KARACHI: For the Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) House in Lahore became the battle ground; its victims were female players, coaches and the national U14 boys’ team, who were held hostage for more than two hours in the building.
Punjab MPA Ali Haider Noor Khan Niazi’s papers were allegedly rejected for the elections scheduled to take place on April 17. On the day of scrutiny of all candidates’ papers, Niazi, along with eight of his men, entered the PFF headquarters on Saturday with weapons.
In an FIR lodged on Sunday, PFF secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi stated that Niazi and his men held the entire PFF staff, along with the election commissioner, hostage in the building.
The invaders also threatened election commissioner Syed Nayyar Hasnain and said that the PFF building may be overtaken by the government of Punjab.
While elections on any level in Pakistan are a tricky issue, the major concern with this incident was the harassment of national female players and coaches, who were attending their Asian Football Confederation License C course, and the national U14 squad.
“It was horrifying,” Sadia Shaikh, the PFF administrator and Diya FC founder told The Express Tribune. “We were shocked. We couldn’t believe what was happening as the men stormed into the building and held us hostage.
“It was especially traumatic for our young players and female coaches because these armed men would just not stop staring at them. They even tried to use the ladies room. We told the women to go into their rooms.”
Sadia added that the incident was a major drawback in the progress of women’s football as the parents, who have trusted the local coaches and the federation, would most likely not send their daughters for training now.
She emphasised that the sports community should not be treated unfairly and that politics should not be a part of the set up.
Meanwhile, a player confirmed the incident, saying the U14 children were affected the most while another female footballer, Abeeha, said that the invaders hurled abuses on the women too.
PFF press conference
In a press conference held by PFF President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat on Monday, Hayat reminded everyone about FIFA’s rules regarding political interference in footballing matters.
“FIFA always has taken strict action against those associate members who are bothered by a third party, especially their governments,” said Hayat. “Such associate members, who have been banned by FIFA because of this, are Nigeria, Indonesia and Kuwait among others. So we have to follow the FIFA rules strictly to make our elections fair and transparent.”
The president added that Niazi is supported by former PFF secretary Hafiz Sulman Butt, who is banned by FIFA but claims to develop and promote football.
Meanwhile, the PFF has requested the government to take actions against Niazi under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Niazi denies incident
Niazi refuted the incident and said the claims are lies. “These are all lies,” he said. “In fact I went to the PFF building to discuss the scrutiny involved with my papers, which they rejected on the basis that a person should be active and associated with football for the last two years to contest in the elections.
“I’ve been the president of Fareedia FC [registered with the District Football Association] since 2012. They don’t want me to contest because they know I’ll make a difference.”
According to Niazi, he and his men did not harass anyone. “We didn’t even break a glass in that building,” he said. “The PFF building is on lease from the Punjab government but the federation has given a part of it on rent to a multinational company, which is an illegal move.”
He added that he would still contest the elections and aim to end Hayat’s tenure.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2015.
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