Another ugly incident [TNS]

Another ugly incident [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Pakistan’s football matter has taken another twist. On last Sunday the Punjab government sealed the PFF headquarters in Lahore. The provincial government took the action on the basis of lease dues. The PFF had not deposited the headquarters’ lease dues for the last three years. The second reason behind the action was that the PFF had rented out a portion of the headquarters which the provincial government considers a violation of the lease agreement.

Sources said that the action was taken by the provincial government on the directives of a federal minister. The headquarters now is in the possession of the Punjab government.

However, sources said the Ashfaq group has been able to take out important files, carrying some important records. Sources said that the provincial government had not issued any letter to the PFF regarding lease dues which is just a nominal amount.

Sources told me that the PFF NC under its former chairman Humza Khan had written two letters to the Punjab government that it should tell it the exact amount of lease dues until 2034 so that the NC could clear it.

Sources said that former PFF secretary Arshad Lodhi had also sought the Punjab Chief Minister’s consent to rent a portion of the headquarters to generate money to be spent on football development.

Sources said that the PFF had not sub-leased the land but given a portion of the building on rent.

The Ashfaq group is trying to resolve the issue and get the PFF headquarters back, which is not likely.

Sources said if the government handed over the headquarters to the PFF NC, the Ashfaq group would consult the supreme court as according to the group sources it would be contempt of court.

The Ashfaq group had formed the PFF in December 2018 in the elections which had been held on the orders of the supreme court.

Sources said that a functionary of the federal government is involved in the whole episode as the government wants to get the PFF headquarters vacated by the Ashfaq group.

The development has also affected the Pakistan Premier Football League as its Peshawar leg has been postponed. Ashfaq group sources said that after the headquarters was sealed it was not possible for them to announce the schedule of the Peshawar leg. So, uncertainty once again is looming over the football of the country.

The Ashfaq group reassumed the charge of the PFF headquarters in March. As a result, in April FIFA suspended Pakistan’s membership and the country remains suspended. FIFA will lift sanctions only after its NC regains access to the headquarters and accounts.

FIFA has been giving extension after extension to NC in its mandate because the government has been trying to get the issue resolved.

The Ashfaq group had set some tough conditions before the NC which might have been the main reason behind the provincial government cancelling the lease of the PFF headquarters.

Meanwhile, a group of football stakeholders headed by Haji Saeed Tikko of Balochistan has also decided to wait for a few days to see what the Punjab government does. According to the group, if nothing happens towards handing over of the PFF headquarters to NC then the group will devise a strategy for staging sit-in as had already been decided. Tikko had given November 10 as deadline to the Ashfaq group to hand over the PFF headquarters to NC.

The exact intention behind the Punjab’s government decision to seal the headquarters will become clear in the next few days.

I will again advise the parties concerned to show grace and get the issue resolved. The matter has inflicted a huge damage on the country’s football. For the last six years the sport and its related athletes and their families have faced huge financial damages. Who will compensate for these damages? It’s indeed an irreparable loss and we all are culprits.

It’s now time to stop playing with the careers of the players. FIFA and AFC also should try to make a serious effort and get the issue resolved. Both bodies have failed to do anything laudable as the NC installed by them failed to do anything positive during the last two years.

Published in The News on Sunday, 14 November 2021