KARACHI: The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has given a 24-hour ultimatum for the “illegitimate occupation” of the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) headquarters to end or face possible suspension.
In a letter sent to the chairperson of the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) Normalisation Committee (NC), Haroon Malik, FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura said she had “great concern” over “the unfortunate incidents” last week by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah’s group of protesters who had stormed the Lahore headquarters of its counterpart in the country and seized control of the affairs.
On Saturday, Shah, who had won the PFF elections held on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2018, stormed the PFF’s headquarters in Lahore in a hostile takeover, forcing Malik to leave and taking over the control of all matters.
Shah has never been recognised as the PFF’s elected president or representative by either the FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Samoura’s letter — a copy of which was obtained exclusively by The News — read that the international body “would like to remind all relevant parties, in particular, the individuals who invaded the PFF premises, that the normalisation committee of PFF is the sole executive body of PFF recognised by FIFA”.
The PFF’s officials and employees had to be evacuated during the hostile takeover when “the offices had been invaded by a group of protestors, who support Mr Syed Ashfaq Hussain”.
The top FIFA official said the body “strongly condemns” the incidents and “considers such actions to be totally unacceptable”. It also demanded the NC’s officials be handed over control of the headquarters by Wednesday evening or the body would take action against the PFF, which included a possible suspension.
The takeover “constitutes an undue interference in the affairs of the Federation, therefore violating the obligations imposed on PFF”, she underlined.
“Should the illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters not be lifted and the office bearers recognised by FIFA not be permitted free access to the building by Wednesday 31 March 2021 at 20:00 (Lahore time), at the latest, in order for them to carry out their mandate as instructed by FIFA, the matter shall be immediately submitted to the Bureau of the Council for decision, which might include the suspension of PFF,” she wrote.
The secretary-general underscored that Pakistan’s suspension meant that the PFF would immediately lose all of its membership rights, which included the right of national teams and clubs of the FIFA’s counterpart in the country to participate in any international competitions, as well as benefits from its financial and development programmes.
Speaking to The News separately, a PFF spokesperson said both the FIFA and the AFC strongly condemned Saturday’s incident, which they said: “regretfully caused severe disruption in the ability of the normalisation committee to deliver their mandate”.
“As per the decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council, the normalisation committee is the sole entity recognised by FIFA, and has been appointed to manage the activities of the PFF until 30 June 2021 as per its current mandate,” they added.
The spokesperson also reiterated Samoura’s demands “that the parties that have occupied the PFF headquarters immediately hand back the premises to the normalisation committee or the matter will be referred to the Bureau of the FIFA Council”.
The consequences “may include suspension of the PFF as per FIFA statutes,” they added.
—COVER IMAGE: The FIFA logo. AFP/Ozan Kose/Files