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.

PPP rejects Door to Door verification

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: At a time when the Elections Commission tried to make the verification process acceptable for all political parties by assuring the induction of army, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has rejected the process which it says “is not only unnecessary, but will further corrupt voter lists”.

The party has, instead, suggested shifting votes on present addresses through data of national identity cards prepared by NADRA which the party considers “a reliable and verifiable data”.

A letter (dated 28th January 2013) to the Deputy Director (Elec-II) Election Commission of Pakistan by the General Secretary PPP Sindh in continuation to the earlier correspondence between the two, blames “hardly any houses have been visited and verifying staff has fraudulently filled verification forms and affixed fake signatures/thumb impressions on the forms”.

“Door-to-Door verification exercise which has already corrupted this data should be declared null and void and should not be repeated,” it added.

It is advised to the ECP to randomly scrutinize the thumb impressions by NADRA, saying it “can bring out the fact that most of the thumb impressions do not belong to the voters but to other persons including verifiers”.

The good intention of the ECP that voters should be enabled to vote within 2 kms of their residence cannot be materialized, if the voters’ lists are prepared on the basis of “permanent” and not on basis of “present address”, the letter reads. “Large number of voters who have migrated to large cities for economic reasons would stand practically disenfranchised if the lists remained on permanent address basis”, it added.

“Pakistan People’s Party Sindh feels that a lot of confusion and hassle can be set aside if the proposal agreed to by political parties (except one or two parties) is adopted by the Election Commission”, the letter said.

The party General Secretary, Taj Haider, in his letter has also blamed the ECP bureaucracy for sabotaging the efforts of Chief Election Commissioner and members of the commission.

“The CEC started a very positive trend of consulting political parties which had built confidence and created a very congenial atmosphere,” he opined and added, “Those who had expressed full confidence in the CEC and members of the commission and were welcomed for productive exchange of ideas inside the Election Commission are sitting in protest sit-in outside the Election Commission office”.

“We do understand that officials who have been instrumental in rigging the elections time and again find it very difficult to adjust to the participatory approach adopted by the CEC and members of the commission”, he added.

Published on February 1, 2013

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/205118/

Predictions of a strong block in Sindh boasted

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Former President Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) Sindh, Ghaus Bakhsh Mahar, although tried to dispel the rumors of joining other parties but most of his remarks, on Tuesday gave further boast to beliefs that he has distracted from his old political kin, ensuring the emergence of a strong political block against PPP and its allies in Sindh.

Speaking to media persons during a press conference at his residence in Karachi, he ruled out joining any political party including PML-N. But on one hand he didn’t see any political future for Chaudhry brothers in Sindh and on the other, he found in Pir Sahab Pagara a real proponent of the rights of Sindh. He along with PNL-Q’s office-bearers in Sindh decided to go for a seat-to-seat adjustment with PML-F in the upcoming elections, informed Ghaus Mahar.

It is pertinent to mention that Ghaus Bakhsh Mahar was elected as Member National Assembly from Sindh on PML-Q ticket and was appointed as the privatization minister in former Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani’s tenure. But he was sacked by present Premier, Raja Parvez Ashraf followed by his resignation as party’s provincial chief.

However, Mahar insists he was not removed by PM Ashraf rather he himself had resigned from the federal cabinet as a protest against the adopting of Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance into local body law. During press conference, he vowed to remain with Pir Sahab Pagara for solving the problems of Sindh.

Earlier, PML-Q leader held a party meeting at his residence in which the office-bearers from 12 districts of the province, including MPA Shehryar Mahar and Sardar Mir Ali Nawaz participated. Sources say that besides entrusting their confidence in Ghaus Mahar, some 57 party leaders of district level submitted their resignation to Mahar. Another known face of the party, the Sindh Minister for Relief, Haleem Adil Shaikh however didn’t attend the meeting.

 

Published on November 28, 2012

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/194083/

‘men of letters’: Uncovering the invisible aspect in Karachi

 Under the darkness of ethnic violence and dreadful images of dead bodies a gem of Pashto literature shines in Karachi, the world’s largest Pukhtoon populated city

 

Naimat Khan

Dozens of men from different parts of the metropolis are leading towards a house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal vicinity of Karachi where an elderly man wearing a charming smile on his lips would welcome them and take to his drawing room for a candid discussion and critical evaluation of different genres of Pashto literature with some rounds of high tea as refreshment.

 

Tahir Afridi, hailing from Matanai area of the FR Peshawar and now settled in Karachi for decades is a renowned critic, prolific writer and poet. “He along with Farooq Sarwar from Quetta is the most distinguished Pashto fiction writer of our times”, told Zafar Karimi, a Karachi based poet and journalist who is a frequent visitor not only to his house but other literary gatherings in the city.

 

The poets and writers gather twice a month under the banner of ‘Jaras Adabi Jirga’ headed by Tahir Afirdi. Not long ago when grass of JahangirPark, in Saddar area had not become dried, they used to sit there in order to attract a large number of poetry lovers. Now the gathering is attended by two dozens writers and poets in Afridi’s house.

 

But this is not the only literary gathering in the city. Almost five literary organizations are active in Karachi, working for the promotion of Pashto Literature. Among these ‘Ittefaaq Pashto Adabi Jirga’ headed by Saghar Tanqidi, poet and writer, holds it monthly meeting in Banaras, a Pakhtun dominated area of the city. ‘Pashto Adabi Tahreek’ is another literary organization managed by Abdullah Jan Figar, a poet and it meets in Keemari, another Pakhtun dominated populace. ‘Latoon Pashto Adabi Tolanah’ with well-known poet Sarwar Shamal is a Qaidabad based literary organization while ‘Torghar Adabi Tolanah’  is a relatively inactive organization holding its meeting in Hussain Des Silva town in North Nazimabad once a year to discuss current trends in Pashto literature, present literary work and critically evaluate it.

 

‘Pashtoon thinkers’ forum’, headed by Qasim Jan is a comparatively resourceful organization which holds large events inviting speakers from all part of the country. It has arranged four mega programs in the Karachi Arts Council, since April 2008. “The organization is striving for peace and serving intellectuals”, said Muhammad Arshad Khan better known as MAK, an artist and writer who is one of its founding members.

 

Unlike PTF, most of the Pashto literary organizations are being deprived of such places to hold their meetings as according to Zafar Karimi “Hardly one or two Pashto poets and writers from Karachi are having membership of the Karachi arts council, the centre of art and literature in the city”

 

Although there are more than 150 Pashto poets, some have acclaimed the ascription including, Tahir Afridi, Makham Khatak, Zafar Karimi , Riaz Sahil, Altaf Gul Gul, Badshah Hussain Shakir, Qaisar Afirdi, Hasrat Buneri, Fazal Khaliq Ghamgeen, Sagar Tanqidi and Aman Afridi whose poetry is of best quality. Masters of other literary works including prose, fiction, travelogue, literary criticism and research was rare as compared to the poetry.

 

Talking to this writer, Tahir Afridi who is the mentor of many literary names, lauded the young Pashto poets from Karachi who to him find little or no place in the national media. However, the advent of new media, social network websites have provided the literary circle of Karachi best opportunity to promote their work and show the positive face of their community to the world.”

 

The poetry, prose, fiction by Pakhtun men of letters reflects the situation of Karachi in particular and that of the country in general, said Qaisar Afridi and added “the situation we are living in has been beautifully expressed in the writings of Karachi writers”.

 

Quarterly ‘Jaras Pashto’ edited by Tahir Afridi published consecutively for 14 years had been discussing the situation of its era and represented the men of letters from Karachi. It was launched in 1990 from Karachi. Though its publication ceased in 2004 because of lack of funds, it has to its credit two landmarks — special issues on Pashto ghazal and Pushto Nazm, the latter spreading over 1,400 pages.

 

His novelette “Tarbozak” (the mask) discusses the serious issues like drone attacks, Taliban, American agents and miseries of the people of tribal areas. It seems to be the true stories of the people of Waziristan.

 

Other literary figures include Mohib Wazir who has “Au Karwan Rawan Sho”( and the Caravan Started its journey) to his credit whereas Qaisar Afirdi, a critic has written a master piece “Leek and TaKhleeq” (Writing and creation).  Nazar Muhammd’s Gandalay Shonday (Sewed Lips) has received high appreciation while Faisal Faaran, now settled in Swabi and Abdul Haadi, settled in Dubai had got their books published when they were part of the Karachi’s literary world. A book, Bed No-28 by Riaz Tansnim was published by PTF where the books by other numerous writers were also published from Karachi.

 

The literacy face of Karachi in respect with Pashto is not a present day characteristic, as the great poets and writers like Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, Qalandar Momand, and Ajmal Khatak were frequent visitors of the Pashto Literary world in Karachi since the early 60s. The First ever Pashto Magazine, Adal was launched from Karachi in 1948 whereas Palwasha , Chaga  and Abaseen, were also published from Karachi.

 

When the Pashto magazines are no more published from Karachi due to lack of sponsorship, the poets and writers are now contributing to different Pashto Magazines published from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan including ‘Leekwal’ (Peshawar), ‘Pakhtun’ (Peshawar) ‘Paaswan’ ( Mardan), ‘Meena’ (Swat) , ‘Meena’ (Kabul ) , ‘Ulfat’ (Peshawar) and ‘Shna Zarghuna” ( Banu).

 

The creative work of Karachi is the reflection of situation in Karachi in particular and Pakistan in general. “Although Ghazal and poem starts with romance but when a poet sees blood, bombs, target killings and observe the miserable stories related to it, his poetry naturally become the reflection of a sad situation” said Makham Khatak, a poet and writer. He said writing romance in such situation will be saying jokes in the funeral.

 

The couplet by Zaffar Karimi, a true reflection of the Karachi situation reads;

ننداره مې که د وینو کوې نوره

ددې ښار د اسمان سرې لمنې ګوره

(If you want to see more of my blood, watch the red sky as the blood has reached that height and stained the twilight a deeper red.)

ـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــ

Similarly a couplet by Qaisar Afridi states the policy of our rulers especially the leader of the largest Pukhtoon political party having government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

بیا دې د کومو وجودونو سنګبارۍ ته زړه دے

بیا دې جولۍ د کاڼو راوړه د بیدیا نه ډکه

(You return from abroad with stones and rocks with which humans are going to be bombarded.)

ـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــ

Though the poetry of Karachi poets is reflection of bad situation it does contain love and romance.  A Queta by Makhaam Khatak reads,

دلته زما په ووګو يار پريوتو

تاچه په سر کړلو منګے جانانه

هډو څه پته دے بيخي نه لګي

خدائے خبر مړي که ژوندے جانانه

(As you put pitcher on your head my beloved put her head on my shoulder. You’re nowhere. God knows you’re alive or dead)

Published in Weekend Post ( The Frontier Post )