by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: After wasting four years, Fifa has finally decided to appoint the normalisation committee for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) that has been controversially run by politician and spiritual guide from Jhang, Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, for the last 16 years.
This is a step that Fifa could have taken in 2015 too, but after four years wait is over.
The PFF controversy broke in 2015 when Hayat tried to tailor the PFF elections for his fourth term. He had been the PFF resident since 2003.
The PFF has had very slow progress compared to other countries in the region, when it came to the development of football, which included unfinished Fifa goal-projects, not having a single football stadium built for international fixtures, embezzlement of funds given by Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and mistreatment of footballers.
Manipulating the elections in 2015 turned out to be the dividing factor for Hayat, who had enjoyed strong support from AFC, to the extent that the continental body’s official, who supervised the PFF elections of 2015 in Changla Gali did not speak of the discrepancies in the process.
Year 2015’s first quarter saw PFF break into two factions as Hayat saw his competition in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Football Association chief Zahir Ali Shah.
“On 27 June 2019, the Bureau of the FIFA Council decided to appoint a normalisation committee for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in accordance with art. 14 par. 1(a) and art. 8 par. 2 of the FIFA Statutes,” read the Fifa press release.
“The decision follows the recent FIFA/AFC fact-finding mission to Pakistan, which 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,” Fifa’s statement added on their website.
Hayat had manipulated the congress votes at provincial level first and then at the PFF congress that elected him for the fourth term in illegitimate elections without full quorum that even had a stay order from the Lahore High Court.
The legal battle had been a long one too, which saw LHC appointing an administrator, the case was then fought in Supreme Court and all the while Fifa managed to give extension to Hayat, despite their fact-finding mission seeing the problems in the way PFF has not updated its constitution according to Fifa statutes, and imbalance in the power when it came to disciplinary and ethical bodies of the federation.
PFF also got banned after the two-year extension got expired in 2017, over ‘third-party interference’ for the LHC administrator being the in-charge of the PFF quarters. The suspension was overturned by Fifa in March 2018 with a court verdict in Hayat’s favour, however, by December 2018, Supreme Court-ordered fresh PFF elections took place that saw Ashfaq Hussain Shah become the new PFF president. But Fifa did not recognise the new elections and continued to call it third-party interference.
However, this time they sent another joint Fifa-AFC mission in May where according to Shah, he put out the case openly and requested for justice.
“It is a very, very positive outcome,” Shah told The Express Tribune. “This is just the first step and I’m happy that Fifa listened to us. I knew about this for more than a week, but we were waiting for Fifa to announce it. We should be getting the letter from them soon.
“This is the end of the black regime, 16 years of it. This is the first step and from here onwards there is only betterment for Pakistan football. I requested the Fifa mission to do justice to our situation. I don’t want anything for myself in this. But they should do justice, and normalisation committee is what we asked for. I’m more than satisfied with this decision.”
Shah added that the next step will be to go to Fifa Ethics Committee to investigate the corruption of funds, while the normalisation committee that should be formed will likely have two members each from both factions and one from Fifa.
“We want it to be fair,” said Shah. “The committee will be formed the new elections will take place from top to bottom, from district level to all the way to the top, and this should take six to nine months, however we would like it to be done in three to four months.”
Players welcome the decision
Pakistan’s former captain Kaleemullah, who was threatened and intimidated by the Hayat-run federation, believes that it is the best news that came for Pakistan football.
“I welcome this whole-heartedly,” said Kaleemullah who is playing for Al-Najaf FC in Iraq. “Finally there is a resolution to a very bad situation where only players have suffered. We had no football for four years, no one, no youth teams, no women’s team, no men’s team, everyone has suffered. The fans too, since there has been so much frustration.”
Kaleemullah added that it is finally a dawn of a new era, and he believes that Fifa and AFC have considered the plight of the players.
“We tried so hard to raise our voice for four years, all we wanted to see was change from Fifa and AFC, at least to do something for us. I’m sure they must have seen through what Hayat’s body had done to PFF. I’m glad Fifa and AFC opened their eyes and they have finally appointed the normalisation committee. According to Fifa, there are 3 million footballers in Pakistan, that’s so much potential, how can we not progress? But this time Fifa wants to help football, maybe finally Fifa considered our plight,” said Kaleemullah.
The former Tulsa Roughneck player feels that it is time for the players as even after playing the 2022 World Cup qualifying round, where Pakistan lost to Cambodia 4-1 on aggregate on June 11, the second leg, the players have gone back to their homes and not have much to look forward to.
“They don’t have much, the domestic football leagues in Pakistan are not professional, there are no international matches for us for the next few years, they have nothing. So now is the time that normalisation committee takes steps for them,” said Kaleemullah.
The agenda for normalisation committee as defined in the Fifa statement is:
“The mandate of the normalisation committee will include the following: To run the PFF’s daily affairs. To ensure the proper registration and scrutiny of the clubs in Pakistan. To draft and ratify, with the assistance of FIFA and the AFC, an electoral code for the PFF. To organise and conduct elections at district followed by provincial levels. To organise and conduct the elections of a new PFF executive committee.
“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.
“The normalisation committee will act as an 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.
FIFA and the AFC will now begin the task of identifying, interviewing and selecting the members of the normalisation committee — an update will be provided on that matter in due course.”
The News’ Alam Zeb Safi adds:
Faisal Saleh Hayat appreciated the decision of FIFA to appoint a normalisation committee. “It’s a positive decision for the future of the game in Pakistan,” Faisal told ‘The News’ on Saturday from London.
“I have said repeatedly that without FIFA and AFC Pakistan football cannot grow and prosper. It is vital to follow and fully adopt their statutes and directives. FIFA has, in its decision, maintained its earlier position of not accepting December 12, 2018, Supreme Court-imposed elections which Ashfaq and Company were repeatedly trumpeting that they will have to accept,” he said.
“I have always contributed in a positive and selfless manner towards the growth of football in Pakistan which was nowhere when I took over and established a strong infrastructure and foundation in the then non-existent system,” claimed Faisal, also an AFC vice-president.
“My international contacts have always been employed to develop Pakistan. Because of the obstinacy, self-seeking and corrupt mindsets of these destroyers of Pakistan football today we find ourselves at rock bottom of international standings and in comparison look at our achievements in 2014 and early 2015 when we beat teams much higher in rankings than us,” Faisal said.
He said the turmoil started in 2015 with government interference and the perpetrators of that were still there to eat up the huge money the PFF under him had saved for the development of the game.
“Now these corrupt and inept elements have nowhere to go but to vacate the offices they occupy and surrender the funds they continue to squander, given to PFF by FIFA and AFC,” Faisal said.
Meanwhile, Syed Ashfaq Hussain, president of the PFF formed on December 12, 2018, as a result of the Supreme Court-ordered elections, also welcomed FIFA’s decision of appointing normalisation committee. “I am more than happy,” Ashfaq told this correspondent.
“We had told the FIFA mission that we were ready for elections. We are waiting to see who the world body appoints as members of the normalisation committee. If elections are held under FIFA then I hope they will be fair and transparent,” Ashfaq said.
Ashfaq said they had handled PFF accounts in a fair manner. “Personally I have not spent a single penny on myself from the PFF exchequer. When I move around the country I spend from my own pocket,” he said.
He said he had no enmity with Faisal. He added that his sole aim was to serve football and work for its betterment.