by Alam Zeb Safi
And finally, the FIFA-appointed normalisation committee for Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was given control of the PFF secretariat and bank accounts on September 27 by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah who had been elected as the PFF chief in December last year in the Supreme Court-ordered elections. And the NC has started working. It is now going to recruit manpower in a bid to handle properly the day-to-day affairs of the PFF besides meeting its target of conducting club scrutiny, elections at the district and provincial level before going for PFF elections within nine months. Whether the NC under Humza Khan will be able to meet its target is yet to be known. But the start it has taken does not seem to be going in its favour.
It is the responsibility of the NC to be neutral in all circumstances. Favouring a particular group may lead to a disaster irrespective of strong support from FIFA. In the heavily-divided football environment of Pakistan the NC will have to be absolutely neutral if it wants to meet the target given to it by FIFA. Whatever decisions the NC has taken so far, which have sparked protests, should be reviewed. NC in its first meeting removed former PFF Secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi that raised many eyebrows. From the very outset NC’s chairman Humza Khan’s selection was controversial because of his strong connection with the Karachi United owner Taha Alizai who was the legal counsel of Ashfaq group.
The outgoing PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat also wrote to FIFA about Humza’s controversial selection but so far the world body has not reviewed its decision. It is the responsibility of the FIFA senior official Alexandre Gros to minutely monitor the situation. If he gets relaxed and overlooks the major flaws of its appointed NC then the situation will turn out of control. Not only Faisal group but a few key people of Ashfaq group are also not satisfied with the composition of the NC.
After removing Col Lodhi, the NC also removed skilled manpower associated with the secretariat with immediate effect which gave the impression that the NC was favouring a group.
The NC has taken a list, according to a source, from the Faisal group about the manpower working in the former set-up of the PFF. It is not yet known whether anyone from that list will be hired by the FIFA committee or not.
Another controversial decision which the NC took is the appointment of Nasir Ismail as Pakistan under-19 team coach. Nasir openly favoured Ashfaq Group in the whole legal conflict between the two groups over the years. Nasir holds a license-A and is eligible to coach Pakistan under-19 team but he actively supported the Ashfaq group, so appointing him is a blunder.
There are a few License A coaches who remained neutral during the tussle between the two groups during the last five years. One of them should have been picked as Pakistan under-19 coach.
In the last few days the composition of NC and appointment of its chairman was outrightly rejected by Punjab Football Association (PFA). Protest demonstrations were held in Lahore and DG Khan against the controversial composition of the NC.
It is high time for FIFA to look into these matters which could derail the whole process. Both the groups have already started defaming each other through social media campaigns.
The NC should revoke some of its key decisions and take a highly neutral stance to compensate for the damage done so far.
It should recruit highly neutral staff for its secretariat and should not allow those people to enter the secretariat who were part of a particular group. If the NC failed to tread the right path it may find thorns on its way when it goes for club scrutiny which is the most important and most difficult part of its responsibility.
It’s time to remove the ailment, or the cancer will spread so much that it will be impossible to control it.
It’s right time to protect Pakistan’s football. Pakistan is filled with people of principles who have worked with different governments and private sector. Some of those should have been appointed in the committee.
The NC should also try to ensure football’s inclusion in the National Games. It should also try to ensure Pakistan’s participation in the 13th South Asian Games slated to be held in Nepal from December 1-10. Activities must be maintained as the NC would be given operational funds by FIFA and AFC. It has also got Rs160 million from the outgoing Ashfaq-led PFF. Some of that amount could be used on events. The NC can handle short-term projects, but it is not in its domain to deal with long-term projects which will only be dealt with by the next ExCo to be formed through elections. Let’s hope the things go in the right direction.