Negotiations to end football impasse fail [The News]

Negotiations to end football impasse fail [The News]

KARACHI: The dialogue to resolve the pressing football issue has failed and it is now certain that FIFA will slap Pakistan with suspension, sources told ‘The News’ on Monday.

They said hectic efforts were made to resolve the issue amicably but the negotiations failed. Sources said that Normalisation Committee chairman Haroon Malik failed to show flexibility. Sources said that Haroon wanted unconditional handover of the PFF secretariat to the NC.

The deadlock was created when a few days ago Ashfaq Hussain Shah-led PFF reassumed control of the PFF headquarters in Lahore from FIFA-installed NC, headed by Canada-based Haroon Malik.

Ashfaq group ignored FIFA’s deadline of 8pm last Wednesday for vacating the PFF headquarters. FIFA had announced that Pakistan might be suspended if the headquarters control was not given back to NC.

On Tuesday (today), FIFA’s offices will reopen following spring vacations and an action against Pakistan may be initiated. Sources said that Haroon has also recommended to FIFA “persona non grata punishment” for some of Ashfaq group PFF Congress members who held a meeting in Islamabad before the “occupation” of the PFF secretariat.

However, sources in Ashfaq group said that if any such thing happened they would challenge the punishment at various forums as they had the Supreme Court mandate. Sources also revealed that the federal minister for IPC Dr Fehmida Mirza had also written a letter to FIFA in an effort to resolve the issue and prevent Pakistan from suspension.

Last August, too, the IPC minister had written to FIFA about the issue but the world body only thanked the ministry without acting on its request to send a fact-finding mission to assess the situation.

FIFA doesn’t want any state interference in the affairs of its affiliated associations. If Pakistan was suspended this would be the second suspension since 2017. Ashfaq group had handed over the PFF’s administrative control to the FIFA-installed NC in September 2019, saying it hoped that the NC would hold fair and transparent elections.

However, the NC failed to meet the nine-month deadline, after which FIFA extended its mandate to December 31, 2020. But it again failed to take steps in that direction. Humza Khan resigned as NC chairman towards the end of last year and FIFA brought in Haroon in his place in January 2021. FIFA also replaced the other NC members, giving it a fresh look.

NC had the mandate until June 30, 2021. This correspondent sent a whatsapp message to Haroon inquiring about the outcome of the dialogue but he did not reply. Haroon is in Canada.

Published in The News, 6 April 2021