Pashtuns stand above ethnic biases in LG elections

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An ethnic community opts for Pakistan as ‘Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi cards’ yield results in Karachi

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Naimat Khan

KARACHI: While the Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi speaking communities succumbed to ethic politics, the Pashtun community of Karachi stood above cultural bias in the recently held local government elections, unofficial results show.

Local government elections were held in six districts of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and one Karachi District Council (KDC) on December 5, in which the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secured first and second positions, respectively.

Both the parties attracted the ethnic Urdu- and Sindhi-speaking electorates in Karachi, a microcosm of Pakistan where class and cultural divisions increasing by the day.

Similarly, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had focused on neighbourhoods with a majority of Punjabi and Hazara populations, yielding sought-after results.

According to unofficial results so far, the MQM has won 50 of 51 Union Committees (UC) in district Central, and 26 of 37 UCs in district Korangi, 19 of 30 UCs in district East and 21 of 46 seats in district West. It also managed to secure nine of 32 UCs in district South, and four of 13 seats in district Malir.

The results clearly show a divide – the MQM won from areas where a majority of Urdu-speaking populace resides.

Muttahida failed to win even a single seat from KDC, which comprises the Sindhi-speaking population. The PPP grabbed a majority of UCs from here, despite an alliance against it of former party leaders as well as some Baloch tribal leaders.

The PPP, once a federal party with representation in all four provinces of the country, has been reduced to being a ‘Sindhi’ party.

However, results show a mixed trend in Pashtun-dominated localities of the city, as candidates of different parties have won from Landhi and Keamari areas of district West.

The PPP, PML-N, PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami National Party, Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP), Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl as well as independent candidates have secured seats of chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors from these areas.

ANP, which has been using the Pashtun card, could only manage to win one seat from its symbol Laltain from Mominabad, Zia Colony.

Pashtun nationalism vs. Pakistan

“Pashtuns of Karachi have been misled. They have failed to demonstrate the desirable Pashtun nationalism,” says ANP General Secretary Younas Buneri. “Undesirable circumstances for the ANP, which was under direct attack from religious extremists, are a major factor [which has contributed to the Pashtun divide].”

Buneri says his party has so far won five seats for vice-chairmen and 19 UCs, mostly in alliance with other parties and on other symbols.

Niaz Ali Shah, a member of ANP from Landhi was allowed to contest elections as independent candidate due to fears from extremists, he informs, adding, reports of attacks on Rangers and Military Police personnel also prevented Pashtun supporters coming out in large numbers.

The party’s general secretary also sees the campaign by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Amir Sirajul Haq, the sole reason for a split in Pashtun electorates.

“The ANP failed to secure its workers when the Taliban accelerated attacks on them. During this period the leadership went either to Islamabad or abroad, leaving the common worker at the mercy of militants and the law enforcement agencies,” says Wakeelur Rehman, a Karachi-based Psashtun reporter.

Many workers facing threats knocked the door of JI when abandoned by the party, he adds.

“Other communities may allow its leader to lead them from abroad but among Pashtuns, it’s the most disliked thing.”

“If our association with ANP was a crime in the eyes of Taliban, our identity as Pashtun was enough for police to declare us Taliban,” an ANP worker tells this scribe on condition of anonymity.

The JI held a Pashtun jirga of the victims’ families, mostly ANP workers at Idara Noor-e-Haq – party headquarters – where for the first time in history all speeches were delivered in Pashto language.

“Those were the days when abandoned workers of ANP started looking towards other parties, adds Rehman.

The ANP worker – who wished not to be named – informs that at least 350 party workers are behind bars, which need legal assistance; ANP did not provide a lawyer to anyone.

“When the MQM was developing Qatar hospital for its electorates in Orangi town, ANP was selling medicines of Kulsum Bai Valika Hospital in the medical stores of Metroville,” claims the ANP worker.

Political analyst Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, sees a lack of unity among Pashtuns and the growing religiosity as two of the many causes that failed to monetise the ‘Pashtun card’.

Former UC Nazim from Metroville in SITE Town of the city Abdul Razaq insists Pashtuns, though misled in past in the name of Pashtun nationalism, have always preferred ‘Pakistaniat’ over ethnic nationalism.

“Pashtuns have demonstrated political maturity, judging things above ethnic and sectarian lines,” says Razaq, who belongs to JI.

According to economist Kaiser Bengali, Pashtuns by 2045 will be in a majority – 33 per cent of the Karachi population.

Currently, Karachi houses more Pashtuns than Peshawar, Quetta and Kabul, among other cities of the world.

“But whether elected in the name of nationalism or otherwise, our representatives have done nothing for their neighbourhoods, says a Pashtun resident of Keamari. “Pashtun-dominated areas do not look like Karachi – poor infrastructure with a lack of basic facilities.”

 

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Author: Naimat

Karachi based journalist, writing on national and international issues.

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