FIFA drops Pakistan’s suspension, extends Normalisation Committee

KARACHI: After nearly 15 months, Pakistan has returned to international football competition.

FIFA stated on Thursday that the suspension of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been lifted after receiving proof that the PFF’s designated Normalisation Committee had “regained full control of the PFF’s facilities and was able to manage its finances.”

This immediate relief for Pakistan football means that the national team can immediately participate in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA competitions. Other formalities will take time to fulfil.

Due to the PFF’s problems, Pakistan’s national teams have been deprived of international competition. In the past four years, the men’s team has participated in only seven international matches, while the women’s squad has never ever set foot on a football field.

At the FIFA Congress in Doha at the end of March, the all-powerful Bureau of the FIFA Council was granted the authority to overturn Pakistan’s suspension once “the relevant prerequisites were completed.”

Pakistan was suspended by FIFA in April of 2012 after the PFF offices were taken from the National Committee by a group of football officials led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, who claimed that the Haroon Malik-led committee was unwilling to organize elections.

Ashfaq’s group, which came to power after an unrecognized by FIFA election of the PFF held by the Supreme Court, handed over the PFF headquarters to the NC upon its appointment in September 2019.

Since the contested elections held in 2015, the NC’s primary responsibility is to organize new elections, which have been beset by conflict and catastrophe.

In March, the NC recovered control of the PFF’s headquarters, a crucial step in regaining control of its offices after the NC was removed from office.

Ashfaq’s group is unable to access the PFF accounts, which remain frozen after the NC got a stay order following the takeover.

PFF NC member Shahid Khokar said on Thursday that the PFF NC would get funding straight from FIFA while a judicial action about the accounts continued.

The NC was the first to report the suspension’s removal, minutes before the FIFA statement arrived.

The FIFA media statement read, “The Bureau of the FIFA Council resolved on 29 June 2022 to lift the suspension imposed on the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in April 2021 owing to improper third-party interference.

The decision was made after FIFA obtained proof that the PFF’s normalisation committee recovered full control of the PFF’s facilities and was able to manage its finances.

FIFA cautioned, however, that any involvement in the affairs of the NC might lead to the suspension being reinstated.

“Since the timeframe by which the normalisation committee was scheduled to complete its mandate (30 June 2022) is no longer feasible, the Bureau has also decided to extend the committee’s term until at least 30 June 2023. This will allow the latter to complete the prescribed responsibilities in their entirety.”

To reclaim control of the PFF headquarters, the NC provided the administration with an eight-month plan for holding new elections.

Once the ban is lifted, Pakistan Sports Board director general retired Col. Asif Zaman told Dawn on the sidelines of the Trophy Tour event for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Lahore in June that it would press the National Council to finish the election process within that time frame.

The PFF NC has also been granted the authority to approve the PFF constitution and bring its terms in conformity with FIFA Statutes, despite this not being specified in FIFA’s press statement. With contributions from Mohammad Yaqoob in Lahore.