by Azhar Masood Khan
LAHORE – Much has been written and published as how the football in Pakistan reached the current situation where some new faces have definitely emerged on the scene but perhaps the destruction of the game had further deepened.
To find a solution to the five-year long football issues in Pakistan, FIFA announced to form a Normalisation Committee (NC) with a core mandate of holding fresh elections on free and fair basis as only free and fair elections bring the desired results in the long run while selection is never helpful in eradicating the serious issues. The decision of FIFA to form an NC was warmly welcomed by the football community and the actual stakeholders of the matter in Pakistan.
Everyone was expecting a neutral unbiased committee with the inclusion of members, who could understand the situation, having skills of laying down a strategy to achieve the objectives. The basic criteria should have been the doubtless neutrality of the members having no established links with any of the two factions. Especially for the chairman of NC, it was even of highest importance that he had no mentionable linkage with either faction of the dispute.
But unfortunately, when the NC was announced with Humza Khan being its chairman, it caused to raise many eye-brows. The worst situation was fuelled when Mujahid Ullah Tareen was nominated as the acting General Secretary of PFF who was a well-known ally of Zahir Shah/Ashfaque Hussain group and allegedly a part of the mob which forcibly took over the control of PFF secretariat back in 2015.
A wave of raging protests was seen throughout the country with a unanimous demand to replace Humza Khan and Mujahid Tareen with neutral members. Interestingly, Mujahid Tareen was a member of the NC too, who voted for himself to become the General Secretary of the PFF. This was beyond any body’s comprehension. Although he was replaced by someone else later yet this wrong and undemocratic decision had already done the damage.
Chairman NC Humza Khan’s undeniable and strong linkage with Ashfaque Hussain group’s legal aide Taha Ali Zai and Mujahid Ullah Tareen’s appointment as the General Secretary PFF clearly gave a message to the football community that the NC is strongly tilted towards Ashfaque Hussain group which will do no good to the game, and when the NC started its operations, it took every step to prove these qualms right.
Whether it was Pakistan’s participation in the international events, holding of camps for these events, appointment of coaches for the national teams, appointment of team officials, it is clearly observed that only the people who had somehow opposed the previous leadership of Faisal Saleh Hayat have been given preference. Even the PFF secretariat is full of hand-picked people again who remained a part and parcel of the Ashfaque Hussain run secretariat which was never recognized by AFC or FIFA.
Ashfaque group had come into power through an election held under Supreme Court directions which was not recognised by AFC or FIFA and when NC was announced by FIFA, Ashfaque group handed over the control of PFF secretariat to NC. It has also been learnt through sources that upon calling the PFF secretariat employees recognized by AFC and FIFA by the NC, the employees showed serious security concerns and showed their will to join the PFF secretariat once their safety is ensured.
Instead of addressing their concerns, services of all the employees were terminated. In this context, the sources have disclosed that Shahzad Anwer, PFF technical director and the only Pro- license coach of Pakistan, went to the secretariat upon calling by Mujahid Tareen. According to sources, he was harassed by the new general secretary PFF Haris Jamil, Mujahid Tareen and Director Finance Adnan and was asked to become an approver against Faisal Saleh Hayat that he made corruption during his Presidency. He was told to do so otherwise, he will be banned from football activities. He replied that he has not witnessed corruption even in a single matter.
It is also being observed that the NC is lacking of expertise in holding the local football events, holding of poor-quality national team’s camp and ongoing national women championship. Another concerning factor is that the chairman NC Humza Khan seems to have no in-depth knowledge of ground level football and under this situation the PFF election in the specified time can be a total mess. Some football association officials also fear that due to in experience, tilt towards the Ashfaque group and strict timeframe, the NC will take unconstitutional steps to make the elections happen especially during the scrutiny of the clubs.
This can lead the situation to serious consequences. It might also start yet another legal battle in the courts which will take the game further away from development. NC has also announced to form PFF Disciplinary and Appeal Committees, sources have told. Do constitutionally they have the mandate to form these committees? “Apparently, the core objective of forming these committees are to build some case on Faisal Saleh Hayat and keep him out of the election process and politically victimize his companions,” the sources further expressed.
In these circumstances, when the image of PFF’s NC is already on a very low with a lot of speculations all around, an action as critical as forming Disciplinary and Appeal Committees, which, according to the experts of the PFF Statutes, is the prerogative of elected executive committee of PFF only, will become extremely controversial and be considered pre-poll rigging.
The situation has led everyone to think that is the Normalisation Committee solution to the long prevailing problems of Pakistan’s football or has become a problem itself? FIFA must take notice of the happenings and make suitable steps to address the issues relating to the neutrality of the NC especially its chairman Humza Khan and member Mujahid Tareen before it is too late. The simple solution to all the problems is to replace the controversial NC with a truly neutral one whose seemingly unbiased and neutral actions can be witnessed by everyone through their just actions.