Mohammad Yaqoob – DAWN
LAHORE: With the Election Commissioner for the Punjab Football Association (PFA) polls relocating the venue of the elections from a local hotel to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) House on Thursday evening, a close contest is expected in the PFA polls scheduled for Friday (today).
The country’s football governing body has recently made headlines first due to Punjab government’s desire and its subsequent involvement in getting its candidate elected against those of the PFF, and then due to PFF House being stormed by the supporters of Ali Haider Noor Niazi who is a government-backed candidate in the PFA polls.
Currently, there are three candidates who have filed their nomination papers before Election Commissioner Nayyer Hayder. They are Sardar Naveed Haider backed by PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat, incumbent PFA president Arshad Khan Lodhi and Bhakhar Football Association president Rana Ashraf.
Ali Haider was also the candidate from the opposition in the PFA election but his nomination papers were rejected by the Election Commission citing reason that Ali Haider had failed to play any role in promotion of the game during the last two years.
Ali Haider had later on appealed against the verdict of the Election Commissioner but his appeal was rejected.
Also, former PFF secretary Hafiz Salman Butt is supporting the opposition candidates, making it tough for Sardar Naveed to sweep the PFA polls.
The PFA elections are of great importance as its result will also have implications for the PFF elections scheduled to be held in July this year.
If Sardar Naveed loses the elections, it will give three votes to the opposition which with the backing of the government will be in a better position to earn eight votes of the government departments like Wapda and Army with total votes to elect the next PFF office-bearers being 26.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law is most likely to be the candidate in the upcoming PFF elections.
The PFF president has been faced with the tough situation for the first time as he had been able to win the last three elections with great ease. Though he had succeeded in getting eight FIFA Goal Projects for Pakistan and annual grants from FIFA and AFC, he failed to improve world ranking of Pakistan—currently 172—which was 138 before he took the charge in 2003. Also, Faisal is seemingly failing to achieve his target of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
The other side of the picture is also not very encouraging, for retired captain Safdar Awan, who happens to be the son-in-law of the prime minister, has no affiliation with the game and the government’s support is the only key factor for him to contest the PFF elections like in the past when Faisal Saleh Hayat was elected after getting the nod from the-then president Gen Pervez Musharraf. Faisal was a federal minister in Gen Musharraf’s regime.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2015