by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: There had been murmurs before but it is now on the table for discussion. The Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee has been in talks with both global football body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation that changes need to be made in the PFF Constitution for the elections to be held.
On Wednesday, when the three-member joint-delegation of FIFA and AFC met those who will likely be contesting the polls in Lahore, there was a debate on whether and how that can be done.
Pakistan football has been mired in crisis and controversy since 2015, when the PFF held elections having made changes in the constitution which were not approved by FIFA. Even though the elected body was allowed to continue, the crisis exacerbated with the Supreme Court ordering fresh elections that saw a new body come into power which was never recognised by FIFA. Cue the appointment of the PFF NC in 2019, which was ordered to hold fresh elections of the PFF.
Over three years since the PFF NC was appointed, though, the elections aren’t any nearer. The first step for them the club registration and scrutiny, which the Haroon Malik-led committee is attempting to do through the Pakistan Football Connect Programme which will see an online database for clubs, is yet to be completed despite it having started months ago. On Monday, the first day of the delegation’s visit, the PFF NC launched a mobile unit shuttle service which it said would reach clubs in far-flung areas.
When the delegation led by FIFA’s Head of Member Associations Governance Rolf Tanner met the stakeholders on Wednesday, the point that was fiercely argued was about the need for such an extensive programme when the newly-registered clubs won’t in any case be given the right to vote.
Clubs that come under the banner of the PFF for the first time get playing rights initially before they get voting rights from the PFF Congress after a period of two years.
“Tanner told us that there was no way that FIFA or the PFF NC could give the new clubs a right to vote,” former PFF legal consultant Chaudhry Zulfiqar, who attended the meeting, told Dawn on Wednesday. It was then that potential changes in the PFF constitution were discussed.
Former PFF senior vice-president Zahir Shah, who is looking to contest for the PFF presidency, immediately countered. “I told them that such a move will see litigation by anyone who’s affected by it,” Zahir told Dawn on Wednesday. “We’ve seen that over the years.”
Changes in the PFF Constitution can only be made by an elected Congress but Dawn reported in March 2021, three months after Haroon and his fellow NC members had taken over from the previous set-up led by Humza Khan, that FIFA had given them the powers to make constitutional changes.
Tanner and Purushottam Kattel, the Head of the South Asia Unit of the AFC’s Member Associations division, did make a point that FIFA had made objections to the changes made by the PFF of Faisal Saleh Hayat to the constitution in 2014.
However, most of those attending Wednesday’s meeting, argued that constitutional changes should come later once the elected PFF setup comes into power. They implored FIFA to make sure that the election process starts sooner rather than later.
The PFF NC on Tuesday, when it organised the First Pakistan Football Summit behind closed doors, had said that it would take 165 days for the election process to finish once the club registration and scrutiny is completed. Haroon, attending Wednesday’s meeting, reiterated that point. “It’s a question about intention,” Zulfiqar said. “And we don’t feel that there is an intention to hold elections by the PFF NC.”