FIFA issues ultimatum to Ashfaq-led group

Governing body gives ‘occupants’ until 8pm tomorrow to vacate PFF headquarters, warns Pakistan of suspension


Natasha Raheel March 30, 2021

KARACHI:

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation have condemned the occupation of the Pakistan Football Federation headquarters by the Ashfaq Hussain-led faction and instructed them to vacate the football house and hand its charge to the Normalisation Committee (NC) by 8pm tomorrow or else Pakistan will face another ban from the international body.

“FIFA and the AFC demand that the parties that have occupied the PFF headquarters immediately hand back the premises to the normalization committee or the matter will be referred to the Bureau of the FIFA Council, the consequences of which may include suspension of the PFF as per FIFA statutes,” FIFA spokesperson wrote to the Express Tribune.

FIFA released the statement on Tuesday afternoon, while the occupation of the PFF house took place in the form of an attack on Saturday. The FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee (NC) chief Haroon Malik was on his usual day along with the rest of the staff when suddenly Ashafq Hussain showed up with a group of men, intimidated the NC chief and harassed him physically, that led to Malik fearing for his well-being and escaping the headquarters.

The attackers show no remorse over their actions and believe that a FIFA ban should not be a problem from their statements in the local media.

Meanwhile, FIFA spokesperson wrote back to The Express Tribune after the query on the situation: “Both FIFA and the AFC strongly condemn the incidents that have taken place at the headquarters of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in Lahore, in which PFF staff had to be evacuated after the offices were stormed by a group of protestors,” the statement said.

Malik, despite being attacked, had told The Express Tribune and released his official statement through the PFF that he wanted to talk to the parties involved to prevent Pakistan from getting banned. Malik’s NC was also planning international participation for the women’s and men’s teams in the future apart from holding elections, and there were cues of extension in the NC’s mandate too.

But all came to a halt on Saturday, where the looming spectre of the Hussain-led group had been in the shadows from the day they handed the charge to NC in 2019.

Malik also received a letter from FIFA stating that Pakistan have until 8:00pm Wednesday March 31 to take back control of the offices from the attackers, the occupation is taken as “undue interference” and in case the occupants do not leave the control to the NC, the matter will be referred to the FIFA Bureau of the Council for decisions that can result in a ban.

Ashfaq Hussain-led group is not protesting so much so, demanding their role in the PFF albeit illegally. He is part of the group that formed alliances, politically, to bring down former PFF President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, who wanted to get elected for the fourth term in the office in 2015. But the alliances that were formed against him have been just as corrupt and harmful to the players and football activities from 2015 till 2019, when FIFA appointed the NC.

On the other hand, FIFA only recognises the NC led by Malik: “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. This latest incident has regretfully caused severe disruption in the ability of the normalisation committee to deliver their mandate.”

Hussain was elected President after the Supreme Court-ordered elections in December 2018, which Hayat did not contest and FIFA did not recognise. Pakistan were also suspended previously between October 2017 till March 2018.

Hayat’s tenure was filled with inconsistencies, incomplete FIFA goal projects, FIFA World Cup ticket sales scandal, threat to players and local journalists, and financial embezzlement, all reported in the media at that time. Even during his time the PFF house was attacked in 2015 by his opponents.

This is the second time in the last six years that the attack on the PFF house has taken place. However, this time the actions have caused extreme distress and anguish to the women footballers who were playing the National Women’s Championship in Karachi, and the event was going to be concluded on April 3.

The women footballers are furious, not only at the announcement of cancellation of the National Championship by the NC on late Saturday night stating loss of control to the attackers and funds being seized by the Ashfaq-led group, but also at the subsequent statement by the attacking group that they will continue with the championship and will have a new local organising body, with none of the NC staff.

Footballers including Pakistan Captain Hajra Khan, who was playing for Army, Khadija Hussain, Sarah Ali, Mashal Hussaain, Maria Khan and Zarah Shah issued a joint press release against the ongoing tug of political war between the officials, asking for their own and fellow players’ right to decide their participation in the championship under the other group.

In their signed statement, they have challenged 1) Governing bodies and the impact of their decision, 2) how the players are expected to comply with the team administration’s political positions.

On the other hand, older clubs like Diya FC, that have given Pakistan most of its current stars, have also taken a stand, their founder Sadia Shiekh expressing deep concern over the well-being of her players and the reluctance of parents to allow their daughters to participate in the event.

Full FIFA statement:

Both FIFA and the AFC strongly condemn the incidents that have taken place at the headquarters of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in Lahore, in which PFF staff had to be evacuated after the offices were stormed by a group of protestors.

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. This latest incident has regretfully caused severe disruption in the ability of the normalisation committee to deliver their mandate.

FIFA and the AFC demand that the parties that have occupied the PFF headquarters immediately hand back the premises to the normalization committee or the matter will be referred to the Bureau of the FIFA Council, the consequences of which may include suspension of the PFF as per FIFA statutes.”

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