by Alam Zeb Safi
Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) pre-election scenario has become interesting. The development of the last few days shows that the situation is not ideal for the sitting president Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat. He will not be able to save his seat if he decides to contest the polls scheduled for December 12 in Islamabad.
The elections are being held under the instructions of the Supreme Court. The apex court has appointed senior advocate Mohammad Shoaib Shaheen to conduct the elections. The court had ordered on November 14 to hold the elections within one month.
“All the parties concerned have no objection if the elections of the PFF are held and Mr Shoaib Shaheen acts as the Returning Officer.
Malik Amir Dogar, an MNA of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from Multan, a few days ago formally announced his candidacy for the PFF presidency at a press conference at Lahore. Dogar is the council member of Punjab Football Association (PFA) from Multan.
It is yet to be confirmed whether he is eligible to fight for the PFF presidency. Dogar on Wednesday met with the Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. This will help Dogar and his group to claim most of the nine departmental votes in the 26-member PFF Congress. As Dogar is being backed by PFA so he seems to be a strong contender for the PFF presidency.
But in the meantime Syed Zahir Shah, the president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association, also announced his candidacy for the PFF presidential slot at Peshawar.
Dogar and Shah met on Tuesday in Islamabad and decided to field joint candidates for the various seats of the PFF Congress. If Dogar stands ineligible in the meantime, Shah will be the sole candidate for the PFF presidency. Sardar Naveed Haider, the PFA president, is the mind behind these developments.
Haider, a former ally of Faisal Saleh Hayat, turned against his benefactor recently over some issues and his defection will prove costly for Faisal who has been ruling PFF since 2003.
There are some rumours that former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has decided to unite Faisal and Zahir Shah as both belong to the Pakistan People’s’ Party (PPP). But this has not been confirmed by the sources close to Zahir Shah. “No such thing is happening,” a source close to Shah told me on Thursday.
According to sources Faisal rushed to Karachi a few days ago to meet Zardari. Whether this electoral process would be acceptable to FIFA is yet to be seen. FIFA on Tuesday wrote to the PFF, asking it to furnish details about the court order regarding the PFF elections.
“We can confirm that FIFA has yesterday sent a letter to the PFF including roadmap, which is in line with the decision taken during the last meeting of FIFA’s Member Associations Committee, and requesting information about the alleged decision made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to order the PFF to hold elections within one month,” a FIFA spokesperson told me on November 28. “FIFA will be in a position to comment further once additional information from PFF has been received.”
FIFA has already given PFF until March 2020 to revise its constitution and hold PFF elections.
All this has put a lot of pressure on the PFF. It will have to follow both law of the land and law of FIFA. Let’s see how Faisal, a seasoned politician and member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), deals with the tricky situation.
The prevailing situation has created a sense of uncertainty among those stakeholders who are engaged in the Premier League, Pakistan’s major domestic event currently being held in Karachi.
The stakeholders fear if FIFA imposed sanctions on Pakistan then the Premier League would stop and the huge investment made by departments and clubs would be wasted.
During interaction with various officials and players engaged in the Premier League it was found that most of the stakeholders were not happy due to PFF’s policy of giving top seats in the PFF management and administration to non-technocrats. Some say that PFF should have worked democratically.
The AFC’s recent decision not to give AFC Cup slot to Pakistan last week has annoyed majority of the football community, particularly, the Premier League teams. The continental body has kept Pakistan away from its 2019 AFC Cup as no Pakistani club fulfills the criteria of club licensing.
However, some people in the football community say that Faisal could have been impressive as PFF chief had he got a strong team in the PFF hierarchy. Pakistan were scheduled to tour Qatar for holding a camp but that seems uncertain until elections are held.
Following a loss of crucial three years due to a legal fight between PFF and its rival group and FIFA sanctions, the football fraternity does not want any further ban from FIFA. It is hoped things would be handled properly to prevent Pakistan football from any further trouble.