of Hayat for further details after the Supreme Court last week dismissed a review petition against the elections filed by Hayat.
Hayat, Balochistan Football Association (BFA) president Rauf Notezai and former PFF Women’s Wing chairperson Rubina Irfan were the petitioners with the Supreme Court last Wednesday declaring the review petitions as an attack on the elections.
The Pakistan issue would’ve been discussed earlier had the FIFA Member Associations committee met last month. According to the FIFA calendar, its standing committees were due to meet from February 11 to March 4 but those meetings did not take place.
In October last year, FIFA’s Member Associations committee had given the Hayat-led PFF an 18-month period — until March 2020 — to hold fresh elections.
After a controversial PFF election in June 2015, that sparked a dispute in the football body, FIFA had given Hayat a two-year mandate to ratify the PFF statutes and hold fresh elections.
The PFF was banned for six months for “third-party intervention” before FIFA lifted the suspension in March last year after Hayat was restored as the PFF chief on the orders of the Lahore High Court, which had appointed an administrator to oversee PFF affairs in 2015. The case went to the Supreme Court the very next month with the country’s apex court ordering fresh elections.
Ahead of the election, FIFA had warned that the PFF faces possible suspension. If the Members Association Committee proposes a ban, it will be ratified at the next FIFA Council meeting scheduled for June 3 in Paris, two days before the FIFA Congress to be held in the French capital. Dawn understands however that there is a strong chance that the committee would decide to send a fact-finding mission to the country.
Since the Ashfaq-led body came into power, the Hayat-led PFF has terminated the services of almost all of its employees. The approval of the termination of services, signed by Hayat and his general secretary retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi and seen by Dawn, has the PFF disbursing an amount of Rs2,849,400 amongst its 18 employees.
The PFF also returned funding worth $530,000 to both FIFA and AFC, who have suspended development funding due to the current situation.
Last week, Ashfaq was named as an ex-officio member on the Senate Committee for promotion and development of football in the country. The committee is led by Senate Chairman Mohammad Sadiq Sanjrani.
Not recognised by FIFA or the AFC, Ashfaq remains powerless as Pakistan miss out on playing in yet another international window.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019
The News’ Alam Zeb Safi adds:
KARACHI: Pakistan football’s status will come under discussion when FIFA Member Associations Committee meets on April 3, the world football governing body (FIFA) said on Tuesday.
“We can confirm that the FIFA Member Associations Committee meeting is scheduled for 3 April, 2019, and the situation of the PFF will be on the agenda. Details will follow,” a FIFA spokesperson told ‘The News’ on Tuesday.
When asked if FIFA had asked the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for sharing the Supreme Court’s recent order with it, the spokesperson said it had. “We haven’t been officially informed about the said matter and therefore are not yet in a position to comment. However, please note that we have contacted the PFF to send details about it,” the spokesperson said.
The Supreme Court, after hearing review appeals of Faisal Saleh Hayat and others, disposed of the matter on March 13 and allowed the applicants to avail themselves of the remedy available to them before the appropriate forum.
“Having heard learned counsel for the applicants, it seems that they have some grievance after the elections have been conducted and new management of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been inducted. If they have such grievance, obviously, the law must have provided remedy to them,” the Supreme Court March 13 order said.
“The learned counsel for the applicants states that they may be allowed to avail the remedy available to them before the appropriate forum. In this view of the matter these applications are disposed of. The applicants may avail the remedy, if available to them, before the appropriate forum in accordance with law,” said the order of the three-member bench. A copy of the order is available with this correspondent.
‘The News’ has learnt that the FIFA-recognised PFF will forward the details of the legal outcome to FIFA after thoroughly deliberating on the order.
Elections of the PFF were conducted on December 12, 2018, under the Supreme Court’s instructions. Ashfaq Hussain Shah of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was elected as the PFF president. The newly-formed body was then handed over the PFF headquarters and accounts on December 31, 2018, as per the apex court’s instructions.
Ashfaq-led body supervised the last few matches of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) here in January. Rawalpindi-based Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) won the league title for a record fifth time after crushing Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) 4-0 in a one-sided last league game here at KPT Stadium on January 13.
Ashfaq’s PFF also held its Executive Committee meeting recently. Its decisions will be ratified by its Congress which meets on March 26 at Lahore.
The issue has been badly affecting Pakistan’s football since April 2015 when a cleavage in the football community was created during elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA). After a few years the PFA elections were held again under the Supreme Court instructions.
FIFA in August 2015 sent a fact-finding delegation to Lahore. After holding meetings with both the groups, it submitted its report before FIFA and the latter gave two years to Faisal Saleh Hayat-led PFF until September 2017 with the instructions to revise its constitution and hold fresh elections.
When the PFF could not act as advised by FIFA due to certain reasons the world body in October 2018 extended the PFF mandate until March 2020.
FIFA had, in October 2017, suspended Pakistan for third party’s interference. However, the suspension was lifted in March 2018, days after Lahore High Court (LHC) restored PFF.
Pakistan has withdrawn its entry from the Olympic qualifying round which begins at Uzbekistan from March 22.