By Zia Ur Rehman
Dec 7, 2015
Political analysts and the media, primarily focused on the victory of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the defeat of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Jamaat-e-Islami alliance in the local government elections in Karachi, seem to have missed that the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP), the sectarian group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s political front, has bagged nine seats in the city and 40 of its backed candidates too have succeeded.
The PRHP has mostly achieved success in Pashtun and Bengali-populated neighbourhoods of the city.
In the Malir district, PRHP candidates have grabbed the chairperson seats in the Muslimabad and Dawood Chowrangi union committees in alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Jamaat-e-Islami respectively.
PRHP candidate Dr Sher Syed fetched the slot of the chairperson in the Muslimabad union committee in alliance with PML-N candidate Faisal Bukhari for his deputy’s seat, defeating PTI candidates.
In the Dawood Chowrangi union committee, Maulana Zareen Hazarvi of the PRHP grabbed the chairperson seat in alliance with Mairaj Swati, the Jamaat-e-Islami candidate for vice chairperson slot, defeating Pakistan People’s Party’s candidate.
However, the PRHP’s electoral alliance with the PPP in the Muzaffarabad Colony union committee did not work well for the two parties. Their candidates, PRHP’s candidate for the chairperson’s slot, Maulana Mahiuddin Shah Al-Hussaini, and PPP’s Haji Misal Khan for his deputy’s seat, lost to the alliance between the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and the PML-N. The PRHP-PPP alliance stood fourth in the race.
Syed Masab Hussain, the PRHP spokesperson in Karachi, said his party had fielded candidates in several union committees. He added that the party had bagged nine seats in the city and over 40 candidates backed by the party had also won in the elections.
The spokesperson said Maulana Abdul Salam, a PRHP candidate who running for the slot of the vice-chairperson in the District Council Karachi’s Union Council 29, had also won in alliance with the Pakistan Muslim Alliance, a political group representing the Bengali community in the city.
In addition, he added, the party had also won ward councillor seats in Malir, West and Korangi districts.
“Our party participated in the local government polls in Karachi without any preparation and received a good response from the city’s residents,” he said.
“Now we will field our candidates in the 2018 general elections across the country.”
Hussain said his party had also fetched a significant number of seats in the local government polls in Punjab’s Jhang district too where it was in a position to form the district government.
Gaining momentum in Karachi
On polling day, The News observed the presence of the PRHP in many Pashtun and Bengali neighbourhoods in Malir, Korangi and West districts with its flags and posters with its electoral symbol, an iron, on walls on almost every street.
In Malir, the two union committees where the PRHP has succeeded fall in the provincial assembly constituency PS-128, where ASWJ chief Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqi had bagged 23,635 votes and lost with a narrow margin to MQM candidate Syed Waqar Shah.
Interestingly, the MQM did not field any candidate in the four union committees falling in the PS-128 in Saturday’s polls.
An expert on religious parties’ politics said the PRHP was gaining momentum in the city. “One of the PRHP candidates in the Pahar Ganj union committee who was picked up by the law enforcement agencies before the polling day has bagged over 900 votes even in his absence from the constituency,” he told The News.
Munir Farooqi, a journalist who covers religious parties, said the emergence of the PRHP had weakened the JUI-F in the city’s local government polls.
The JUI-F is a traditional Deobandi party, which has mostly remained active in the city’s Pashtun neighbourhoods.
In the 2002 general polls, the JUI-F, under the banner of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of six religious parties belonging to different sects, had won three provincial assembly seats in Karachi and all three of its elected parliamentarians were Pashtun.
The JUI-F had also secured many union council seats in the city in the 2005 local government elections.
“There are many other Deobandi groups besides the JUI-F including the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam -Sami and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Nazaryati, but they don’t participate in parliamentary politics in city,” said Farooqi.
“However, the PRHP’s success in these local government polls shows that they will now focus on Karachi’s politics,” he added.
Established in 2012 by Hakeem Muhammad Ibrahim Qasmi, reportedly a former provincial leader of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the PRHP had participated in the 2013 general polls and the 2015 local government polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This time they contested the local bodies elections in Karachi too.
Maulana Sanaullah, brother of slain ASWJ chief Allama Sher Ali Haidri, and Ashraf Memon, a little-known leader, head the party in Sindh and Karachi respectively.
Although PRHP leaders insist that the party is an independent entity and the ASWJ is its ally, it is widely believed to be the latter’s political front.