KARACHI: The decline of law and order and governance plaguing Pakistan is equally evident in every aspect of it. To exemplify, look at sports, and in particular Pakistan football. Pakistan currently lacks 201 out of 211 playing nations. FIFA appointed a committee to resolve long standing issues of Pakistan football. On March 27, 2021 the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, Malik Amir Dogar, illegally stormed into Pakistan Football Federation HQs, FIFA House, Lahore and has been occupying PFF ever since along with Syed Ashfaque Hussain Shah. Government immediately condemned the illegal occupation but took no action.
After repeated warnings, FIFA eventually suspended Pakistan thereby not only causing Pakistan embarrassment in the international community, but loss of millions of dollars of direct funding from FIFA. After 5 months, the Prime Minister issued a directive to get FIFA House vacated and handed back to the FIFA NC. After more than a month of this directive, Minister IPC has not done so. 7 long months later, the FIFA House continues to be illegally occupied by Special Assistant to PM, Pakistan continues to remain suspended from international football, the exchequer is losing millions of dollars, and the directive of the PM stands unfilled.
The true victims of this tragedy are the footballers and the people of Pakistan. Not surprisingly during all this mess, Malik Amir Dogar SAPM illegally representing PFF signed away PFF rights under a 15-year contract to a company created after the illegal takeover, of which both he and Syed Ashfaque Shah are Board Members.
No lacking in talent but it is the dearth of discipline and values, political compromises, absence of priority list, nepotism, corruption, merit massacre, poor will, ignorance and personal agendas which keeps 220 million people suffering; which nation can move forward with all this? Honour and dignity generates trust for an individual and a nation in society and globally respectively, which often translates into economic achievements. It was quite different some decades ago, but now in this invasion of communication, weaknesses and wrong doings are highlighted in a spur of a moment.
The rule of law not only encourages positive elements in the country but also lays the foundation for a strong economy by attracting foreign investment. No second thought that Sports play a major role in building a positive global image of a country.
A very famous quote by the legendary Nelson Mandela is “Sport is probably the most effective means of communication in the modern world, bypassing both verbal and written communication and reaching directly out to billions of people world-wide. There is no doubt that sport is a viable and legitimate way of building friendship between nations.” And when we come to football, due to the huge numbers of fanatic football fans across the nations, the effectiveness of the channel elevates many times to reach very close to the formal diplomatic level where it creates strong networks which can be exploited in many ways other than mere sports purposes and promoting country image.
Because of its specific circumstances and the ground realities that surround it, Pakistan needs this public diplomatic tool even more, and the strong organizational structure and administrative control of FIFA (international football governing authority) ensures this. In this specific context of international relationship, recent embarrassment which the country had to face because of the cancellation of their tour by the New Zealand cricket team even after had reached in Pakistan is a nearest example; had it been a football team, FIFA would never let it happen. Along with that football has well crossed the limits of a sport becoming a lifestyle & lifeline for millions and FIFA has played anchors role in bringing such glory to the game; it is an established fact that no country in the world can develop football without being the member of global football family united in the form of FIFA.
Football here in Pakistan has become a test case and a microcosm of what has happened with the country. Currently Pakistan is suspended by FIFA resulting which it has lost all its rights with therefore. Our national football teams and referees are barred to participate in any International competition. Including coaches, referees, players and clubs, all are deprived from any sort of educational programmes. More than all, country loses huge annual FIFA grants as high as USD 10-20 Million other than special funds for infrastructure building.
To bring the politically troubled Pakistan’s football back on right track, FIFA set up a normalization committee to end the fiasco & to bring the situation of football in Pakistan to normal. The committee headed by Haroon Malik, was illegally stopped from performing its duties when one faction of the dispute Malik Amir Dogar/Ashfaq Hussain group through a hostile takeover, occupied FIFA house, Lahore on March 27, 2021. FIFA put International sanctions on Pakistan to be lifted only on unconditional vacation of FIFA house from the illegal occupants. It is so unfortunate that Malik Amir Dogar, a ruling party (PTI) minister and political advisor to the Prime Minister is leading the Ashfaq group from front that is not only tarnishing the reputation of Imran Khan in Pakistan but also defaming his government internationally.
How the Prime Minister, a crowned sportsman himself and having true sense of what football means to the world and how damaging this is for the country’s image can tolerate such shameful act even for a moment let alone seven months? He knows all the details and so knows the President Mr. Arif Alvi who even met with the members of the normalization committee at Presidency, Islamabad. Dr. Fehmida Mirza, the federal minister responsible to look after the sports, despite condemning the illegal occupation from day one, practically could not get the FIFA house vacated to pave the way for lifting of FIFA suspension of Pakistan.
It is so weird that Prime Minister, knowing all the serious consequences which Pakistan is facing, has not yet taken any serious action. He should also remember that millions of Pakistani diaspora who have their strong faith and trust in Imran Khan live in the countries where football is followed like a religion and the way the football and football community is abused in Pakistan during his leadership may put a deep dent in his political following abroad.
Football is a reflection of larger malaise in Pakistan; PM should take it as a test case, all the state elders know what and who is wrong and how to bring it back on track. The govt. would have to go beyond mere lip service, take stern action and support football to flourish in the country by immediately ordering the illegal occupants to vacate FIFA house and hand it over to the FIFA representatives.