by Umaid Wasim
SKARDU: Yet another extension to the mandate of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s Normalisation Committee was announced late on Friday night.
But still, there seems no end in sight to the crisis that has plagued Pakistan football for the last six years.
The FIFA-appointed NC will get another three months, the global football body said in a news release, saying that ‘considerable progress on the judicial and government fronts’ had been achieved by the Haroon Malik-led committee.
That progress is to have the suspension of Pakistan lifted. Pakistan was suspended in April, when the court-elected PFF led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah took over control of the PFF headquarters from the NC.
FIFA has been adamant that the suspension won’t be lifted until the headquarters are returned to the NC, which has been successful in seizing control of the PFF accounts through a court case.
In a bid to ease the situation, the NC has sought government support and it said earlier this month that an election roadmap had been given to the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and the Pakistan Sports Board.
However, Ashfaq said on Saturday, that there was no chance that the headquarters would be handed back to the NC until its composition is changed.
“We don’t accept this NC and we’ve made this clear several times,” Ashfaq told Dawn. “We’re open to an election held by a neutral NC but the current one isn’t neutral.”
IPC Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza, who has been holding talks with both the Ashfaq Shah group and the NC in a mediator role, told Dawn on Saturday that ‘another round of talks is planned’ for a resolution.
The NC was initially appointed in September 2019, four years after a controversial PFF election had plunged Pakistan football into turmoil.
Its initial mandate was nine months before the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic forced FIFA to give it an extension till September 2020 and eventually till the end of the year.
Initially led by Humza Khan, the NC leadership and its composition changed following the chairman’s resignation and Haroon was handed over its reins in January this year with an initial six-month mandate to hold fresh elections of the PFF.
The takeover of the PFF took place after Dawn revealed that Haroon had been given powers to amend the PFF constitution and that, with FIFA taking legal advice on the ground, an election wasn’t going to be held until 2022, when the term of Ashfaq, who came into power through an election held by the Supreme Court in December 2018, expires.
The election roadmap given by the NC, Dawn has learnt, will see elections held latest by June 2022. That is of course, if the NC gets back the PFF headquarters and the suspension on Pakistan is lifted.
The NC got a three-month extension, despite the suspension in July. And now it has another three months.
“The Bureau of the FIFA Council has today decided to extend the mandate of the normalisation committee of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), which was due to expire on 30 September 2021, until 31 December 2021,” FIFA said in a news release.
“The Bureau took note that the normalisation committee had been diligently monitoring the situation on the ground and achieved considerable progress on the judicial and government fronts in an effort to meet the criteria for the suspension of the PFF to be lifted. At present, however, the PFF’s premises continue to be occupied and the PFF therefore remains suspended.
“Consequently, the Bureau has decided to extend the mandate of the normalisation committee in order 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 normalisation committee’s mandate can be carried out.”
Getting back hold of the PFF headquarters, though, isn’t the only worry for the NC.
The NC last week tried to quash plans for a six-team franchise league, the Pakistan Football League, which is being initiated by Global Sports Ventures.
Haroon himself had plans to hold a league of his own, once the NC’s mandate is over.
After GSV — incidentally formed days after the takeover of the PFF headquarters by Ashfaq and has entered into a 15-year deal with it for rights to football events in the country — announced former England striker Michael Owen as the ambassador for the PFL, the NC came out with a strong-worded statement that it was an ‘illegal’ tournament.
GSV contends that it has signed a deal with the PFF which is the recognised one according to the law of the land, and got a further boost this week when it got a green signal to go ahead with its plans by President Dr Arif Alvi.
The president, in a news release, was quoted saying he hoped that there is ‘no interference by the NC’ in the PFL.
That, though, seems unlikely to happen with Haroon’s own interests and the NC dancing to his tune.