Unregistered Women Voters Dent Pashtun Representation in Karachi

Story

 

As general elections approach near, various political and religious parties have started their electoral activities in Pashtun-populated area of Karachi, a city that hosts largest urban Pashtun population that surpasses Peshawar, Quetta, Kabul and Kandahar.

 

Owing to different reasons, the Pashtun ethnic Awami National Party (ANP) in 2008 for the first time in history was able to book two seats in Sindh`s legislative forum. Its candidate, Amir Nawab Khan got elected from PS-93, the constituency comprising of Pashtun dominated areas in western city such as Banaras, frontier colony and other parts of SITE area while Amanullah Masood grabbed the seat PS-128 in Landhi’s Pashtun vicinities lying in the east of metropolis.

 

The same year, Akhter Hussain Jadoon, who hails from Swabi’s Gadoon area, got elected from Keemari (PS-89), southwest on Pakistan People Party’s seat. Previously, JUI-F’s Maulana Umar Sadiq, Maulana Ahsanullah Hazarvi, Maulana Hafiz Naeem, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Hameedullah Khan advocate, all four Pashto speaking had been elected to the provincial assembly in 2002. PML-N leader Irfanullah Khan Marwat had also been elected several times since late 80s from different groups.

 

Except the two ANP lawmakers, all members of provincial assembly had never been representatives of Pashtuns, rather it was religious background, political belonging and other factors which won them the confidence of voters.

 

However, professor Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a well known commentator on political, ethnic groups and political history and culture of Karachi, witness all of them and those elected to different city councils totally failed in living up to the expectations of the Pashtun voters.

 

Why is Pashtuns’ representation not being proportional to their presence in the city? What are the causes? Will their representation ever increase? Will it translate into raising their standard of life? Will their part of city ever come as per with the developed and modern city inhibited by Urdu speaking people? “The future elections, especially the approaching ones will determine the direction of their political future” says Irfanullah Khan Marwat.

 

Whether disproportional?

 

According to 1998 census the Pashtun population was recorded as merely 14 percent of 9.5 million total city populations. “Lack of Pashtun professionals among the staff carrying out the census job provided the city’s powerful group with an opportunity to maneuver the census” blames Abdul Ali Ghorghashti, information secretary of Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) Sindh, who believes the number is much higher than the one recoded in census.

Most of the Pashtuns believe their actual number has reached to 5 millions in the city of 20 million now. Marwat’s views must be called exaggerated when he believes the population of Pashtun in Karachi is well over 6.5 million.

 

Zia Ur Rehman, a political analyst, who recently pinned down “Karachi in turmoil”, an account of violence and militancy in the city, said if the figures of 1998 census are correct even then the population has increased manifold during the last 15 years.

 

Besides a high birth ratio among Pashtuns, the demography changed as new Pashtun migrants arrived from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Tribal Areas in the 2000s, particularly because of the 2005 earthquake and counter-insurgency operations from 2007 to 2011, said Rehman.

 

“Whatever the exact population may be, the population true representation has never been ensured in the city’s elected forums” said Subhan Ali Sahil, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leader, who had been part of various Pashtun political forums in the city before he joined PTI and became its Karachi President.

 

Disturbed votes; External factor

 

Citing the erroneous and prejudiced limitations of constituencies as one of the main causes of low and disproportional Pashtun’s representation in the Sindh Assembly, Ghorghashti informs that from Bangash colony to Nusrat Bhutto colony the long strip has dozens of Pashtun localities including Paposh Nagar, Dir colony, Pirabad, Ships owners, Khwaja Ajmeer Nagri, Qasba and Pashtunabad etc making it a single Pashtun unit but the area has been divided among three provincial assembly seats PS-101, PS-102 and PS-103.

 

“Resultantly on all three provincial seats the Pashtun candidate has to see the face of failure but this is not confined to this area alone”, he told and adding that Faqirabad colony, a single Pashtun locality has been divided among four provincial constituencies.

 

Shah Jahan, divisional secretary coordination of ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), endorses Ghorghashti’s views and adds that a single National Assembly seat could be created of PS-128 and PS-129 or PS-129 and PS-130 in the Landhi industrial area but on the contrary each PS has been divided among two to three NAs.

 

“For instance two Union Councils of PS-128 have been included in NA-255 and half UC has been made part of NA-257 while 1.5 UCs have been inducted to NA-258”, told Jahan.

 

“In 2002, MQM grabbed the majority of PA seats with total of six hundred thousands votes but due to incorrect delimitation the remaining parties including MMA and PPP could win just 6 seats with nine hundred thousands votes” told Bashir Jan, provincial secretary general of ANP, adding that all this indicates discrepancy in the system devised to benefit some and deprive others.

 

If the biased limitation of constituency was not enough to undermine the Pashtun political rank, their votes were transferred on permanent address, observe Abdul Razaq, a former UC Nazim who had defeated joint MQM-ANP candidate in the last local body elections. “Pashtun votes were kicked out of the city with a clear aim” further told Razaq who will contest for PS-93 on Jamaat-e-Islami seat.

 

Lack of registration; Mix Factor

 

“The Pashtun have tried to get themselves registered for vote nor has the staff bear pain to approach them” believes Razaq who also confesses the former, self laziness of the voters is big fault than the authorities who work at the directions from forces unwilling to see this part of the city to have any role in the city or provincial affairs.

 

“The Sindh’s Pashtun were not politically active a decade ago, the fact which was easily manipulated by MQM in its favor including non-registration and wrong limitations” opined Bashir Jan.

 

“The Pashtun population has increased manifold but no registration has been made. With the city population almost doubled in 10 to 15 years, the Pashtun population has never been declared increased”, complains Jahan.

 

However, Gul Faraz Khattak, a Pashtun member of Rabita committee of MQM, rubbishes all allegations that MQM has to do anything with undermining Pashtuns’ or ANP’s representation.

 

Khattak said that MQM had awarded ticket to a Pashtun, Sardar Khan on PS-128, who got 24000 votes. It’s not any prejudice towards any ethnic group including Pashtun but the strict criteria and merit that resulted in comparatively low number of ticket, he said.

 

Important question that arises is that what the representatives, who won the seats in the name of Pashtun, did for their people? He asked.

 

No to 50 Percent; International Factor

 

A probable PPP candidate for PS-128, Shah Jahan also emphasizes on self-assessment. “We ourselves have deprived us of 50 percent of the votes by barring female voters from casting their votes while in Urdu speaking areas the ratio is very high” told Jahan.

 

“If in some areas they are not discouraged, equally no effort has ever been seen to encourage them to come out houses for polling their precious vote” he goes on to say.

 

Divided votes;

 

“Parties having Pashtun representations remained in conflict and compete with each others”, said Qari Usman, president JUI-F Karachi, the party taking credit of electing more number of Pashtun lawmakers than any other party in the city could do.

 

Further digging out this division pointed by Usman, Jahan adds “but it is not only the parties contesting against each others, almost every sub-community of the Pashtun has an independent candidate, no matter he wins or loose”.

 

Low Turn out

 

Low turn out is another cause that results in low representation of Pashtuns in the provincial and federal legislative bodies.

 

“This has negative repercussions on the already under represented community, for instance, PS-129 contains three Pashtun dominated UCs of Muzaffarabad colony, cattle colony and Quaidabad but the ticket is awarded to a Sindhi having vote bank in one and half UC” observes Shah Jahan, informing that a Sindhi get the ticket because his one and half UC bring more turn out than the three UCs collective can.

 

Rigging

 

Rigging may be given less credence here as it’s not confined to Karachi only however two political parties JI and ANP are sure that unfair game is also one of the basic causes.

 

“ANP candidate could not win the NA-241 with 46000 votes which MMA’s candidate Laiq Khan had won in 2002 with 26000 votes by defeating a MQM candidate” said ANP Sindh General Secretary while casting doubts at the electoral process.

 

JI Abdul Razaq also questions the results which he blames are manipulated. “The NA-241 is comprised of two provincial seats, PS-93 and PS-94. The PS-93 has five UCs, inhibited by Pashtun populace.  But what determines the result of the whole NA are three UCs of PS-94 that falls in Orangi” told Razaq while insisting that the results are stolen by the strong group.

 

Future Course

 

“A million dollar question is that can the situation in term of Pashtun representation improve? I say yes but by uniting all anti-MQM forces in the city to trench a way-out in form of an electoral alliance” maintained Marwat, saying his party chief Nawaz Sharif has mandated him to hold talks with PTI.

 

Whether ANP would also be part of the possible alliance? “Definitely! Talks would be held with all parties for one to one contest with MQM in Karachi especially the Pashtun dominated areas” replied Marwat.

 

ANP’s Bashir Jan, whose party claims having being elected on 100 percent seats it had contested in 2008 elections, said his party can give concessions and leave the winning seats for securing the alliance but he is cynical that any such alliance would emerged.

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JUI-F Karachi president is also in favor of alliance with ANP but he has no trust in the party which, he blames of breaching the alliance during 2008 elections.

 

“Under agreement JUI voted for ANP’s Ameer Nawab Khan but ANP pulled back in other constituencies and instead voted in favor of PPP candidate under another agreement it had with the later”, said Usman.

 

JI and PTI though are in favor of alliance, they are least interested in making alliance with ANP. “The ANP has not only won because we boycotted, the ethnic tension also had helped it secure two seats” opined Razaq and accusing ANP of bringing bad name to the Karachi Pashtuns.

 

“Extortion which used to be an attribute of posh areas is now being introduced by ANP in the Pashtun areas of the city”, he goes on to say.

 

PTI Subhan Ali Sahil who has many old comrades in the party recalls how the peace of Pashtun was disturbed by the party which rather giving guns should have established hospitals in all Pashtun vicinities.

 

Bashir Jan, however, utterly refutes the allegations. “Some years back ANP was party of the poor only but now transporters, businessmen and Pashtoon in every walk of life have joined ANP for securing their future”, he claimed.

 

Being non-ethnic political entities, PTI, PML-N and JI will also grab the votes of other ethnic communities including Urdu speaking community which otherwise is considered a MQM vote bank.

 

The voters’ trends will remain toward the party that will emancipate them from the menace of extortion and targeted killings, said Sahil and adding that the PTI through its electoral campaign has tried to dispel the impression of ethnic tussle propagated by ANP.

 

Probabilities

 

“If the correct delimitation process is carried out, upto 12 PS and 6 NA seats can be won by Pashtun candidates of either parties among ANP, JI, JUI-F, PPP and others” said Ghorghashti.

 

However, between all these ifs and buts the probabilities of increase in the political representation seems to be unattainable idea. The probable tough contest on PS- 89, 90, 91, 92 and 93, 112, 114, 128 and 129 will decide whether the disproportional representation will witness any balance or not but a new addition is expected on PS-89 to the already diversified list of contenders.

 

Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqui, the Karachi president of ASWJ, an offshoot of defunct Sepah-e-Sahaba is all set to contest for Provincial Assembly from PS-128. Although he is considered a strong contender, his emergence on the electoral scene will certainly deprive JUI-F of majority of votes in the constituency.

 

Professor Tauseef Ahmed who sees the Pashtun areas as the areas of deprived and poor class said functioning of system and continuous elections without any break will change the political face of the area.

 

“With elections, the people of the area will reject those bringing lawlessness, killings and extortion and accept those bring development and prosperity to their area”, he said.

 

This is the unedited version of story on Pashtun’s political representation in Karachi, published in the Frontier Post’s Weekend Post on 24th February 2013.

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Author: Naimat

Karachi based journalist, writing on national and international issues.

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