by Kashif Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s latest football crisis is on the verge of being over.
The long-running crisis, though, is expected to end when the FIFA-appointed Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee finally holds a fair election of the country’s football governing body.
First though, it has to regain control of the PFF headquarters, which Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza said on Thursday would take place in the next two weeks.
In the government, the Haroon Malik-led NC has gained a crucial ally as it fought for the control of the PFF headquarters in Lahore, which were seized in March last year by the court-elected PFF of Ashfaq Hussain Shah in a move that saw Pakistan suspended by FIFA.
Addressing a news conference here at the Press Information Department alongside Haroon, Fehmida was optimistic that the FIFA suspension would soon be lifted.
“Today is a good day as the football crisis which has adversely affected footballers and coaches is going to end,” the IPC minister told reporters.
The PFF headquarters are currently in control of the Punjab government after Ashfaq’s PFF, which came into power following an election held by the Supreme Court in December 2018, was evicted in November following a dispute in the terms of its lease agreement.
“I have spoken with Chief Secretary Punjab, who has assured me that the headquarters will be handed over to the NC in two weeks,” added Fehmida.
Pakistan football has been mired in crisis and controversy since 2015 after a disputed PFF election before FIFA appointed the NC to oversee PFF affairs in September 2019.
The NC was initially given a nine-month mandate to hold fresh elections but that has dragged on due to internal conflicts in the initial committee as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Haroon was named the new NC chairman in January last year with the committee recomposed but three months it was forced out of office by Ashfaq and his group of officials who alleged that the NC wasn’t serious about holding elections.
The intervening months have seen the NC gain government support after giving guarantees that the elections wouldn’t be delayed any further and would be held within eight months after the handover of the headquarters.
“After gaining control of the PFF headquarters, we will request FIFA to lift the suspension,” Haroon said. “After that, and once we have the digital and physical assets, the elections will be held according to the roadmap given to the government.”
The IPC minister, meanwhile, added that the government was taking steps to end the culture of parallel sports federations. She also confirmed that Prime Minister Imran Khan will be attending the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on Friday.