by Umaid Wasim & Mohammad Yaqoob
KARACHI/LAHORE: For many in Pakistan football, Saturday marked a day of deliverance. It had seemed to them that this day would never come. But it did. Finally.
“Thank God that Faisal Saleh Hayat is no longer Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president,” tweeted Pakistan’s biggest football star Kaleemullah.
Kaleem’s tweet came hours after FIFA announced on Saturday afternoon that it had decided to appoint a normalisation committee for the PFF whose ultimate job is to hold elections of the country’s football governing body — the finality of which wouldn’t be challenged.
It also means that for the first time in 16 years, after the normalisation committee takes charge, Hayat would have to vacate the PFF hot seat.
Domestically, he’s already not recognised as the PFF chief — a title that belongs to Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah who became the country’s football chief in an election held on the orders of the Supreme Court (SC) in December last year. That election came at the culmination of a nearly four-year legal battle over the control of Pakistan’s football but wasn’t accepted by FIFA which had stood firmly behind Hayat.
And the appointment of the normalisation committee doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for Hayat, a vice-president in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) who could eventually end up winning the election that will be conducted. Nevertheless, the appointment of the normalisation committee is a body blow for the faction he leads — a faction that had been earlier given a mandate till March 2020 to hold fresh election.
Now, it won’t be Hayat’s group that will hold the election. But the secretary general of his faction, retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi was adamant that the decision hadn’t left them diminished despite it being commonly understood that normalisation committees come in as a last resort, when FIFA considers that the domestic governance of the game has broken down.
“They wrote a letter to me, informing about the decision which means we are still the recognised group,” Lodhi told Dawn, adding that the [nomalisation] committee will also work with his secretariat to complete the mission.
He said it would be “premature” to comment that since the PFF headquarters were under control of Ashfaq the normalisation committee would work under their rivals’ influence but did say that the formation of the committee was “proof that FIFA hadn’t accepted the elections conducted by the Supreme Court.”
In its media release, FIFA pointed that the Bureau of its all-powerful FIFA Council had taken the decision two days ago following the report submitted by a FIFA/AFC fact-finding mission which visited the country last month and “concluded that only free, fair and transparent elections of the PFF executive committee would reunite the football stakeholders in Pakistan and set the basis for the development of football which has been at a standstill since 2015”.
“We welcome the decision taken by FIFA,” Ashfaq told Dawn, adding that it was their demand during their meetings with the mission that a normalisation committee was the need of the time. “For the time being, we rejoice that even if temporarily, Hayat won’t be in-charge of the country’s football.”
Even though the appointment of the normalisation committee means FIFA didn’t accept the elections of the PFF held by the Supreme Court, Ashfaq was upbeat. “I’m fairly confident of my chances of coming out on top in another election.”
FIFA informed that the normalisation committee “will be composed of an adequate number of members to be identified by the FIFA administration, in consultation with the AFC and relevant local stakeholders. In line with the FIFA Governance Regulations, all members of the normalisation committee will be subject to an eligibility check”.
It added that the committee will also serve as the electoral committee whose “decisions are final and binding, and the specified period of time during which it will perform its functions will expire as soon as it has fulfilled all of its tasks but no later than nine months after its members have been officially appointed by FIFA”.
While the normalisation committee will also run, PFF’s daily affair, it’s most challenging task will be to conduct scrutiny of the clubs before drafting and ratifying an electoral code of the PFF ahead of the elections.
“It will be a laborious process to scrutinise clubs to conduct the elections from district level onwards,” former PFF secretary-general retired Col Mujahidullah Tareen told Dawn. “But in my opinion it’s a golden opportunity to amicably resolve the long-running dispute in the PFF. It is in the interest of football and in the interest of the football players.”