Pakistan continues to struggle to get its football house in order so much so that a FIFA ban on the game now looms large. The battle for control of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been raging since 2015, with politics having a big role to play. Currently, there are two sides staking claim to the federation. One, an administrative group led by Ashfaq Shah who was elected as president in a poll held in 2018 on the orders of the Supreme Court. Two, a Normalization Committee appointed by FIFA in September 2019 with the mandate to make the federation compliant with the world body’s regulations and organise new elections. FIFA deems Ashfaq Shah’s election is in breach of its regulations for member countries.
Last week, the battle for PFF takeover turned serious when the Ashfaq Shah group forcibly took control of the PFF headquarters in Lahore. This triggered a warning by FIFA to vacate, until Wednesday (i.e. yesterday), the Football House and give its control back to the Normalization Committee headed by Haroon Malik or face suspension. FIFA has made it clear that the federation’s suspension would lead to the loss of its all membership rights with “immediate notice, including, but not limited to, the right of PFF’s national teams or any of its clubs to participate in any international competitions, as well as the right of PFF and its members to benefit from FIFA’s financial/development programmes”.
However, in a timely intervention in the matter, Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza, who is also the President of Pakistan Sports Board, has written to FIFA to send a delegation to Pakistan to settle the issues through dialogue involving all stakeholders. She has quite rightly expressed reservations over the performance of the Normalization Committee, put in place by FIFA about 18 months back, over its failure to hold elections. The government must play a serious part in the whole affair. We can’t afford a ban on football!
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2021.