Army chief advised PM to resolve football conflict [The News]

Army chief advised PM to resolve football conflict [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: An initiative for resolving Pakistan’s football conflict had been taken at the highest level even before the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was suspended by the FIFA in the second week of this month, ‘The News’ has learnt through well-placed sources.

The sources said that Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had written a letter to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi before Pakistan’s suspension, advising the civilian government to get the conflict resolved. It has been learnt that the military initiative had prompted the federal government to write a letter to the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for seeking its opinion.

The sources said that the issue was discussed at the Board’s headquarters in Islamabad and finally the Board sent its reply to the PM Secretariat through the ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC).

It has been learnt that the PSB officials were of the opinion that the Board neither had the powers to establish an ad hoc system for the PFF nor was the federation any more affiliated with it as it had not followed the national sports policy.And eventually, a source said, the PSB suggested in its reply that the legal proceedings need to be expedited and the case be decided on merit.

The FIFA early this month suspended PFF because of third party’s interference. The world football body said that unless the PFF headquarters and its accounts were handed over to the federation, the suspension would not be lifted. “The suspension will be lifted once the PFF offices and access to the PFF accounts are returned to the PFF,” the FIFA has said.

The FIFA said that the PFF had lost all its membership rights as defined in article 13 of the FIFA Statutes. The PFF’s national and affiliated club teams were no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted, it said.

This also means that neither the PFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any development programmes, courses or training from the FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

The FIFA Council in its meeting in Kolkata on October 27 ratified Pakistan’s suspension. Responding to a question regarding suspension, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said at a press briefing following the FIFA Council meeting that the FIFA had already set conditions and once those were fulfilled it would take the FIFA hardly a few minutes to lift the suspension.

After Pakistan was suspended, the federal minister of IPC Riaz Pirzada said that his ministry would act after the court’s decision. He also said that when the court gave its verdict he would send a delegation to Zurich, FIFA headquarters, to negotiate with FIFA.

When the conflict between the PFF and its rival group emerged in early 2015 because of controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA), the FIFA sent a fact-finding mission to Lahore which interviewed both the groups. Later in the same year, the FIFA gave two years to the PFF until September 2017 to revise its constitution and hold fresh elections.But as the PFF headquarters and accounts were not in its possession it could not act as advised by the FIFA. Recently the AFC requested the FIFA to give two more years to the PFF.

Lahore High Court (LHC) had given a verdict in the first week of February this year but it also could not resolve the matter. The Supreme Court then set aside the LHC double bench decision and referred the case back to it with the instructions to decide it on merit. The hearings have been resumed.No Pakistan team has toured abroad since April 2015.

Published in The News, 31 October 2017