Campaigns for football election gain momentum [The News]

Campaigns for football election gain momentum [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: Pakistan football politics has taken an intricate twist with some of the seasoned actors running from pillar to post to get the support of stakeholders.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee has already shown its intent to hold the PFF elections by December 30. It means that very little time is at the disposal of the FIFA-appointed NC to conduct club scrutiny, and hold elections at district, provincial and the PFF levels.

It is not yet known what the outgoing PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat will do as he has been silent for long. Only two groups are actively campaigning for the elections.

One group is led by Zahir Shah, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health minister and a seasoned Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) politician. The other is led by Amir Dogar, a PTI MNA from Multan.

Amir Dogar group held a successful football convention at Multan on August 14. Former PFF president Ashfaq Hussain Shah, a relative of Zahir, also attended the convention. ‘The News’ learnt that the convention indicated that Amir Dogar group is expected to leave a huge impact in football elections at various levels.

Amir Dogar was the vice-President of the PFF which came into existence under the order of the Supreme Court in December 2018. Amir is son of former politician Salahuddin Dogar who remained member of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) for many years.

‘The News’ has learnt that former Balochistan Football Association (BFA) secretary Haji Saeed Tikko also attended the convention in Multan. Tikko is the most powerful actor in Balochistan’s football politics. He is likely to back Amir Dogar who seems extra-serious in grabbing the top slot for his group. Amir Dogar has already announced that his group would participate in elections at all levels.

If Amir wins elections in two provinces, then his group will be in a strong position to secure the slot of the PFF president. Zahir Shah group, on the other hand, has been campaigning for long. Rahim Bakhsh Baloch and his associates, who were supporting Faisal Saleh Hayat, have announced support for Zahir in Sindh.

But Zahir may face a surprise in his own province. Former FATA Olympic Association’s president Shahid Shinwari is expected to contest elections against him in the province. According to sources, Zahir Shah group offered Shinwari the president slot of the District Football Association (DFA) Peshawar but Shinwari did not agree.

Shinwari, also from PTI, wants a change in KP football and intends to fight elections against Zahir Shah group in KP, according to sources close to Shinwari. Former PFF Secretary and Wohaib Club chairman Hafiz Salman Butt is strongly backing Zahir.

Salman, a senior leader of Jama’at-e-Islami from Punjab, recently said in an audio-message in response to a message from Amir Dogar: “This election is not yours. I have made commitment with Zahir Shah and I will try to manage a win for him.

“If Zahir Shah does not become the PFF president then any other will also not become president,” Salman said in the audio message which is available with this correspondent. “Only Zahir Shah will become the PFF president and I will not let anybody else become the PFF president,” Salman stressed.

Salman has also said that he would back Rana Ashraf in the Punjab elections. In Balochistan, Zahir Shah group is backing Haji Khalil and according to sourcess if fair elections are held then it will not be possible for Khalil to beat Haji Saeed Tikko group. Tikko is an exporter and has been a force in Balochistan football.

There is complete silence in the camp of former PFF chief and current vice-president of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Faisal Saleh Hayat. However, sources close to him say that he has not backed out and would emerge at the appropriate time.

Because of the fight for positions in PFF, the game suffered a lot during the last few years. A number of top players, who five years back were a force, are not likely to make a difference in Pakistan’s football. A huge number of age-group footballers have also passed crucial time of their careers without playing at the colts level, which could have helped them develop for national duty. Because of the fight, Premier League also could not be held for four seasons. The league used to be a major source of income for players as well as officials.

Published in The News, 18 August 2020