What's the Story?
Pakistan has officially withdrawn its name from the Group F of the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers, which includes India, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. As a result, the number of teams participating in Group F has reduced to three. The Group F Qualifiers fixtures will commence from March 22.
In case you don't know...
The draw for the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers was conducted on 7 November 2018 at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, and India were placed in the same group as that of Pakistan. While Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and India's preparations began in full swing, neighbours Pakistan showed no signs of urgency.
Moreover, according to various reports, the All India Football Federation had thrown the ball in the Centre's court on whether or not to face Pakistan given the tense political situation both the countries were embroiled in. But, now that the 199th ranked nation has withdrawn themselves, India can breathe a sigh of relief.
The heart of the matter
Tajikistan Football Federation announced that their team would not face Pakistan in the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers via their official Twitter account. Although India and Uzbekistan are yet to confirm the development, one can deduce that Pakistan didn't specifically withhold themselves from facing Tajikistan. They would have withdrawn their name from the whole competition itself.
According to Article 6.3 and 6.4 of the competition regulations of the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 which deals with withdrawal prior to the commencement of the competition,
Any Member Association that withdraws from the Qualifiers shall be fined:
6.3.1. up to thirty (30) days before its first Match: at least USD10,000;
6.3.2. less than thirty (30) days before its first Match: at least USD20,000.
6.4. The AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee may impose further sanctions in its discretion.
Since Pakistan has withdrawn themselves from the competition less than 30 days before their first match, the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee may impose a fine of minimum $20,000.
Moreover, the structure of the qualification pattern might also change. Since Group F will have only three teams participating as opposed to four, the performance of second-placed teams against bottom-placed teams might not be taken into account when the rankings of second-placed teams are decided.