by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: The disapproval and denunciation finally came openly. It wasn’t enough to bother FIFA.
After statements from officials of his faction, former Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) chief Faisal Saleh Hayat publicly expressed his views on the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee for the first time on Sunday, calling it “controversial, biased, and agenda-driven.”
A video of Hayat speaking to a group of officials of the Punjab Football Association shows him claiming that he’s informed both global football body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) about his reservations over the composition of the Normalisation Committee as he tore into the body’s chairman Humza Khan.
“This is a FIFA committee so we won’t comment,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn on Monday when asked about Hayat’s comments.
FIFA was more clear, once again firmly backing the Normalisation Committee it has put in place to resolve the Pakistan issue once and for all.
“As already mentioned, the Normalisation Committee has taken up its duties in line with its mandate and fully supported by FIFA and the AFC,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn.
Dawn understands that FIFA wants football to move forward in Pakistan after four years of crisis and controversy has badly hit the game in the country. Despite widespread resentment, the game’s governing body is also standing firmly behind the decision to install the Normalisation Committee which has to hold fresh elections of the PFF by June next year.
FIFA’s decision to appoint a Normalisation Committee came in June, following the visit of a fact-finding mission to the country a month earlier and nearly four years after Hayat organised divisive and disputed elections of the PFF.
Hayat lodged a strong protest with the FIFA president over the appointment of Humza as well as the conduct of Alexandre Gros, the senior governance services manager of FIFA’s Member Associations Committee who shaped the Normalisation Committee.
His opposition to the officials of FIFA’s fact-finding missions, however, is nothing new. Back in 2015, when FIFA had also sent a mission following those controversial elections, Hayat had also written a strong-worded letter to the AFC over the conduct of the officials of that mission. Then, influence from the AFC averted a possible Normalisation Committee.
Hayat seems to be looking for more of the same.
“We all know that there couldn’t have been a more controversial people than some of those on the committee,” he says to the audience in the video obtained by Dawn.
“We’ve informed FIFA and AFC and I’m doing my work but with you being here, not only does it raise my confidence but it shows that an overwhelming majority of 27-28 districts is with me. It delivers a message across the world that Pakistan’s footballers, administrators, referees reject the normalisation committee.
“They rejected it because FIFA’s own regulation and parameters state that the members of the normalisation committee shouldn’t have any links to the past disputes of the PFF or any relationship with those who were part of that dispute, and yet there are two members — especially Humza Khan and retired Col Mujahidullah Tareen — who not only had deep links but were also involved in it.”
After the officials of his group questioned Humza’s neutrality, Hayat did the same, citing that since the 40-year-old formerly played for Karachi United, he would share the same views as that of the club’s founder Taha Alizai who has been a legal representative for the PFF faction that was opposing Hayat locally in a long, drawn-out court case that came to a close in December last year.
Mujahid, meanwhile, is a long-time Hayat opponent and worked in the PFF as its general secretary and its technical director before leaving the federation in 2006 as he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Hayat.
The composition of the Normalisation Committee is such that while Humza was selected by FIFA, two members each were picked from each of the two warring PFF factions. Hayat says that the duo nominated by him — Munir Ahmed Khan Sadhana and Syed Hasan Najib Shah — had protested to FIFA.
“Two members of the committee have written to FIFA, saying that the committee isn’t neutral, it’s biased, that it is agenda-driven and that agenda has no relation to football, and that if the committee keeps working, football in Pakistan will not improve.
“The committee should act with transparency, merit and justice and that the actions taken since by the committee don’t show that,” he adds referring to the fact that Humza’s first move was to remove the secretariat of Hayat’s long-term aide retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.
The PFA officials, meanwhile, also wrote a letter to both FIFA and AFC — a copy of which was obtained by Dawn — in which they “urged FIFA to formulate a new transparent committee”, “condemned the attitude of the present normalisation committee” and added they would “reject the elections and the normalisation committee if a transparent committee isn’t formed.”
They also warned that failure to do so could see “the situation of football in Pakistan deteriorate to a point which will be beyond the control of any body including FIFA or AFC.”
Over the last month or so, FIFA has shown it won’t budge from the stand it has taken. This last bit of threat shouldn’t change that.