Pakistan Football Federation seeks dialogue with FIFA months after suspension from global body

A security guard stands outside the Pakistan Football Federation House building in Lahore, Pakistan,on July 6, 2015. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 01 November 2021

Pakistan Football Federation seeks dialogue with FIFA months after suspension from global body

  • In April FIFA suspended PFF after a group of Pakistani officials seized control of headquarters from its Normalization Committee
  • Ashfq Hussain Shah, whose group seized control, was elected by Supreme Court in 2018 to run PFF but was not recognized by FIFA

KARACHI: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah on Saturday said that they were open to hold a discussion with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to resolve their issues, months after soccer’s global governing body suspended the PFF due to third-party interference. 
In April, FIFA suspended the PFF after a group of officials led by Shah, which was elected by the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2018 to run the PFF but was not recognized by FIFA, took over the Pakistan football headquarters and seized control from the FIFA Normalization Committee (NC), headed by Haroon Malik. 
At the time, Shah told Reuters that the NC had not conducted elections for the body in the 18 months since it took charge. FIFA said its decision to suspend the PFF was prompted by the “hostile takeover,” which constituted a serious violation of its statutes. 
However, the PFF chief says they respect the global soccer body and want to resolve their issues through dialogue. 
“You know, we are open to discussion. FIFA should send a representative or a delegation or they should invite us for a dialogue. We are always open to discussion and want to resolve the matter,” Shah told English-language newspaper The News. 
“You know we had handed over the headquarters and accounts to [the] FIFA-appointed Normalization Committee and the world body’s official Alex Gross was witness to that. We had fully supported and respected FIFA and its NC but unfortunately, the NC left us disappointed by doing nothing toward elections despite spending a long time in office.” 
He said they had written several letters to FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), but to no avail. “We shared with them audio recordings and evidence of corruption and manipulation of elections, but they did not respond and it’s unfortunate.” 
The Pakistan football chief said they believed in negotiations, but could not trust the present NC as it had “deceived” them several times. 
“Look, we are even ready to sit with the current NC, but they don’t have the courage to meet us. Haroon Malik never tried to sit with us and negotiate the matter. NC’s members are happy to get huge packages without doing anything,” the report quoted him as saying. 
“We have submitted our election mechanism with the government, but we have not yet been contacted by anyone. We want fair and transparent elections and are even ready to hand over NC a complete portion in the Football House in Lahore if the government gives us a guarantee.” 
Maintaining he was serving the game in Pakistan, Shah said: “If I am not required, I will go. You know I have no vested interests and am doing my job honestly for the betterment of football. We are holding the Premier League and will keep making efforts for football development.” 
Asked about a recent news conference held by another group in Lahore asking them to vacate the headquarters by November 10, Shah said, “Let them do it. They cannot do anything through such threats. Who were the people present in the news conference? You know that. They are opportunists, jumping from one group to another.” 
In response to the conditions of Shah’s group, the NC said a few days ago that the group would have to unconditionally hand over the PFF headquarters to it. 
“Why do these people want the Football House,” Shah asked. “It means they want something different and are not going to hold elections. Haroon had focused on events rather than doing anything toward holding elections.” 
Shah’s group, which formed the PFF in December 2018 under a Supreme Court order, had handed over the headquarters and accounts to NC in September 2019, the report said. However, the NC, under Humza Khan, failed to do anything toward elections despite a long time in office. 
The NC was then reconstituted and Canada-based Haroon was brought in as its chairman, but he also did not take any step toward holding elections. 
Shah’s group re-assumed control of the PFF headquarters in March this year. Consequently, in the first week of April, FIFA had suspended the PFF, saying that the suspension would be lifted only after its NC regains control of the headquarters and accounts. 
Pakistan’s Inter Provincial Coordination Minister Dr. Fehmida Mirza has held long discussions with all parties, but so far her efforts have not borne any fruit. 

PM Sharif credits late President Raisi for strengthening Pak-Iran ties, promoting regional cooperation

Updated 5 sec ago

PM Sharif credits late President Raisi for strengthening Pak-Iran ties, promoting regional cooperation

  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM Amir-Abdollahian and seven others were confirmed dead on Monday in a helicopter crash 
  • Raisi arrived in Pakistan last month on three-day visit aimed at mending ties after Pakistan, Iran exchanged military strikes in January 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday paid tribute to late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for strengthening Pakistan-Iran relations and promoting regional cooperation, a day after Tehran confirmed he had died in a helicopter crash with the country’s foreign minister and other officials.

Iranian authorities first raised alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi’s helicopter as it flew through a fog-shrouded mountain area of the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province. The Iranian president, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others were confirmed dead by state media on Monday after search-and-rescue teams found their crashed helicopter in a mountainous region of northern Iran. 

Chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad, Sharif offered his condolences over Raisi’s death, saying that Pakistan had lost “a friend who was like a brother.”

“Dr. Raisi will forever be remembered along with services to his nation, for promoting Pakistan-Iran relations and regional cooperation,” the Pakistani prime minister said. “His visit to Pakistan last month was an important milestone in further strengthening and stabilizing our bilateral relations.”

Sharif said Pakistan would continue with Raisi’s vision to promote Islamabad’s ties with Iran, adding that the Pakistani cabinet pays tribute to the late Iranian president for his “excellent services” for the region. 

“May Allah grant Iran’s President Dr. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s foreign minister and their friends a high status in paradise,” he said. 

In April, Raisi arrived in Pakistan on a three-day official visit to Pakistan as the two Muslim neighbors sought to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes earlier this year.

The Iranian president held delegation-level meetings in the Pakistani capital as well as one-on-one discussions with Pakistan’s prime minister, president, army chief, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker.

During the visit, Raisi had also overseen the signing of eight agreements between the two countries that covered different fields, including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters.

His death takes place as the Middle East remains unsettled by Israel’s war on Gaza, during which Raisi under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel last month. 

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and armed militia groups across the region.

Military courts no novelty in Pakistan but returning ‘with force’ — Amnesty International

Updated 26 min 28 sec ago

Military courts no novelty in Pakistan but returning ‘with force’ — Amnesty International

  • At least 103 people linked to May 9 riots currently being tried by army courts
  • Military courts operate under separate system from the civilian legal system

ISLAMABAD: Civilians should not be tried by military courts, Amnesty International Secretary-General Dr. Agnès Callamard said in an interview published on Tuesday, lamenting that the practice had been widely used in Pakistan’s history and was now returning “with force.”

Military courts have been in the spotlight since last year when hundreds of alleged supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party were arrested following riots on May 9 in which military and government installations were damaged. 

The government at the time as well as the army said those found to be behind attacks on military properties would be tried in army courts. At least 103 people linked to the May 9 riots are currently being tried in army courts, unleashing widespread criticism from within Pakistan and rights organizations globally over the courts’ secretive nature and existence alongside a functioning civilian legal system.

Last month, Pakistan freed at least 20 people previously detained by the military in connection with the May 9 riots.

“Civilians should not be tried by military courts,” Dr. Callamard said in an interview to Pakistan’s Dawn published on Tuesday, when asked about the military trial of civilians in Pakistan. “Sadly, it has happened throughout Pakistan’s history. Even though it is now coming back with force, it is not a novelty in Pakistan’s history.

“Pakistan is the only country in South Asia in recent history to allow military courts to play such a role vis à vis civilians,” she said, adding that historically military trials in Pakistan were held secretly and without transparency. 

The Supreme Court last October declared null and void the trial of civilians by military courts arrested in the wake of the May 9 protests, but overturned its own verdict in December and allowed the army to resume hearing the cases of 103 civilians.

Pakistan’s Army Act of 1952 established military courts primarily to try members of the military or enemies of the state. Civilians can only be tried under a federal government order.

Civilians accused of offenses such as waging war against the armed forces or law enforcement agencies, or attacking military installations or inciting mutiny, can be tried at military courts.

Military courts operate under a separate system from the civilian legal system and are run by military officers. The judges are also military personnel and cases are tried at military installations.

Trials are closed to outsiders, and no media presence is allowed.

Anyone tried under the Army Act has the right to defend themselves and a counsel of their choice. There is no right to appeal but individuals can challenge the question of jurisdiction in high courts and the Supreme Court.

Pakistan GDP grows 2.09% in Q3, supported by agriculture

Updated 57 min 16 sec ago

Pakistan GDP grows 2.09% in Q3, supported by agriculture

  • Pakistan’s central bank in latest report projected real GDP growth of 2-3% for the fiscal year 2024 
  • Provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture estimated at 6.25%, 1.21% for industry and services

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s economy grew 2.09% in the third quarter of the financial year 2023-2024, supported by higher growth in agriculture, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said in a press release on Tuesday.

The estimated provisional growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) for the financial year ending June 2024 is 2.38%, the bureau said in a statement. That compares with a revised 0.21% economic contraction in the 2023 year when political unrest, a combination of tax and gas tariff hikes, controlled imports, and a steep fall in the rupee currency rapidly pushed up inflation.

Last week in its half yearly report, Pakistan’s central bank projected real GDP growth of 2-3% for the fiscal year 2024.

There was no comparable year-ago third quarter GDP data as Pakistan only began releasing quarterly growth numbers from November. That was done in compliance with the structural benchmarks of the current $3 billion bailout program agreed with the International Monetary Fund and completed last month.

The bureau revised the first and second quarter GDP estimates for financial year 2023-2024 to 2.71% and 1.79% respectively, compared to earlier estimates of 2.5% and 1%.

The provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture was estimated at 6.25%, and 1.21% for both industry as well as services, it added.

“The healthy growth of agriculture is mainly due to double-digit growth in important crops,” the bureau said, adding that bumper crop of wheat, cotton, and rice contributed to the positive result.

'They love their cricket': Rohit Sharma lauds Pakistani fans for praising Indian cricketers

Updated 21 May 2024

'They love their cricket': Rohit Sharma lauds Pakistani fans for praising Indian cricketers

  • India and Pakistan, bitter political adversaries, enjoy one of sports fiercest rivalries in cricket
  • Indian captain Rohit Sharma bats for Test series with arch-rivals, says Pakistan “overall a good team”

ISLAMABAD: Indian captain Rohit Sharma recently praised Pakistani fans for appreciating Indian cricketers, saying that he would love to play in a Test series between the two arch-rivals if it were ever to take place. 

The South Asian neighbors are bitter political adversaries and have fought three wars against each other since they were partitioned at the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Their tensions mean the two countries rarely play bilateral series against one another and meet only at “neutral venues” during international tournaments. 

Sharma, 37, appeared on ‘Dubai Eye 103.8,’ a Dubai-based talk radio station on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024 and his journey as India’s skipper so far. During the show, the hosts relayed a message to Sharma from a Pakistani fan. 

“Loved the messages from the Pakistani fans,” Sharma said, smiling. “I know they love their cricket, they love it. Every time, mainly when we are in the UK these guys come and just tell us how, respectfully, how they love us, how they love Indian cricketers and how they love to watch some of us at big stages.”

India and Pakistan are bitter political adversaries and have fought three wars against each other since they were partitioned at the end of British colonial rule in 1947.

Their cricket teams have not faced off in a Test since 2007. Instead, they play only occasionally in the shorter versions of the game. 

When asked whether there were chances of India and Pakistan playing each other in a Test match soon, Sharma said:

“I don’t know the status of it. Personally if you ask me, I’m a cricketer at the end of the day. I want to play cricket and I want to get challenged at whatever stage I play cricket, and I feel Pakistan is a good team.”

Sharma praised Pakistan for having “solid bowlers,” saying that the green shirts are “overall a very good team.” He said cricket fans around the world would love to watch a Test series between the two arch-rivals. 

“I actually have no issues it’s just from a pure cricketing perspective if I have to look at it, it’s going to be a great cricket contest,” he explained. 

India and Pakistan have not faced each other on either side’s soil in a bilateral series since 2012.

India last year refused to travel to Pakistan for the white-ball Asia Cup, prompting part of the tournament to be staged in Sri Lanka. They last met at the 50-over World Cup in India in October.

The two cricket giants will square off on June 9 in New York when the T20 World Cup 2024 gets underway. 

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj

Updated 21 May 2024

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj

  • Around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both government and private schemes 
  • Over 1,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Kingdom through private tour operators

ISLAMABAD: A spokesperson for Pakistan’s religion ministry said on Tuesday 26,711 Pakistani pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia ahead of next month’s Hajj, less than two weeks after the country kicked off its pre-Hajj flight operations to the Kingdom. 

This year, around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both the government and private schemes, for which a month-long flight operation started on May 9. This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14-19.

“Through 109 flights, 26,711 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have reached Saudi Arabia,” a spokesperson of the Religious Affairs (MoRA) said in a statement. “After an eight-day stay in Madinah, the first convoy of 6,011 Hajj pilgrims has left for Makkah.”

The spokesperson said over 1,000 Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia through the private scheme, adding that 336 assistants or “Hajj Moavineen” have been deployed to help Pakistani pilgrims, and ensure their pilgrimage remains a hassle-free one. 

He said Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain visited the residences of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Makkah recently and also reviewed arrangements for their food and travel in the holy city. 

“Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Chaudhry Salik Hussain is expected to hold an important meeting with his Saudi counterpart today,” the spokesperson said. 

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime, provided they are financially and physically able to do so.

Pilgrims from Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi are availing the Makkah Route Initiative facility for the first time. Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. 

This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster.