PSP pries open MQM strongholds for the taking


By Naimat Khan


KARACHI: A group of influential Bihari activists convened at Karachi’s Shah Faisal Chowk in Orangi Town a few days after MQM dissenters Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani fired a salvo at Altaf Hussain and announced their dramatic exit from the party in a fiery press conference.

The activists held a ‘Bihari Jirga’ where they pledged to never allow Kamal to enter the area. The jirga’s head, Tariq Noor Malik, better known as Tariq Bihari, had convened two jirgas in recent years following the murder of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq in London in September 2010.

Yet, a few days after the third and final jirga, Bihari was spotted at the temporary office of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), formed by Kamal and Qaimkhani, on Khayaban-e-Rahat.

The change of heart on Bihari’s part has paved the way for PSP to enter Orangi, which holds historic significance as the place from where the Mohajir Qaumi Mahaz was launched in the 1980s. The party later came to be known as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement and, finally, as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

“Tariq Bihari left for London where he resides. He comes and plays his part of game,” confided one of his close friends. “Before his meeting with Kamal, Bihari had been collecting printed stuff against former mayor”, his friend claims, adding though he had left the country before the Kamal’s visit, people, though not from his background but under his influence was present to materialize the plan.”

Another insider confirms Bihari negotiated the deal however an active group of former Pasban activists working for stranded Pakistanis of Bangladesh was the real force behind Kamal’s entry into the MQM’s stronghold.

Shaukatullah, a close aide of Shafi Ahmed who was chief of his own group of Pasban, and nearly two dozen of the group members were given the task to ensure smooth entry into town where the Bihari Qaumi Movement (BQM) and several others had failed to leave evident marks.

Shafi Ahmed, who started his political journey from Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, Islami Jamiat Talaba, joined Pasban on the eve of general elections in 1993. However, when the then JI Chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed disowned Pasban, Ahmed came close to Haseeb Hashmi, a former lawmaker and leader of Tehreek-e-Ittehad Pakistan working for stranded Pakistanis.

Ahmed later parted ways with Altaf Shakoor faction of Pasban and formed his own group, which he dissolved before joining PML-N during the General polls of 2013.  Ahmed died in a road accident on October 28, 2015, which his friends believe was ‘murder’ allegedly by people in his new political clique, who thought Ahmed was a political threat to them, a local journalist from the town told this scribe.

PSP in Orangi

With joining of Pasban’s guys, the PSP leader Mustafa Kamal briefly appeared in Orangi on April 8, 2016 to invite locals to attend 24th April rally. Here Mustafa Kamal called on higher authorities to give people of Orangi their ‘identity cards’ – an important issue of majority of the town. The second issue he raised was the water problem.

The proper entry he gave in Orangi was on August 31, 2016. Flanked by supporters and other party leaders, Kamal took his party’s public drive to the town where he urged the dwellers to follow him to “secure their rights”.

“You were told to sell VCRs and buy guns but I say buy books, books and education are our identity,” Kamal was quoted as speaking.

The town that matters

Orangi, the largest slum town in Asia, has housed people of different ethnicities but the Biharis who migrated from East Pakistan are in vast majority.

The demography of the town makes Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) a perfect choice for inhabitants of the area, opines Mazhar Abbas, Karachi based political analyst. Since, PSP is comprised of MQM dissidents there is space available for it.

“Pak Sarzameen Party is a party of MQM’s dissenters and many of them are from Bihari community. Therefore, a real space is available and the PSP will try to use it for increasing its mandate in the city,” says Abbas.

Bihari Qaumi Movement (BQM)

PSP is not the only group which has tried to enter into MQM’s footrest.

“The Town once known for the Biharis die-hard loyalists of Altaf Hussain, witnessed the rise of Bihari Qaumi Movement (BQM) but the movement suffered setback first with the death of its backer Dr Imran Farooq on 16 September 2010,” inform Abu Salam Ahmed, a local journalist, adding over two months later, Aftab Malik the MQM founder, chief and ex-UC Nazim of Orangi Town UC 14, was gunned down in Orangi Town on November 27, 2010.

Initially it was Dr. Imran Farooq, one of the MQM’s founding members and a Bihari who contributed a lot in influencing people from Bihar residing in Orangi Town to join MQM. “He could have made changes for BQM had he been alive.”

Orangi is the town, where the famous Qasba–Aligarh massacre occurred.  It was the flashpoint of ethnic violence in the city in eighties.  “Though we saw Haseeb Hashmi, Afaq Shahid and Shafi Ahmed claiming electoral victories but the locality’s ethnic environ never allowed any real change without ethnic color,” opines Wakeel Ur Rehman, a reporter covering ethnic groups.

“Only time will prove if the PSP, dominantly another Mohajir party, can take over the MQM constituency,” Rehman said.

Claver moves

On the model of enfolding electable for election victory – a model being practiced in Pakistani and elsewhere in Asian political arena – the PSP has adopted to enfold those with some force – right or wrong and legal or illegal – to win the strongholds.

This newspaper reported that Tariq Tareen, an alleged member of the ANP’s militant wing along with several workers of ANP and PSF announced to join the Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party in its debut public gathering held at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Karachi on April 24, 2016.

Abdul Malik, the ANP spokesperson, told The Frontier Post that when Tareen was president of Pakhtun Student Federation (PSF), the party leadership dissolved PSF just because of Tareen wrongdoings.

Recently, some media reports claimed former gangsters of Liyari, a town in old city with Baloch ethnic dominance, have joined PSP. Like Sohrab Goth and Gulistan-e-Jauhar, where Tareen had authority and Lyari where the former gangsters-turned PSP workers have influence, in Orangi the group having joined PSP is effective one and will increase the PSP’s ‘strength’, analysts believe.

Published in The Frontier Post



Karachi’s top bomb-maker is dead

Counterterrorism Department deals major blow to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent 


By: Naimat Khan

On April 13, the Counter Terrorism Department of Karachi killed two members of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) in a gunfight in the Gadap Town locality, and seized weapons, explosives and equipment from a bomb factory that they unearthed.  Abdul Saboor and Muhammad Mujtaba died during the encounter, while Muhammad Murtaza was arrested.

During interrogation, Murtaza made some startling revelations.

“About 14 years ago, some militants from the Nazimabad neighborhood of Karachi parted ways with their organization Harkatul Mujahideen following a dispute. They renamed themselves Harkatul Mujahideen al Alami (HUMA), and orchestrated attacks on security forces, diplomatic missions and other targets of global importance,” according to Raja Umar Khattab, a senior cop fighting militancy and terrorism for more than 15 years.

In 2004, HUMA militants rented a shop in an apartment building in the city, and parked a van packed with 400 kilograms of explosives outside the premises to target the convoy of then president Gen Pervez Musharraf. The bomb couldn’t go off because of signal jammers, and the convoy passed safely.

It was the first group to use toy bombs

“The failed plan went unnoticed. The same van was later used in an attack on the American consulate in Karachi,” Raja Umar Khattab told me. The same year, the group orchestrated a bomb attack on a concert by the Indian vocalist Sonu Nigam in the port city. Then, they tried to target Americans staying at the airport hotel in a rocket attack, but the rockets went wayward and fell in Shah Faisal Colony.

HUMA was the first group to come up with toy bombs. The first such device was seized after an encounter with the police in the Kalakot area of the city.

By the end of 2008, most of the members of the group had been apprehended, and their plan to break Karachi’s central prison had been thwarted.

But because of weak prosecution and a lack of evidence, many of these militants were freed. Most of them fled to Afghanistan, where the group’s first chief Muhammad Imran, also known as Imran Bhai, was killed in a US drone strike.

Kamran Atif, the chief of the group’s Karachi chapter, was arrested in 2006 and served a life sentence.

In 2014, the militants associated with HUMA joined the AQIS en masse and took over its Pakistan branch. Their first emir is identified as Zarar, and also known by the names Naseem Bhai, Hanif Bhai and Ayub Bhai. He is stationed in Afghanistan, from where he directs the organization’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi chapters. “HUMA is the face of AQIS in Pakistan,” said Raja Umar Khattab.

Recent acts of terrorism in Karachi linked to the group include the murder of Dr Shakeel Auj and Urdu Blogger Aneeqa Naz, police say.

The AQIS Pakistan has three major wings, investigations have revealed.

One group, responsible for preaching, brainwashing and recruitment, consists of young people who have never been arrested and live normal lives at their homes in Karachi. They are hard to catch, police say, but stopping them is vital for eliminating the terrorist organization.

A second wing participates in militant activity. Most of its members are locals of Karachi, and people of Bengali and Burmese descent who have been born in the city.

The third wing consists solely of experts in manufacturing and planting bombs. Among its key members were a man identified as Hashim (nicknamed Babu) and another militant identified as Muhammad Mujtaba (also known as Rehan). The two men had arrived in Karachi as explosives experts for the group. Hashim, who had 14 years of experience in bombs and explosives, especially car bombs, was killed in a gunfight with police in April last year. Mujtaba – who had put together the bomb manufacturing setup in Gadap town and supplied explosive devices to one Abdus Salam Sindhi of the Liaquatabad neighborhood – was killed in the April 13 encounter.

In January 2016, the group resumed its activities using low-intensity bombs, referred to as crackers. Law enforcement agencies began to notice similarities between various blasts, and investigations led them to the two men killed on April 13.

The AQIS is a distinct organization, separate from another Al Qaeda group in Karachi, and the group of young militants in Karachi who are inspired by ISIS, according to Raja Umar Khattab.

An independent Al Qaeda group led by Umar Jalal began its own journey about the time AQIS was formed. A third IS-inspired group of youth, which attacked American professor Debra Lobo, killed human rights activists Sabeen Mahmud, and carried out the Safoora bus shooting, is a separate entity.

The AQIS is directed by Al Qaeda’s central leadership from Afghanistan’s Bramcha area, according to police. But heightened security at the border has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the network in Karachi to communicate with the Bramcha leadership, Raja Umar Khattab said. “They are now using memory cards, USB flash drives, and unsent draft emails for passing on messages to the network in Karachi,” the arrested man told the investigators. Police believes the killing of Mujtaba is a major breakthrough, but analysts say it may not be enough to eliminate the group.

“To counter transitional militants, such as those involved with the AQIS, the government should form a serious counterterrorism strategy,” says Zia Ur Rehman, a Karachi based author and security analyst. “Identifying and distinguishing such militants is a proper intelligence-gathering exercise, which need strong collaboration among all law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”

For decades, groups like Harkatul Mujahideen have been allowed to change their names and reconstitute themselves, without any reprisal from the government, experts say, and that is where the problem lies.

“As they reconstitute, they look for new friends and allies. Al Qaeda and IS are the easiest choices in today’s plethora of militant groups,” says Khalid Muhammad, the director general of Islamabad-based think tank CommandEleven.

He says weak prosecution is another problem. Tahir Mihnas, the prime suspect of the Safoora carnage, and almost all the current leaders of AQIS including its Pakistani chief, were arrested in the past but have come out of jails.

“A report issued by the US State Department a few years ago discussed this exact issue – the release of hardcore terrorists from Pakistani jails,” says Khalid Muhammad. The report stated that Pakistan’s judiciary had released three out of four terrorism suspects that were brought to courts. “The reasons included loss of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, and fear of violence against the judge and his family.”

Zia Ur Rehman says it is hard to predict if military courts will solve these problems. “Only time will tell.”

 Published in The Friday Times 

“No go area” for others, PSP conquers ANP fortress 


“Sohrab Goth and its adjacent areas were strategically very important for the ANP, as on the direction of party command, the members had capacity to block Super Highway within five minutes, disconnecting the city from the rest of the country”,

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: A man with AK-47 roams around main gate of ‘Gulshan View’ apartment whereas Deen Muhammad Wazir tells about the threats workers of Awami National Party are facing.

It’s one of the January 2013 evenings when this scribe was doing a story on Taliban’s presence in Karachi.

Red flags would wave on the main gate and throughout the apartment, which was ‘unofficial’ headquarters in ANP’s stronghold, where Deen Muhammad Wazir would regularly sit alongwith other two of “DIT” – Ismail and Tariq Tareen.

Wazir’s worries regarding open threats to his life proved real by the end of the year when Taliban gunned him down near Janjal Goth on December 2, 2013.

In the coming years Tariq Tareen emerged as sole force of Al Asif Square, Sohrab Goth, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Rabia city and Mekasa apartment.

No Go area for rivals

“With most powerful men from Pakhtun Student Federation (PkSP) reining the area, it had become a ‘no go area’ for rivals of ANP, including MQM, JI, PTI and JUI-F, who couldn’t dare to hold a rally or organize any political activity here,” recalls *Ayub Dawar, a shopkeeper and worker of ANP.

Dawar remembers the day when ANP and MQM workers would fight with each others for controlling most of Abdul Hasan Isfahani road, forcing the then Town Nazim of MQM – Wasay Jalil, who is now MQM’s central leader – to strike a written agreement with Gulshan-e-View boys.

According to the agreement, Dawar informs, the MQM workers couldn’t cross the bridge in front of famous Bara Market, which is situated few yards away from Abbas Town. Jalil, despite several attempts to reach him, was not available for comment.

hqdefault (1)
Deen Muhammad Wazir, who was killed by Taliban in Dec 2013, in Janjal Goth, Karachi

Change of regime

Though still the posters of ‘Shah Kalam Shaheed’ and ‘Deen Muhammad Wazir Shaheed’ hang at the entrance of ‘Gulshan View’ and red flags have been replaced with Pakistani flags – also flags of Mustafa Kamal’s newly launched party. The name of Pak Sarzameen Party has also been inscribed at the main entrance.

Tariq Tareen
Tariq Tareen ( TT) who recently joined Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party

At right side of the apartments local chief of ANP Umar Badshah Mehsud has setup a stall to campaign for the May 12 to remember the day when dozens of ANP workers on their way to Jinnah International Airport to greet the then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry were bathed in blood by rival party.

Inside stall few of the ANP workers are sitting. “As we are going to mourn the deaths of our fateful fellow workers, Shahi Syed is holding Valima Ceremony of his son in Islamabad,” a disgruntled ANP worker complained.

‘Dry cleaned’

Tariq Tareen alongwith several workers of ANP and PSF announced to join the Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party in its debut public gathering held at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Karachi on April 24, 2016.

A local ANP worker and former comrade of Tariq Tareen (TT) told this scribe that like many MQM’s tented workers, TT found it good opportunity to get ‘dry cleaned’ at Mustafa Kamal’s Defence laundry.

“Tareen who “manages” some 370 flats in different apartments is still ruling alongwith Deen Muhammad Wazir’s nephew Sultan Wazir the areas of Rabia City, Jauhar, Micasa Luxury Apartment and Al-Asif Square,” he said. Wazir hasn’t left ANP yet but it’s Tareen who has say in everything, a worker said.

“When Tareen was picked up by Rangers in 2013 people took to streets and burnt vehicles, carts and tyres near Rabia City in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, showing his influence in the area,” he recalls, adding Tareen would also help PSP to gain ground in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Sohrab Goth.

“Sohrab Goth and its adjacent areas were strategically very important for the ANP, as on the direction of party command, the members had capacity to block Super Highway within five minutes, disconnecting the city from the rest of the country”, another ANP leader said on the condition not to be named.

The ANP spokesperson, however, claimed Tareen had never been part of Awami National Party. “When Tareen was president of Pakhtun Student Federation (PSF), the party leadership dissolved PSF just because of Tareen wrongdoings,” Abdul Malik, the ANP Sindh’s spokesman said.

“We still have impact in Sohrab Goth and other parts from where hundreds of workers have come to attend the party’s May 12 public gathering in Banaras today,” he said.

“It’s the criminal record of Tareen, due to which he was refused the basic membership of ANP,” Malik added.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Published in The Frontier Post

Pashtun Jirga Vs US justice system

Why did ANP leader prefer Jirga over going to US court against relative of PTI leader?

File Photo of ANP Sindh Chief, Shahi Syed, who faced fraud at the hands of a man Furqan – cousin of PTI leader Asad Qaiser – but Syed is reluctant to move to US court due to fears of Money Laundering case

Jalil Afridi/Naimat Khan

WASHINGTON/KARACHI: A senior Pakistani politician belonging to Awami National Party is reluctant to take a fraudulent  person to American court due to ‘dubious transactions’ and ‘fears of money laundering case’, credible sources told The Frontier Post.

Furqan has minted $200,000 from Syed through fraudulent means, sources said.

Senator Shahi Syed, the ANP’s Sindh President and father-in-law of Aimal Wali Khan confessed to have lost $75000, which is equal to Rs7.82million in fraud by a person belonging to Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources said the person alleged of fraud is Furqan Khan, a cousin of the speaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly, Asad Qaisar who is currently in Washington DC. Shahi Syed while talking to The Frontier Post said that Furqan was partner with his elder son in a business and now Furqan is refusing to return the $75,000 he had taken from his son.

According to sources Furqan has told Shahi Syed to go to American courts against him if his claim is correct but ‘dubious transaction of money’ is the main hurdle in Shahi Syed way to fight his case in the court. Shahi Syed is instead using his contacts for securing the money through Jirga.

When Shahi Syed was asked by The Frontier Post as to why he was not going to American courts despite a big fraud with him, he said he is persuading Furqan through Jirga. “He is one among us, he is from Swabi and it is better that we resolve the issue through Jirga amicably”, he told the FP on phone from Mardan. Source said Shahi Syed had gone to Mardan in order to hold a Jirga for securing his money.

When asked as through which channel he had sent such a huge amount of money to Washington, he said it was his son’s money, and he prior moving to the US had been running his own showroom in Dubai since 2007.

Shahi Syed refuted that his sons had acquired US residency, which requires of an applicant to submit five million U.S. Dollars with the US immigration department. Credible sources told this scribe that both sons of Shahi Syed have obtained residency against the payment of $1million, equal to RS100.43millions. The ANP Sindh chief refuted and said one of his sons was studying in the Washington University on a student visa whereas the elder one had obtained a two-year Visa and was doing his own business there.

Sources, however, said Yaseen, the older son of Shahi Syed, had applied for the residency whereas the process was also started for the youngest one. The ANP leader has four sons; two of them – one a Doctor and another Lawyer – are resided in the United Kingdom. Shahi Syed has confined himself to Islamabad.

Shahi Syed, who was born and raised in Babuzai village of Mardan district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa moved to Karachi where he started driving a Rikshaw on lease. But he soon become a rich man and then attracted the attention of ANP’s central leadership. Almost all old stalwarts, including Ameen Khattak, were sidelined and his residence, Mardan House, situated in the affluent DHA neighborhood became the party’s center in Sindh.

Shahid Syed further came closer to Asfandiyar’s family after giving the hands of his daughter to son of ANP Chief.

It’s likely that the authorities in National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which has become ultra active these days, will kick off probing the case because some people close to Asad Qaiser’s cousin have shared information with the corruption watchdog.

Insiders in ANP say the ANP Chief Asfandyar Ali Khan has also setup several businesses in Malaysia, Dubai and other gulf states with the help of Shahi Syed.

Disgruntled leaders, including the late Azam Hoti, had been accusing ANP leadership of huge corruption. Asfandyar’s step mother and president ANP-Wali has also alleged the ANP leadership of massive corruption.

It’s also pertinent to mention that many second and third tier leaders have also applied for asylums in USA and

European countries under the guise of Taliban threat after transferring huge amounts from Pakistan to their respective countries.

The Story was published in The Frontier Post

ANP leader seeks asylum in US amid fears of arrest in Karachi

Bashir Jna, former General Sec ANP Sindh
Bashir Jna, former General Sec ANP Sindh

MODESTO, CALIFORNIA: Fearing arrest at home for his alleged part in ‘crime economy’ of the city, the Awami National Party’s former Sindh general Secretary Bashir Jan has applied for asylum in the United States of America, highly credible sources told The Frontier Post.

Sidelined by the party leadership as part of its ‘operation cleanup’ in Sindh, Bashir Jan arrived in the US before Eid-ul-Fitar but sensing a possible arrest in the ongoing action by Rangers, he applied for asylum, a source based in Berkley, California told this scribe.

“The former ANP leader has cited several attacks on his life during different periods of time as ground for obtaining asylum along with other nine immediate members of his family” source said.

Despite several contacts, Bashir Jan didn’t respond to confirm or refute the news but contrary to his earlier claims of going back to Pakistan on August 20, the ANP leader is still in California State of America, sources told. On Wednesday, Sep 2, 2015 Bashir Jan updated his Facebook status, telling his son, Aimal Khan, has started his school at Martin Luther King Middle School Berkeley, California.

After developing differences with Shahi Syed, he also mulled over to change sides and join either PTI or PPP but later his friend and former MPA Aman Mehsud joined PPP and Jan opted to wait for better time and offer.

Another ANP source told that Bashir Jan had changed his mind after some mutual channels assured him to remove his differences with Shahi Syed but after crackdown against different politicians in Karachi, he opted not to go back and settled down here. It was after this final decision that Jan winded up his business in Dubai and decided to settle in the US permanently.

Several MQM and PPP leaders, including Qadir Patel and Nisar Morai, have left the country due to fear of possible arrest but Bashir Jan was the only known ANP leader who escaped the country. Some activists have left Karachi for other parts of the country.

Luckily, Bashir Jan had several attacks on him, mostly attributed to or claimed by Taliban, making his case for asylum strong one. On August 16, 2012 unknown attacker’s hurled crackers or hand-grenades at his car before opening fire on him in Site area of Karachi. He remained safe in the attack.

On April 26, 2 at least 11 people were killed and 40 others including children injured after a blast went off near the election office of Bashir Jan in Karachi. Jan luckily survived in attack in Mominabad area of the city. Taliban claimed responsibility of the blast.

These attacks have been cited as basis for his permanent stay in the US, source said.

Aimal Khan Son of Bashir Jan -  first day at King School of Berkeley ( September 02, 2015, Photo source Facebook page of Bashir Jan)
Aimal Khan Son of Bashir Jan – first day at King School of Berkeley ( September 02, 2015, Photo source Facebook page of Bashir Jan)

The 51 years on Bashir Jan was born in Guratai,Barikot, Swat but later moved to Karachi. He got his education from Karachi University in 2003 but continued his own business as shopkeeper of the unstitched clothes in Metroville.

Before joining the ANP, he was associated with the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party. He was appointed as Deputy General Secretary of ANP Sindh in 2004.

He sustained the post till 2010 after which he was appointed as General Secretary but after he developed differences with the incumbent Sindh Chief Senator Shahid Syed, he lost his seat to current General Secretary Younis Buneri.

Highly credible sources close to Shahi Syed told this scribe that Bashir Jan was sidelined by Sindh chief at the advice of some forcers who thought Bashir Jan’s character might land the whole party in trouble when law enforcement agencies would enter to the final phase of Karachi operation.

Started his commercial life as a small shop keeper, the accounts of Jan witnessed a sudden surge during the period when activists of ANP and its student wing, Pakhtun Student Federation (PSF) were found involved in extortion and land grabbing.

Highly credible sources in Karachi told that Jan was suspected for a murder in Karachi and the security agencies have already arrested some suspects in this connection.

Originally Published in The Frontier Post, Karachi

Pashtun Man-date

Like in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, many Pashtun women of Karachi do not vote
Like in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, many Pashtun women of Karachi do not vote

Gul Meena, a 63-year-old Pashtun woman from the hilly Dir Colony in the North Nazimabad area of Karachi, has not been to a polling station her entire life. She was surprised to hear on TV that some women from her hometown in Lower Dir went to Peshawar High Court when they were not allowed to vote in a recent by-election.

On May 18, women from the PK-95 constituency of the provincial assembly went to the PHC against the May 7 by-election in Lower Dir in which the contesting candidates had made a verbal agreement that women would not be allowed to go to the polling stations. A Jamaat-e-Islami candidate won the polls.

On June 2, the Election Commission of Pakistan canceled the result. “The by-election of Constituency No PK-95 Lower Dir-II is hereby declared void for the reasons of disenfranchisement of female voters,” said a notice released on Tuesday.

But in Karachi, Gul Meena and many other Pashtun women continue to be denied their right to vote. As many as 47,282 women had voted in the general elections in the same Lower Dir constituency in 2013. That amounts to about 37 percent of the total votes – almost the same ratio as that in PS-93, a Pashtun-dominated constituency in Karachi’s west district, if not better (an election tribunal found 6,000 bogus votes polled at only six of the 88 polling stations in the ultra-conservative Banaras locality). The percentage of women voters in Pashtun-dominated areas of Karachi (such as PS-89 Keamari, PS-94 Baldia, and PS-128 Landhi industrial area) is very low compared with other constituencies in the city.

10 percent of Pashtun women in Karachi do not even have a CNIC

Back in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, neither the religious Jamaat-e-Islami nor the liberal Awami National Party made an effort to resist the disenfranchisement of women. JI emir Sirajul Haq blamed the practice on culture.

The same ‘cultural legacy’ is the reason behind low percentage of women voters in Pashtun areas of Karachi, analysts say.

“It happens in localities and communities inhabited by people who belong to the areas where they do not let women vote. It is reflective of those cultures and traditions. In other areas, women turn out in full force,” says Afia Salam, a Karachi-based journalist who covers gender issues.

Hamidullah Khattak, the information secretary of ANP in Sindh, blames lack of education, especially among women, that keeps them unaware of their of their rights. Karachi’s Pashtuns will hardly see any progress without active participation of women in electoral politics, he says.

Most Pashtuns in Karachi are poor laborers, says Nazir Jan, a central leader of Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PMAP). “They need proper guidance, but the religious and nationalist parties who claim to represent them have never bothered to address this issue.”

Abdul Razaq – the head of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Pashtun Jirga and its emir in west district – believes Pashtun women would be encouraged to exercise their right to vote if they were given an electoral environment that was in accordance with their culture. “In the last general elections, we asked the Election Commission to convert more than five percent of the combined polling stations to women-only polling stations, for a better female turnout,” he said. “But our request was ignored.”

But low female turnout is not the issue, according to Nazir Jan. “The number of women registered as voters is equally low.” According to Abdul Razaq, a two-time Union Council Nazim from the Pashtun-dominated SITE area, more than 10 percent of women don’t even have Computerized National Identity Cards because of reasons deep rooted in their culture. “They cannot establish a family tree,” he said. “When a woman does not have an identity card, her daughter cannot have one either.”

In Dir and the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, women often vote for the candidate their families vote for, and therefore their disenfranchisement with the mutual consensus of all contenders doesn’t turn into a political disadvantage for either, says Mudassar Rizvi, chief of the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

The case is exactly the opposite in Karachi, experts say. To bar women from voting or not encouraging them to come out on the polling day deprives the concerned community of sizable votes.

“In an urban setup like Karachi, where women’s participation or absence from the electoral process directly impacts the overall results for the ethnic community, women become very important,” says Dr Fouzia Khan, a Pashtun social right activist. “In Karachi, all political parties claiming to represent Pashtuns, should realize the power of women voters.”

Hamidullah Khattak says his party, the ANP, discusses the issue in the regular meetings of its Sindh Council, which also has a woman member – Kamila Arif Khan, the party’s central vice-president on Sindh quota. “But it takes time for people’s ways to change.”

The less popular PMAP is seems to have done more work in this regard. “For the next voter registration, we have planned to run a drive to convince Pashtuns to get their wives, daughters and sisters registered, so that their voice can be heard in Sindh’s provincial legislature,” said Nazir Jan. “Without bringing women into the mainstream, the Pashtuns of Karachi – on its way to becoming the largest ethnic community in the city in two decades – cannot progress.”

The story was published in 5th June issue of TFT

Taliban’s presence benefits MQM

 ANP may boycott elections in Karachi

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: The growing presence of Taliban may have long-term downsides to the peace of the port city of Karachi but in short-term if it has brought bad to the enemy number one, Awami National Party (ANP), it has certainly benefited its enemy number two, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), by not allowing voters’ registration in Pashtun localities of the city.

An ANP’s internal source said this along with other factors including direct threat from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Karachi has forced the local leadership to boycott the elections. A person very close to the party circles told The Frontier Post on the condition not be named that the leadership is reluctant to obey the orders of central leadership which has categorically announced to contest forthcoming elections from all seats.

One of the party’s provincial headquarters, Mardan House, issued on Friday a statement that the party would fight elections on all Sindh seats where its electorates exist.
The source, however, said that lack of registration in Pashtun areas by Election Commission due to Taliban threat perception has manifold the worries of local leaders who are forced to take risk for the uncertain elections results.

The source informs that the staff of election commission has not entered into the areas under Taliban influence, badly affecting the electorates of not only ANP but also Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F), having got elected in past with highly evident anti-MQM Pashtun votes from these areas.

The vicinities where the process of registration and verification of voters could not be carried out include, Janjal Goth, Lasi Goth, Machar colony, Ayub Goth and Al-Asif squire which drastically impacts the result of PS- 126 from where the candidate of JI, Muhammad Younis Barai was elected to Sindh Assembly in 2002.

The process has also not been carried out in Shafique Colony and Madina Colony, a resident of these areas hailing from Waziristan told this scribe.

A large number of citizens, mostly from the tribal areas and divided into three provincial seats PS-100, 102 and 103, including Manghopir, Kunwari colony, Sultanabad, New Mianwali colony, Sultanabad, Pakhtunabad, Qasba colony, Bhangi Para and other adjacent Pashtun localities also remained unregistered during the recent process. The votes had been transferred at their permanent addresses in the forged lists.

The verification staff did not go to Itehad Town and Pir Bangash colony of PS-94 which can impact the outcome of elections on this seat. Although, the process has been carried out in areas of PS-93, the constituency of ANP MPA and former provincial minister Amir Nawab and around 60 percent of the illegible votes have been registered, the situation in PS-128 is gravely affected due to the law and order situation.

No verification process has been done in the major areas of PS-128, the seat which ANP had grabbed in 2008 general elections. Gulshan-e-Buner, Muzaffarabad colony, Geedar colony, Quidabad and cattle colony of this provincial assembly seat have not been covered during the verification process.

Although, Qamar Sultana Ruvi, District Election Commissioner West Karachi refused to comment, an official in the district election commissioner West office on the condition of anonymity conceded that the staff of election commission has refrained from entering into the mentioned areas due to Taliban threat perception.

The spokesman of ANP Sindh, Pir Riaz Gul, while talking to The Frontier Post endorsed that the verification process couldn’t be fruitful as the major areas with Pashtun votes remained unvisited by the verification staff of election commission.

The ANP leader told “the Pashtun registration has improved within 2 years from 2010 till date and in the PS-94 ANP has been able to enhance its registered votes from 1700 to 14,000” But he further said the areas with Taliban influence especially the adjacent areas of Sohrab Goth, only the ANP hardcore members in their own capacity have got themselves registered for using their constitutional right to poll votes.

When asked whether the lack of registration can force the party to boycott the general polls in Karachi Gul said “a very tough time is ahead for ANP in the city but ANP Karachi can not make any decision by its own. We may not boycott the elections as it’s the decision of central leadership.” He added the elections in such situation may not bring positive results for the party in Karachi.

“We are negotiating with JUI-F and JI for an electoral alliance in the city but these talks have not been productive yet” told Gul, adding the Pashtun vote bank already being dented by lack of registration may remain unproductive after its division among anti MQM parties.

Published on March 24, 2013