by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: Fifa have extended the Pakistan Football federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee’s (NC) mandate for another three months, while the members of the Fifa-appointed body believe that the suspension will end soon.
“We are hopeful the resolution will come soon,” the PFF NC member Shahid Niaz Khokhar told The Express Tribune as the media release came through. He shared the letter by Fifa addressed to NC chief Haroon Malik that the Bureau of the FIFA Council is extending the mandate till September 30 of this year.
“There are efforts being made to make sure that the suspension gets lifted from Pakistan soon as we do see the players and football community suffer badly, but we need to carry on with the work we have done so far.”
Fifa had suspended Pakistan on April 6, exactly within 10 days after a group led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah took over the PFF headquarters in Lahore forcefully from the NC chief Malik.
They took control of the premises, accounts and administration citing the reason that they were elected during Supreme Court-ordered elections in December 2018. Therefore his mandate to continue till 2022 is legal, whereas they had handed over the PFF house to Fifa-appointed NC in September 2019 happily.
However, the NC saw three changes in the leadership since it was appointed in September 2019, with Malik being the newest chief, taking on the NC with new composition in January.
The last extension for the NC from Fifa was till June 30. Initially, the NC was appointed till June 15, 2020, led by Humza Khan and got the extension further till December 24. Shah group’sweren’t happy with that and they ended up taking over the PFF headquarters on March 27 in Lahore, while the National women’s championship was taking place in Karachi.
Ultimately the event was cancelled and more importantly Fifa suspended Pakistan after giving a 24-hour time frame for NC and Shah Group to sort the differences out and PFF headquarters along with accounts and administration to be handed over to NC.
The contents of the letter signed by Fifa General Secretary Fatma Samoura say: “The Bureau took note of the fact that the normalisation committee’s progress in the registration and scrutiny of clubs had come to a halt when a group of protestors illegitimately entered the PFF’s headquarters on 27 March 2021, which had led to the suspension of PFF by the Bureau on 6 April 2021 with immediate effect.
Furthermore, the Bureau noted that the normalisation committee has been working relentlessly in an effort to meet the criteria for the suspension to be lifted, namely that the PFF’s premises, accounts, administration and communication channels be again under its full control, and that the normalisation committee can continue to carry out its mandate without further hindrance.
Finally, the Bureau was informed that, to this date, the PFF’s premises continue to be occupied and the PFF therefore remains suspended for the time being. Consequently, the Bureau understood that the specified deadline by which the normalisation committee is required to fulfil its mandate (i.e. by no later than 30 June 2021) is no longer realistic.
Therefore, the Bureau decided on 30 June 2021 to extend the mandate of the normalisation committee until 30 September 2021 at the latest, to allow for the administrative and legal efforts on the ground to continue, with the aim of meeting the requirements for the PFF’s suspension to be lifted so that the tasks of the mandate of the normalisation committee can be carried out.”
Players lose as officials fight for power
Khokhar has been the man who has been a part of the PFF administration since 2007. He was working with Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, in the previous PFF set-up, when the political ugliness came to surface during the PFF elections, in which Hayat wanted to get himself elected for the fourth term. He had been running the federation in his own way, on his own terms since 2003.
The political fiasco began during the elections on provincial level in 2015. Hayat’s disenchanted colleagues thought of over-throwing him and made a parallel federation. That rival faction enjoyed Hayat’s fall with the December 2018 election ordered by the Supreme Court, however, Fifa never recognised Shah’s election and termed it as third party interference and ultimately appointed NC in 2019.
His name in the NC was a surprise, but he assures that he is neutral member without any allegiance to any faction.
Khokhar believes the loss will still be of the players and if he compares the scenarios from 2015 and 2012, he feels the players lost the most, whereas this time it is Fifa, threatened directly by the opposing group.
He also saw the attack on PFF house in 2015 too. “The situation is different. That attack was much more severe and intense. I was held at a gun point along with others for at least half an hour to an hour. We were violently assaulted. The attack by this group now was less severe.
The day when PFF house was attacked in 2015 was a dark day, and now this was a darker day too. I feel international community responded more effective this time. That is because now it is directly challenging Fifa, since we are employed by Fifa, so this is different.
“In terms of playing activity, I feel there were a lot of youth programs and still the teams were active. They were ina system and then there was nothing for them. All the talent in national team, the national youth sides, women’s team went to waste, their peak taken away from them, and that was so hard and badly affecting everyone. This time, there was hope but we were still trying to get out of the standstill, we are still hoping for the standstill to end so the teams can participate again internationally and have local events properly,” said Khokhar.
He added that the NC is working on Fifa Connect ID program and have held workshops for local clubs to register while the official launch of the program will take place once the suspension is over, courtesy a dialogue with the opposing group with the help of the Federal Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Dr Fahmida Mirza, who was playing a part of the mediatory between NC, Shah’s group and representing the government.
“Players, departments will face disciplinary action”
Shah’s PFF have announced the commencing of National U23 Championship starting this week and then the Pakistan Premier Football League as well to take place later this year.
The NC warned earlier that any player or department taking part in those events will face disciplinary action against them. Khokhar says that it is an unfortunate and sticky situation.
Many departments have started their preparations for the league as well, as players are losing their livelihood due to the absence of domestic league and tournaments.
“I want to apologise to the players and the department. I want to say it is not easy to ask this from them. It is a form of sacrifice, but there will be action against them. However, if the other group just hold these events, without calling them national championships and so on then it is fine. But they are not holding national Championships or the Premier League, because they are not the federation approved by Fifa.
These events will hold no legal weight or value. I just want to say that players shouldn’t participate in them, this is going to be bad for them in the long run,” concluded Khokhar, while hoping for matters to be resolved soon, as the NC had the schedule for the international and national events planned out before the Shah group took over the control.