KARACHI: FIFA on Wednesday suspended Pakistan due to third party interference, a decision that puts the nation into international isolation for the second time in three years.
The country had remained suspended for six months from October 2017 to March 2018 because of the same issue.
“The Bureau of the FIFA Council suspended the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) with immediate effect due to third-party interference, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA Statutes,” FIFA said in a statement.
The recent take-over of the PFF headquarters from a group of officials led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah forced the world body to take the decision. “This situation was prompted by the recent hostile takeover of the PFF headquarters in Lahore by a group of protestors and an alleged decision by certain individuals to remove the FIFA-appointed normalisation committee of the PFF led by Haroon Malik and to hand over the leadership of the PFF to Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah,” FIFA said.
“FIFA issued a letter warning that, 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 to carry out their mandate, the matter would be immediately submitted to the Bureau of the Council for decision,” FIFA said.
FIFA said suspension will be lifted when the Normalisation Committee will get complete control of the PFF headquarters and accounts and is able to undertake its task without any hindrance.
“As the situation remains unchanged, the Bureau of the Council has decided to suspend the PFF. This suspension will only be lifted once FIFA has received confirmation from the normalisation committee of the PFF that the PFF’s premises, accounts, administration and communication channels are again under its full control and it can continue to carry out its mandate without further hindrance,” FIFA said.
In circular No 1754, FIFA said: “Consequently as of April 6, 2021, the PFF loses all of its membership rights as defined in article 13 of FIFA Statutes with immediate effect and until further notice. The PFF representative and club teams are therefore no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted.
“This also means that neither the PFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any development programmes, courses or training from FIFA. Moreover we remind you and affiliates not to enter into any sporting contact with the PFF and/or its teams while the PFF is suspended. Finally the Bureau of FIFA Council or the FIFA Council may lift this suspension at any time before the next FIFA Congress takes place and if so we will inform you accordingly,” the circular said.
A FIFA letter to Haroon Malik said: “PFF and its members will not benefit from FIFA’s financial and development programmes,” during the suspension period.
FIFA’s decision to suspend Pakistan was also hotly discussed in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ExCo meeting in Manama on Wednesday.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino also attended the meeting. This correspondent learnt that a half-an-hour debate was held on the PFF matter with specific reference to FIFA’s appointment of NC chairmen and its members.
The AFC in a press release on Wednesday said that Pakistan’s matter was discussed in its ExCo. “The members were also briefed about FIFA’s decision to immediately suspend the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in light of the recent events which took place at the PFF headquarters in Lahore during which a group of protesters stormed the offices and took control of the premises from the PFF Normalisation Committee,” AFC said.
PFF NC in a statement said that FIFA will also take action against the individuals involved in the PFF secretariat takeover. “Normalisation Committee can confirm that FIFA will take further action against the individuals involved in the hostile takeover of the FIFA House on March 27, 2021,” NC said.
“The NC is still at work to ensure the matters are unconditionally resolved and as soon as it regains access to the FIFA House, the PFF accounts and the PFF communication channels without hindrance, full-fledged football activity will be resumed,” it hoped.
Pakistan’s experienced striker Kaleemullah said that dialogue is the only way to resolve the issue.
“I think it’s unfortunate. Only dialogue can resolve the issue,” Kaleem told ‘The News’ from his hometown Chaman.
“FIFA should personally meet the stakeholders as they had done in the past and find a way for amicable resolution of the dispute which has been hurting the sport and players for long,” Kaleem said.
FIFA installed NC in September 2019, giving it a nine-month mandate until June 2020 to hold the PFF elections but NC failed to do that. The mandate was extended until December-end last year but again Humza Khan-led NC failed to do its job. Humza resigned near the end of last year following which FIFA extended NC’s mandate until June 30, 2021, and overhauled the NC by replacing all its members and bringing in Canada-based Haroon as chairman.
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