by Zia Ur Rehman

March 3, 2015


In order to fill the vacuum created by the Awami National Party’s absence from the Pashtun-dominated areas of the city, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi has been working to form a jirga comprising representatives of various Pashtun clans, traders and civil society groups.

The JI has convened three gatherings in different parts of the city since January 17, in which the party’s central leadership, including its chief Sirajul Haq, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) head Prof Muhammad Ibrahim and senior KP minister Inayatullah Khan, also participated.

Abdul Razzaq, a Pashtun leader of the JI, who heads the party in District West, has been tasked with contacting tribal elders, civil society groups and political leaders of the community. Razzaq admitted that the party has been working to form a jirga but its formal structure had not been decided so far.

“The JI already has immense support among the Pashtun community and the jirga does not have any political ambitions. Its main objective is to put pressure on the police authorities to stop extra-judicial killings and harassment of Pashtuns, especially those hailing from the tribal areas,” Razzaq told The News.

“Targeting Pashtuns has now become a routine matter; a Pashtun can be picked up from any area of the city and killed after several months of unlawful detention, all over non-payment of money.”

Besides, the Pashtun community of Karachi has been facing a number of other issues, he said. “It has become very hard for Pashtuns to get Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) from local offices of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). All this, despite the fact they have been living in the city for the past three to four decades now,” said Razzaq.

JI aiming for political leverage

However, political analysts believe the JI is aiming to fill the vacuum of a political force in the Pashtun-populated areas of the city. “Because of the continuous attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the ANP’s position has been weakened in Karachi’s Pashtun parts and now the JI is vying to fill the void,” said Ali Arqam, a Karachi-based political analyst.

“And for this task, they have chosen the right person in Razzaq, who remains a popular figure among the city’s Pashtun community,” he told The News.

Razzaq has twice been elected nazim of the Metroville Union Council of SITE Town, defeating ANP’s former Sindh secretary general Bashir Jan by a telling margin. In the general elections of 2013, Razzaq had lost out to the PTI’s Syed Hafizuddin but had filed a petition in the Sindh High Court (SHC) accusing the latter of rigging. In August last year, the SHC unseated Hafizuddin, but now the appeal case is with the Supreme Court.

Also, on polling day, when the JI Karachi chapter announced a boycott of the elections, Razzaq and the local leadership of PS-93 did not obey the party’s directives and announced they would contest from his constituency.

Not a new trend

The formation of jirgas in the city is not a new phenomenon. In 1997, Tariq Khan, a Pashtun leader from the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N), had formed a jirga to resolve a love marriage issue involving a Pashtun girl, Riffat Afridi, and an Urdu-speaking boy, Kanwar Ahsan.

In April 2006, the Awami National Party (ANP)’s Sindh chief Shahi Syed had formed the Pashtun Action Committee, also called the Loya Jirga, to muster support from Pashtun transporters and influential Pashtun political figures, especially those belonging to the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PML-N.

But after winning two provincial assembly seats from Karachi in the 2008 general elections and joining the Sindh government, a majority of the members gradually left the Loya Jirga, making the alliance dormant.

“The formation of the Loya Jirga was a reaction to the then provincial government’s decision to demolish katchi abadis and to ban two-stroke rickshaws in the city. A number of public rallies were organised during June 2006 across the city and a one-day strike was observed on June 30,” said a former member of the Loya Jirga.

“But then Syed used the platform for the ANP’s political benefit, not in the interest of the Pashtuns.”

In 2007, JI’s then MPA Hamidullah Advocate had formed a Karachi Aman Jirga, while in 2009 the Mutahida Qaumi Movement formed a Haq Parast Aman Jirga. Analysts believe that these two jirgas were formed to counter the ANP-backed Loya Jirga.

The ANP leaders believe the Pashtuns of the city do not approve the JI’s jirga politics. Hameedullah Khattak, provincial information secretary of the ANP, said the track-record of the JI clearly shows its anti-Pashtun policy.

They are responsible for bringing terrorism and gun culture in Pashtun areas and are now trying to fool them again, he maintained.

“Our party also condemned the harassment and extra-judicial killing of Pashtuns in the city and raised our voices against Nadra’s policy,” Khattak told The News