By Alam Zeb Safi,
KARACHI: Captain Safdar, son-in-lawof Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been in close contact with the members of Punjab Football Association (PFA) and is expected to reach Lahore in the next two or three days to discuss with them what happened at the electoral meeting of the PFA at the PFF headquarters in Lahore on Friday.
“Yes, he is in close contact with us. He wanted to rush to Lahore on Friday after the PFF held a fake election but decided against it due to his busy schedule in Islamabad,” a source in the PFA told ‘The News’.
“He is expected to come to Lahore in two or three days. We had a meeting with Safdar in Islamabad a few days ago and discussed with him football matters in detail,” said the source.
Safdar is expected to run for PFF’s president post at elections in July.
He is said to have been convinced by former PFF secretary Hafiz Salman Butt, who is the main architect of the move to counter PFF’s president Faisal Saleh Hayat.
“He is a nice man. He has told us that joint efforts would be made to develop football in Pakistan,” a PFA source, who attended the meeting with Safdar, said.
However, it is not yet clear whether Safdar would be able to contest the PFF elections for presidency because election rules say that only those people who have remained associated with football for at least two years are eligible to contest the elections.
“While following FIFA, the PFF has also incorporated such rules in its constitution which have been ratified by its Congress on September 21, 2013,” a PFF source said.
Under these rules, the PFF’s election commission rejected the nomination papers of former PML-N MPA from Mianwali Ali Haider Noor Niazi who wanted to run for the PFA’s president post.
Sources in the government-backed group said they were confident they would win the July elections.
“We will stick to the democratic principles and are confident about our victory,” a source said.
At one time the current minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Hussain Pirzada was also interested in the PFF’s presidency. But it now seems that he has decided otherwise.
The sources in the PFA said that they had met twice with Pirzada regarding his intention to run for the PFF’s presidency but he did not show much interest.
The sources said the PFA members wanted Pirzada to play a lead role to counter Faisal as being a federal minister he was in an ideal position to do so.
A few months ago Pirzada informally told this correspondent that if PFA’s president Arshad Lodhi wanted him to run for the PFF’s presidency then he would think about that.
The government’s machinery had been fully utilised for Faisal Saleh Hayat’s election to the PFF presidency in 2003 on the instructions of then president General Pervez Musharraf. Faisal was a federal minister then.
In 1994 Faisal had lost the elections for the PFF presidency to Mian Mohammad Azhar by one vote.
In 2003 some other political figures like Salim Saifullah, Akhtar Abdur Rehman and current minister for IPC Riaz Hussain Pirzada were also interested in the PFF top seat.
A source revealed that on the instructions of Musharraf, the then sports minister Raees Muneer and Director General of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Brig Saulat Abbas paved the way for Faisal’s election. They were smartly supported by Salman Butt.
A dinner was held in the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad which was attended by top functionaries of all the institutions. A source said when it was known that Faisal was being made the president Salim Saifullah left the hotel. Riaz Pirzada told Raees Muneer that being a long-serving personality of football he also deserved to become the PFF chief.
But owing to instructions from the top, the desires of others could not be fulfilled.
Butt, who is a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, ended his past differences with Pirzada and so all got united. Only PFA’s chief Arshad Lodhi refused to support the government’s move.
Arshad wanted Mian Azhar to continue but on the latter’s refusal he got interested to run for the top post.
But because it was not possible in that atmosphere, Salman Butt again played a key role to convince Arshad Lodhi on the plea that he would be elected as secretary with Faisal.
An eye-witness told ‘The News’ that Mian Azhar had been instructed not to attend the electoral meeting. And it was the then PFF senior vice-president and former IG Police Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Saeed Khan who presided the meeting during which Faisal was made the president.
Interestingly, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) cancelled the nomination of former Pakistan captain Ali Nawaz Baloch just hours before the elections and instead sent Col Mudassir in his place for attending the electoral meeting.
“When Faisal lost in 1994, it was because of Army. And when he won in 2003, it was also because of Army,” a source said.
But this time, the things seem a bit different. The government party is trying to replace Faisal through a democratic process.