FIFA committee decides to send fact-finding mission to Pakistan [Dawn]

FIFA committee decides to send fact-finding mission to Pakistan [Dawn]

by Umaid Wasim

KARACHI: The intentions have now got a seal of approval. A week after it was disclosed that FIFA intended to send a delegation to Pakistan to assess the situation of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), its Member Associations Committee has decided to do exactly that.

It could very well be the first step towards resolving the dispute in the PFF that has afflicted the game in the country for the best part of four years. However, the situation would only be closer to resolution if the global body actually goes by the mission’s findings.

FIFA had also sent a mission to the country when the dispute broke out in 2015 and Dawn very reliably learnt that it had serious reservations over how Faisal Saleh Hayat, the PFF chief recognised by FIFA, conducted presidential elections that year.

However, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) put FIFA under a lot of pressure to accept Hayat’s election with then FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke writing to the AFC that there was no way that FIFA could uphold those contentious polls.

In the end, however, Hayat was given a two-year mandate in September 2015 to ratify PFF statutes and hold fresh elections. That didn’t happen with Hayat not in control of the PFF domestically during a legal wrangle that saw an administrator appointed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to oversee PFF matters.

Hayat eventually regained control of the PFF in March last year — a move that saw FIFA lift a six-month suspension on the PFF. However, that wasn’t the end of the dispute. The matter went to the Supreme Court, which ordered fresh elections and Ashfaq Hussain Shah elected PFF chief in December last year.

With FIFA not accepting the court-ordered election, and having last year extended Hayat’s mandate — till March 2020 — to hold fresh elections, it has left Pakistan football in a limbo. FIFA prohibits any interference from local courts or the government in the affairs of its member associations.

Upon lifting the ban on Pakistan last year, FIFA had said it would send a mission to the country. Sanjeevan Balassingam, FIFA’s Director of Members Associations Asian and Oceania, did visit Pakistan in March last year but FIFA did not confirm whether it was a part of the mission.

FIFA didn’t disclose on Thursday who will be in the mission or when it would arrive in Pakistan, however, a source has told Dawn that it will be in the country from April 24 to 25.

“The Member Associations Committee has decided to send a FlFA/AFC fact-finding mission to Pakistan to discuss with all parties, assess the situation and at a later stage make concrete proposals for the way forward,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn a day after the meeting was held. “Further updates will be provided in due course.”

Both parties in the PFF dispute had been appealing to FIFA to send a mission to ensure all the stakeholders were heard. The AFC, this time, played a vital role in ensuring that and preventing an immediate ban on Pakistan, which FIFA had warned of ahead of the court-ordered election.

“Taking into consideration the recent developments, we would like to propose a joint AFC-FIFA fact-finding mission to the PFF to meet with all the stakeholders and assess the current situation,” AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John had written to retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi in a letter, seen by Dawn, on March 25. “We look forward to hearing from FIFA on our proposal so that we can coordinate further regarding the dates and logistics of such a mission.”

The letter came as a reply to Lodhi’s letter to the AFC and FIFA’s Member Associations Committee four days earlier in which he informed FIFA of the Supreme Court’s order to their appeal against the December elections.

With the Supreme Court having allowed the appellants to “avail the remedy, if available to them, before the appropriate forum in accordance with the law,” Lodhi wrote that a mission should be sent to “have detailed discussions in order to adopt a consensus on the way forward”.

The news that FIFA was intending to send a mission came to the fore when FIFA’s Head of Member Associations Governance Services Luca Nicola sent an email to PFF vice-president Sardar Naveed Haider Khan last week.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2019

The News’ Alam Zeb Safi adds:

KARACHI: A joint fact-finding mission of FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will come to Pakistan to hold discussion with “all parties” in a bid to resolve Pakistan’s football dispute which has rocked the sport.

It was confirmed by FIFA on Thursday after its Member Associations Committee meeting held in its headquarters in Zurich on Wednesday. After meeting with the stakeholders the mission will make proposals for the way forward.

“The Member Associations Committee has decided to send a FIFA/AFC fact-finding mission to Pakistan to discuss with all parties, assess the situation and at a later stage make concrete proposals for the way forward,” a FIFA spokesperson told ‘The News’ on Thursday.

When this correspondent asked FIFA about the expected schedule of the visit of the delegation to Pakistan, the FIFA spokesperson said: “Further updates will be provided in due course.” This correspondent also learnt that some members of the AFC could not attend the Zurich meeting due to their engagement in the AFC elections scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (tomorrow).

This will be the second time in almost four years when the world body will send a mission to Pakistan to make an effort to resolve the dispute. In August 2015, a FIFA delegation visited Lahore. After meeting with both the parties it submitted its report with FIFA and the world body decided to give a two-year extension to Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) until September 2017 to revise the constitution and hold fresh elections.

When the PFF could not act as advised by FIFA, the world body in October 2018 extended the PFF mandate until March 2020. In October 2017, FIFA suspended Pakistan because of “third party’s interference”. However, the suspension was lifted in March 2018, days after Lahore High Court (LHC) restored PFF.

Currently there are two federations. FIFA recognises Faisal Saleh Hayat-led PFF which once again has lost its control over the PFF headquarters and accounts following the Supreme Court-ordered elections held in December last year. Ashfaq Hussain Shah was elected as the PFF president.

The Supreme Court on March 13, 2019, disposed of the matter after hearing the review petitions from Faisal and others.

“Having heard learned counsel for the applicants, it seems that they have some grievance after the elections have been conducted and new management of PFF has been inducted. If they have such grievance, obviously, the law must have provided remedy to them,” the Supreme Court March 13 order says.

“The learned counsel for the applicants states that they may be allowed to avail the remedy available to them before the appropriate forum. In this view of the matter these applications are disposed of. The applicants may avail the remedy, if available to them, before the appropriate forum in accordance with law,” the order says.

After taking over the accounts and headquarters Ashfaq-led body also supervised the final phase of the Pakistan Premier Football League which was won by Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) for a record fifth time here at the KPT Stadium.

When FIFA restored Faisal-led PFF early last year, Pakistan featured in the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia, and the SAFF Cup in Bangladesh under the Brazilian coach and trainer. Pakistan also played a FIFA friendly against Palestine in Al-Ram.

In a bid to prepare the lot for this year’s Olympic Qualifiers and World Cup Qualifiers, Faisal-led PFF also sent the team to Doha for training in December last year. The PFF elections under the apex court’s instructions held the same month once again placed a full stop to national team’s engagement in international circuit.

Pakistan missed the Olympic Qualifiers in Uzbekistan last month. And it is not yet known what will happen to Pakistan’s fate for the World Cup Qualifiers which will be held later this summer.

A senior official of Ashfaq-led body was happy with the outcome. “It’s in our favour that FIFA is sending a mission to Pakistan,” the official told ‘The News’. FIFA-recognised PFF president Faisal is set to become the first Pakistani to be elected unopposed as the AFC vice-president in the continental body’s Congress in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (tomorrow).