The stalemate continues [TNS]

The stalemate continues [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Pakistan’s football matter has taken a twist after the Ashfaq group set conditions for the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee being headed by Canada-based Haroon Malik. And NC rejected outrightly through a statement the other day, reiterating that the group would have to vacate the PFF secretariat unconditionally.

However, under the leadership of Balochistan’s highly influential football official Haji Saeed Tikko a group of stakeholders held a news conference in Lahore on Thursday and set November 10 as a deadline for the Ashfaq group, requesting it to vacate the PFF headquarters which is the only way to pave way for the PFF elections. If the Ashfaq group ignored the demand of Tikko and his associates then they plan to hold a sit-in either in Islamabad or Lahore. They were busy in consultation on Friday.

Tikko has been making serious efforts. He was part of the Ashfaq group delegation which meet the IPC minister recently. Tikko’s stance was that the Ashfaq group should vacate the PFF headquarters unconditionally. And he still sticks to it.

Haji Saeed addresses SJAL presser

On the international front former PFF vice-president, Sindh Football Association (SFA) President and South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) senior vice-president Syed Khadim Ali Shah made a serious effort to press Pakistan’s football matter during a special meeting with SAFF and AFC senior members on the sidelines of SAFF Executive Committee meeting in the Maldives a few days ago.

Khadim was joined in the meeting by the SAFF President Kazi Salahuddin, SAFF General Secretary Anwarul Haq, FIFA council member Mahfuza Akhtar Kiron, AFC deputy general secretary Vahid Kardany and Purushottan Kattel, head of South Asian Unit, MA division AFC.

Shah told them that Pakistani footballers are suffering because of the issue. He told them that there are huge impediments in the way of the electoral process. He told them that they should play a role in order to resolve the dispute and save Pakistani footballers’ future. He told them that during the last six years footballers of Pakistan had suffered the most.

He was assured that they would play their role. Their stand was that the Ashfaq group should hand over the PFF headquarters to the Normalisation Committee. They also showed interest in meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan in order to discuss with him Pakistan’s football issue and get it resolved. Shah also told them that they should also meet the Ashfaq group.

Khadim also offered his support for arranging their meeting with the Prime Minister. It is pertinent to mention here that Khadim is a senior politician belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party. He remained MNA in the 1970s and was very close to the former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Khadim also told the meeting that NC under Humza Khan wasted a lot of time and spent money lavishly and both FIFA and the AFC should make an inquiry about that.

So efforts are being made on various fronts to resolve the issue which has snatched the bread and butter from millions of people who are dependent on football.

The IPC ministry and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) are also not happy with the stance of the Ashfaq group which won offices in December 2018 in the elections held under the order of the Supreme Court.

The other day government sources told me that the Ashfaq group should show flexibility as it is very important for resolving such issues. The government is happy that NC wants to work with it as a guarantor and has already shared with it the election roadmap.

While suspending Pakistan’s membership in the first week of April this year FIFA set a mechanism for lifting the sanctions, saying that sanctions would be lifted only when Normalisation Committee regained access to the PFF headquarters and accounts. It is not likely that the world body will accept any other option.

Pakistan recently missed the SAFF Cup in Maldives and some senior coaches told me that they received several calls from football officials of various nations who were very sad about Pakistan’s football situation.

As next year Asian Games are to be held it’s very important to hold elections. If we waste more time more complications may emerge. Last month the federal government issued a directive that departments and other autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies should stop funding their sports teams and divert that funding to support regional teams. If that happens and departmental teams are disbanded then changes will have to be made to the PFF Constitution also and it could further delay the electoral process.

The whole football fraternity will appreciate the Ashfaq group if it takes a selfless decision to resolve the dispute. And NC should also show grace and follow strictly the conditions and time-frame under which it will have to hold elections at district, provincial and PFF levels.

Published in The News on Sunday, 31 October 2021