By Zia Ur Rehman

July 30,, 2018


Following the electoral trends in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), where the people overwhelmingly voted for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Karachi’s Pashtuns cast their ballots in favour of the Imran Khan-led party, rejecting the traditional ethnic and religious political parties that have been active in their localities for the past several decades.

PTI candidates won national and provincial assembly seats during the 2018 general elections from most of the constituencies where Pashtuns lives in significant numbers. The community preferred the national party of the cricketer-turned politician to ethnic and religious parties.

Pashtun parties such as the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party complained that Karachi’s second largest ethnic community has been divided into small pockets and, therefore, does not have parliamentary power in the city. Moreover, the Pashtun vote bank does not support only one particular party.

However, the recent delimitations based on the preliminary figures of last year’s census and, most importantly, the PTI’s “tsunami” has helped the community send a sufficient number of local representatives to the assemblies. For the first time, a significant number of elected PTI parliamentarians (three of the 14 MNAs) are Pashtuns.

Besides, the PTI’s tsunami in Pashtun neighbourhoods located within constituencies traditionally dominated by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also provided Imran’s party with an edge to snatch seats from the MQM.

For example, Pashtun voters in the Patel Para and Old Sabzi Mandi areas of NA-245 voted for the bat (the PTI’s election symbol) without caring much about who the candidate contesting for the National Assembly seat on the party’s ticket is.

The influence

Analysts monitoring politics of Karachi’s Pashtuns believe that on the electoral front the community has never acted as a homogeneous ethnic group and has traditionally aligned with different political and religious parties, mainly the ANP, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and, more recently, the PTI. The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat has also tried to build a support base within the community.

Karachi’s Pashtun vote bank is heavily influenced by the electoral trends in KP, as is evident by the community in the city voting for the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a nationwide electoral alliance of six religious parties, mainly the JUI-F and the JI, in 2002, for the ANP in 2008 and the PTI in 2013. On July 25 KP voted for the PTI again, and so did Karachi’s Pashtuns.

Sartaj Khan, a Karachi-based political researcher, told The News that the emerging Pashtun middle class in the metropolis has been avoiding a separate identity, going beyond ethnic politics.

“The Karachi operation and the current delimitations have brought some hope for the city’s Pashtun middle class. And in a different political and security landscape of the metropolis, they prefer the PTI as a national political party to ethnic or sectarian parties. This is also why Karachi’s poll results are reflective of the city’s true ethnic diversity.”

Because of massive networking and communication thanks to social media, Karachi’s Pashtuns are closely following KP’s political trends, said Khan, and its influence on the city’s polls can be clearly seen in this election.

The tsunami

The most interesting competition was in NA-250 (a new constituency comprising the areas of SITE, Shershah and Peerabad), where Ataullah Advocate, the PTI’s little-known Pashtun candidate and a resident of Pathan Colony, defeated ANP Sindh chief Shahi Syed and JI Karachi head Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, who had contested from the MMA’s platform, with a great margin.

The PTI candidate won the seat by securing 36,049 votes, while the ANP’s Syed and the MMA’s Rehman ranked sixth and fourth with 11,385 and 22,696 votes respectively.

In NA-242 (the area comprising the well-known Pashtun neighbourhood of Sohrab Goth, along with Sachal and Abul Hasan Ispahani Road), the PTI’s Saifur Rehman Mehsud was declared victorious.

The PTI candidate gained popularity after heading a campaign against now-suspended District Malir SSP Rao Anwar to get justice for the family of Naqeeb Mehsud, an aspiring model who is believed to have been shot dead in a fake police encounter.

The MNA-elect defeated the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Iqbal Sand, the MQM’s Kishwer Zehra and the MMA’s Asadullah Bhutto with a great margin. Saifur Rehman Mehsud is a former Pashtun Students Federation leader and grandson of the late senator Sakhi Jan.

The PTI’s Capt (retd) Jamil Ahmed Khan snatched Malir’s NA-237 seat from the PPP’s Abdul Hakeem Baloch. A number of Pashtun candidates on PTI tickets have also won many provincial assembly constituencies.