FIFA warns Pakistan of suspension over ‘illegitimate occupation’ of PFF headquarters

KARACHI, (MANEND NEWS): The international football governing body has warned Pakistan of possible suspension if the “illegitimate occupation’ of the headquarters of its counterpart in the country did not end and its control not given back to the Normalisation Committee (NC) by Wednesday evening.

Fatma Samoura, the secretary-general of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), has penned a strongly-worded letter to the chairperson of the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) NC, Haroon Malik, expressing “great concern” over “the unfortunate incidents” last week by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah’s group.

Shah — who won the PFF elections held on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2018 — on Saturday stormed the PFF’s headquarters in Lahore in a hostile takeover, forcing Malik, the NC’s chairperson, to leave and taking over the control of all matters.

The FIFA, as well as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), have never recognised Shah as the PFF’s elected president or representative.

In her letter, a copy of which was obtained exclusively by Geo News, Samoura said 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”.

During the hostile takeover, the “PFF officials and employees had to be evacuated after the offices had been invaded by a group of protestors, who support Mr Syed Ashfaq Hussain”, she noted.

The FIFA “strongly condemns” the incidents and “considers such actions to be totally unacceptable”, she added. It also demanded that 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 hostile takeover “constitutes an undue interference in the affairs of the Federation, therefore violating the obligations imposed on PFF”.

“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,” the FIFA’s secretary-general wrote.

Samoura reminded that Pakistan’s suspension would mean that the PFF would immediately lose all of its membership rights, which include 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.

Separately, a PFF spokesperson told Geo News that 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 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 stressed.

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