In this photo, Pakistan football team players attend a training session. — AFP/File

In this photo, Pakistan football team players attend a training session. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Faisal Saleh Hayat alleged former secretary Hafiz Salman Butt was behind the fracas at the secretariat of the country’s football governing body on Saturday as he condemned the attack by a rival group in the Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections.

Armed men accompanied PFA presidential candidate Ali Haider Noor Niazi as he barged into the PFF House, holding it and the members inside hostage as he tried to push through his nomination papers which were rejected by the election commissioner.

“The attack was arranged to sabotage the PFA elections when the entire process was going smoothly,” Hayat told reporters at a news conference here on Monday. “Hafiz Salman is against me because I didn’t help him in overturning the life ban imposed by FIFA on him some 14 years ago.

“For the first time I’m disclosing here that FIFA has imposed a life ban on Hafiz Salman for corruption as a team of the world’s football governing body visited Pakistan and found irregularities in the PFF accounts,” he added.

“I challenge him [Hafiz Salman] proves corruption even of Rs1000 during my tenure, I will resign from the post.”

He added that the PFF had lodged an FIR against Noor and Hafiz Salman along with Sports Board Punjab (SBP) director-general Usman Anwar and provincial sports minister Rana Mashood for supporting their agenda.

“Usman called PFF secretary [Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi] on April 7 to inform him that it had been decided at the highest level that Noor will contest the PFA polls [due on April 17] while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Capt Safdar, will run as candidate for PFF presidency in July,” Hayat informed.

Lodhi, sitting next to Hayat, said that Usman had asked him to cooperate with the government and accept the nomination papers of both Noon and Safdar. “I informed him [Usman] that it would only be possible if both meet FIFA requirements,” he said.

Pakistan women’s team manager Raheela Zarmeen, who was present in the PFF House when Saturday’s incident took place also spoke to reporters along with national women’s team player Abeeha Haider and Abdullah, a member of the Pakistan U-14 team.

“The situation was very scary,” they said. “They had batons and pistols in their hands and they harassed us.”

Hayat said that the government had to recently step back when they were backing a parallel Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) body against the International Olympic Committee (IOC)-recognised one led by Lt. Gen. Arif Hasan.

“FIFA has strict rules against government interference in its member associations and has taken strict action against the likes of Nigeria and Kuwait for that recently,” Hayat said. “Those behind the drama at the PFF House aren’t lovers of the game and we will take action against them.”

When asked if the PFF should have not appointed Syed Nayyar Haider [Hayat’s brother-in-law] as the election commissioner in order to maintain transparency, Hayat said there was no conflict of interest as he was bound to follow the FIFA statutes.

“He is in the FIFA and AFC disciplinary committees and if he doesn’t follow FIFA rules, anyone can challenge him. Is [federal finance minister] Ishaq Dar not a relative of the Prime Minister and do the relatives of Punjab Chief Minister not enjoy top posts?” he asked.

However, he did not reply when asked if the entire system of obliging relatives when in power should be avoided.

Hayat rejected the impression he was fighting against the government. “I have no issue with the government but I don’t know if it has an issue with me,” he said.

“The PFF’s priority is to follow [in this order] the constitutions of FIFA, AFC, POA and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and our constitution is already there with the PSB.”
Mohammad Yaqoob
Published in Dawn,

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