Monday, 14 August 2017

QK archives: A letter from Talha Sughlatwala

A Letter from Talha Sughlatwala
Zeejah
June 29, 2000


Submitted by Zeejah, as Talha joined his maker in 1997, may he rest in eternal peace



Prologue:

Having been in England for three months, I soon began to feel strangely disconnected. I used to say, half jokingly, that I felt like climbing the highest steeple and saying, "Allah ho Akbar" to reaffirm my identity.

That is when I asked an Indian IRC friend, 'choccy' (Talha Sughlatwala) how it felt like being a (permanent) minority in India. This is the email he wrote in reply.

It might prove to be something of an eye-opener to people who ascribe to the view that Indians and Pakistanis are basically similar.



Dear zeejah,

I never really talked with a Pakistani before.. about Pakistan. This time when I went to Ahmedabad, I did ask a Paki cousin, (Amena, the daughter of my uncle. She is married in India, but still a Pak citizen on an LT visa). She was very reserved, but given a little impetus, she started off on how everything in Pak was so beautiful and how everything in India was so ugly...:)) Then I asked her husband, who is also a cousin (I've already told you that I've got lots and lots of cousins), but he didn't take me seriously. I kept on at him until he finally said that he hated Pakistan. I asked him why, and he said "because Amena is from Pakistan" ....hahahaha that was funny..:) You know,whenever my my old chachi, (Amena's mom), comes to India, she insists that I should marry a Pakistani girl. She very seriously asks me whether I would prefer a Punjabi, Sindhi or Pathan girl. What can I say to that? So I jokingly tell her to get someone like herself. But hey! me and marry a pakistani?..nah! chance hi nahi hai! Given the pure urdu they speak, I would need an interpreter to communicate!While in Ahmedabad I, along with 4 cousins, had gone to see the movie "Border". In case you haven't heard about it, it's the first Indian war-film and is about the battle of Longewala which was won by the Indians, despite being only 120 soldiers against 2000 Pakis.. blah blah. Actually the battle was won by the Air Force, but that would make the movie too short, right? Anyway the movie was horrible, terrible.

There seemed to be no Muslims in the Indian army. They were all Hindus or Sikhs who kept shouting their religious war-cry, whatever that is. The only Muslims in the border villages were shown to be supplying information to the Pakistanis. The Pakistani soldiers were shown to be dumbos who couldn't fire a missile straight, and begged for mercy when caught. The director almost turned it into a Hindu-Muslim war. Half-way through the movie my cousins began to side with Pakistan. They snickered whenever an Indian soldier died or showed 'extra-heroism', and said "shit" when the Indian Air force planes finally arrived at the crack of dawn, blowing up the Paki tanks. When the Pakistani flag was shown fluttering in the wind, at least one of them would say "Wow"! Agreed that your flag is beautiful, but I didn't find any need to show such outright enthusiasm. Just before the movie they had told me that they were anti-Pakistan!

What troubled me was that, half-way through the movie I began to side with Pakistan as well! I remembered what you had said once, that when they hear the rallying cry of "Allahu Akbar" even loyal Indian Muslims would side with Pakistan. I have never really been anti-Pakistan. I have a strange love-hate relationship with it. When I was younger, say about 11-12 yrs old, I would tell Nasir that in case war broke out between India and Pakistan I could go to my relatives in Karachi, where did he have to go to? He would be very depressed because he didn't have anyone in Pakistan.

Ever since I can remember I have been supporting the Pak cricket team, even against India. I remember the Sharjah cup in which Javed Miandad had hit a sixer on the last ball. I was the only Pak supporter in my house that day, and i was the happiest to see "my" team win. I was once very happy that America had resumed military aid to Pakistan. Why did I behave in such a way? I have never even been to Pakistan! Maybe it is like the hate you people have for Hindus, even though most of you have never even spoke to one.

I think the only reason for my behaviour was the fact that Pakistanis were "Muslims". I wonder, would I have felt the same way had some other Muslim country, say, Iran or Iraq, been at odds with India? Maybe, maybe not. After all, I know that Pakistanis are no different from the Indian Muslims I see everyday. In fact, once upon a time, we were one. Pakis I felt were my "brothers". This was all about love, then where is the hate?

Actually I have always hated the existence of Pakistan. Pakistan, I feel, should never have been created. The idea was basically mooted by those who felt that Hindus and Muslims could not live together; not me, I don't feel that way at all. I have always loved the sight of a United India, before 1947. Look at the maps of India and Pakistan now. This was the land over which the Mughals, Muslims, ruled for centuries.

When it was finally divided what did Muslims get? Only one-fourth, while the Hindus got three-fourths. Why did Jinnah settle for this pittance? If there had to be a partition, at least it should have been done with some justice. So now we had a huge undivided India, with two small muslim states on either side.

As for Jinnah's two-nation theory, that fell flat on its face. It was the Bangladeshis who asked for independance. India only helped them gain it, especially since it served their purpose well! So now we have a totally weak Bangladesh (seems like God doesn't like it either), and a small Pakistan, all parts of which are accessible to Indian missiles and warplanes. A small Pakistan that has to live forever in mortal fear of its big neighbour. A small Pakistan that I doubt can ever win a war. Before partition there were other Muslim majority areas as well, such as Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. We, as Muslims, lost them all. Your "Quaid-E-Azam" divided Muslims between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

The real time to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all was in 1947-48. It is useless to talk about freedom now. We are now 150 million Muslims living in India, the largest minority of Muslims anywhere in the world. Fifteen percent of the population. Had Pakistan and Bangladesh remained united this percentage would have been much much higher. Do you really think there could have been any danger of a "Hindu takeover"? Of course you do! But if I know Muslims, the Hindus would have had much more to be afraid of. A united India would have been a superpower by now; But that wasn't destined to be. So now we are left hanging, without any leadership, between the devil and the deep blue sea! A Muslim Pakistan that doesn't care a damn for us and a Hindu majority India, in which we are a minority. I feel like a bloody orphan!!

I had asked my parents about the war of 1971. They were in Bombay during that time, all that happened were a few blackouts, that was all! They weren't even affected by the war, and they lived in the most important city of India! If nothing could happen to Bombay, what could happen to Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore, etc?

When I read your accounts of the war I was really moved. You must have realised it then, and I have realised it now.... that war is useless, needless and destructive. As long as India and Pakistan are friendly, all is well. But when they go to war, everything changes. Indians Muslims are suddenly looked upon as Pakistanis. Some of them may even feel like that themselves, and who knows... maybe myself.. I do not even know myself! That is why I shudder to think about war. It should never happen. In case war does break out and Bombay is bombed, do u think the Pakistanis will be selective of their targets? Will they care whether they are killing Hindus or Muslims? I don't think so. They wouldn't give a damn, as long as those who die are Indians. So why should I support Pakistan anyway? Those who support Pakistan should go live in Pakistan!

You know zeej, the real loyalty towards one's motherland doesn't come from fighting and dying for it, rather it comes from within. If any foreigner speaks badly of India I immediately want to defend it; make excuses for its actions, even if they are right. I do this automatically. I don't force myself to do it. That is why I am always speaking well of India in front of Pakistanis. Somehow, with Pakistanis I feel more of an Indian than with anyone else; and it is not an external facade of loyalty that I put up in front of you all. The external facade is for the Hindus. With foreigners I really do feel like an Indian, and am even proud to be one! I dunno, but one thing I do know and that is, I would never like to be called a Pakistani, ever. Only India and Indian for me, I don't even like Hindustan, it is "Oh Darling yeh hai India!" for me.

When my brother had gone for Hajj last year, he met some Pathans who asked him the trangest questions. He came away feeling that Pathans and Sardarjis were very much alike! They asked: "Are you allowed to carry guns?", "Are you allowed to pray?", "Is there a 'huqumat' in India?" etc. etc. Let me tell you this, Muslims in India have no less freedom then Muslims in Pakistan. We are \\*not\\* oppressed like Muslims are in Israel. Provoked? Yes. Oppressed? No.

And then, who said minorities in Pakistan are the happiest people? We have all heard of what happened to Iqbal Masih, although I'm sure he'll be happier in Germany than he ever was in Pakistan! I have yet to meet an Indian christian with the name "Iqbal". Those who left everything they had and migrated to Pakistan 50 years ago are still referred to as "mohajirs" and treated as second-class citizens.

You know zeej, ever since I was a small child I have always liked to believe ... No.. I have always KNOWN that India is a secular country. That India is \\*not\\* a Hindu country. I always scoffed at those who called India a Hindu country. It always pleased me to know that when India was partitioned Pakistan became a Muslim country while India chose to be a secular country with no official religion. When I was in school and read in the text-books that "India is my country and all Indians, irrespective of their religion, are my brothers and sisters". I really believed in that, I still do. I have never been made to feel like a minority here. Of course, when a person is so used to sleeping on the hard floor he does not know what a soft bed feels like! Since I have always been a "minority" I don't know what it feels like to be in majority. I guess I won't find it too difficult to adjust in the US. Perhaps it was just as well that I was living in Bombay, Ahmedabad has been prone to riots as long as I can remember. I was always proud of the cosmopolitan structure of Bombay. Here it was not unusual for a Hindu to greet a Muslim with an "Assalam-u-alaykum".

The biggest and most powerful dons of India were from Bombay, and were Muslims. There was Karim Lala (his was the Pathan gang), Haji Mastan and of course the Big D, Dawood Ibrahim. Bombay, especially south Bombay (not far from where I live) has a huge population of Muslims. There are some areas like Bhendi Bazar, Dongri, Nagpada, Madanpura, which I am sure are not much different from any place in Pakistan. Only Muslims can be seen all around. I suppose a certain degree of ghettoism occurs among all minorities, but Muslims in Bombay are quite powerful and well-mixed with the majority. The area where I live has many Muslims, too. I went to a Jesuit school )St. Mary's High School) where half the students and teachers were Muslims. Due to all these reasons I have never felt like a minority and had no reason to hate the Hindus.

Then in 1989 riots broke out (once again) in Ahmedabad. It was a consequence of L.K. Advani's "Rath-yatra". These riots were different. For the first time we were affected; my family, I mean. You remember, I told you about my mom's eldest brother? The one whose son was murdered? He had two sons, Anees and Umar. Umar was not yet born, when his father died. He was the best guy I have ever known. If there is any definition for innocent, it was Umar. He was the most pious amongst all my cousins, and never did I hear a bad word from him about anyone. Well, on that fateful day in June 1989 his house was attacked by a mob. There were women in the house who needed to be protected. Anees and Umar saw that the people attacking their house were no other than the people whom they knew as their neighbours, friends with whom they had played cricket.

They decided that the only way to protect the women-folk was to go out and try to reason with them, and if that failed, to fight it out. They did go out. Anees was badly injured, but survived. And umar ..... he was burnt to death. His body thrown into a gutter. He was 18.

I guess I'll continue this letter later.

Well, from that day onwards, my whole family (including myself) became blatantly anti-Hindu. It was always "us" and "them". We hated them, and the police too, who had failed to gather any evidence. The killers got off scot-free. In any riots that followed it was always how many Hindus died? compared to how many Muslims died. More dead Hindus was always more satisfying. In my eyes they were all killers, deserving to die.

Then came 6th December 1992. The Muslims of India got the rudest shock. The Babri Masjid was demolished. It was the greatest betrayal. The congress government was in power. The congress that had always been a friend of the Muslims had failed to protect a structure. How would it protect the muslims? I cried that day. I heard everyone say the same thing, again and again, that India was no longer a secular country. India was a \\*Hindu\\* country, now.

The very next day the Muslims of Bombay revolted. It was the only outlet under the extreme provocation we had been subjected to. Dozens of policemen were killed and scores of Hindu shops in Muslim areas were burned and destroyed. The police reacted in the only way it can, shooting people as it willed. Those who fell to their bullets were not only rioters; there were pregnant women, women hanging clothes in the balcony, small chidren and imams of mosques. All innocent people. In a week the riots of Bombay had abated, but they started in Surat. The Muslims in Surat are not as strong as in Bombay. They couldn't even fight back. Hundreds were killed by murderous mobs, in the most horrible ways. Women were raped, and it was all videotaped. Reading about it in the newspapers, to me the Hindus represented a race worse than animals.

Exactly a month after December 6th., on January 7th. 1993, riots started in Bombay once again. The worst in its' history. Muslims were angry because of Surat. Hindus were angry because of the earlier riots. There was too much hatred on both sides. It lasted for a week. You have been through war zeej, but have you ever known what it is like to be in the middle of a battle-field?

That's exactly like how it was here. I used to go home (on the 18th floor) only once in a while. To show my face or see if there was anything to eat. The rest of the time was spent on the grounds with the other youths of the building. We were worried. What if we were attacked? Such a tall building would go up in flames in no time at all, a virtual death trap for everyone inside!

Though the much awaited, the attack never took place, we were totally prepared for anything. At night the sky over Bombay would seem to be glowing with light. From the terrace of the building it seemed as if the whole of Bombay was burning. There were huge fires here and there. Hindu places being burned in Muslim areas, and vice versa. The crack of bullets being fired would continue unabated throughout the night. Then after 7 days things seemed to quieten down a little. People started venturing out of their houses. My dad went out too. Why? I dunno. My mom tried to stop him, but he went. He was attacked by some Hindus. The police, standing a mere 50 meters away were mute observers. It was a Sikh soldier who finally took him to the hospital. He suffered fractures in the head and hands, but he was all-right. Anyway, that made me despise the police even more. They are disgusting people and I hate them.

Anyway, after the riots, the Hindus referred to them with pride; as if it was some kind of a "victory". Two months later Ramzan began. It was March 12th, the last friday of Ramzan, Alvida Jumma, I was in the mosque and soon after the prayers ended, I heard a loud noise. I casually walked out and asked what had happened. Someone said that a bomb had exploded in the stock-exchange. I walked a little further and came to Bombay hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Bombay. The flow of the dead and injured had just started. The injured were taken straight in. But there was no place for the dead, they were left at the gates for the time being. There was blood everywhere.. streams of blood.. and I saw it all with my own eyes. One body that was brought in was burnt black, and completely naked except for a leather belt around his waist. That was the only apparel that did not evaporate due to the heat of the blast. As I headed home I saw a little child in the arms of his father, blood streaming down their faces. Then there was another loud bang. That was the Air India building basement blowing up. I reached home and was in the middle of telling my story to my family, when there was another \\*really\\* loud explosion.

That was a crowded bus blowing up near Worli. In all there were more than 10 blasts within two hours, coinciding with the Jumma prayers. In all, 400 people died. Not a single Muslim died. It was the worst urban terrorist strike in history. It was like 'manaa' to our injured psyche. There was no more talk about the "victory of riots" and "teaching 'them' (us) a lesson". They knew now that Muslims couldn't be messed with!

Although the blasts were very satisfying, all the gory scenes I saw DID leave an impression on me. Those that died were probably as innocent as the Muslims who were killed earlier. If the Hindus decided to retaliate, it would go on and on forever. Having stared at death and violence in the face, my thirst for blood was quenched. I realised that mindless and senseless killing did not serve anybodys' purpose. A few weeks later a Hindu professor who had heard of the incident regarding my father, talked to me about it. He said that neither Hinduism nor Islam preached hatred, bigotry and killing. Those who did such deeds were neither Hindus nor Muslims. They were simply insane people who got a rush from seeing others die and see their properties destroyed. Such people he said, were used as puppets by politicians, to serve their own purpose. Politicians, whose only job is to change names of places, place wreaths on people long dead and consolidate their vote-banks. They are useless, worthless, corrupt people, with loose morals. I hate politicians! (Oh allright, for you zeej, just for You, I'll change that to \\*indian\\* politicians!) As for the Hindus, we must remember that the Taliban claim to follow Islam. So are ALL Muslims like the Taliban? I think NOT!

Anyway, all this did a lot to assuage my feelings; and time being the greatest healer, soon every thing was forgotten and forgiven; but the Congress was completely routed in the next elections. We could tolerate direct animosity, but stabbing in the back and all their pseudo talk about secularism we could not!

So you see, choccy wasn't always gentle and harmless. He has had his moments of insanity too! But you will have to agree that they were under extreme provocation and duress and he is normal now, and intends to stay that way. I wouldn't have been so graphic in my accounts, but then how else would you have been able to empathize? I'm sure this letter must sound very confusing. But then, I AM confused by the ambivalence of my feelings. I don't think I ever wrote such a long letter before in my whole life. Even that "longest letter" that I wrote is miniscule in comparison to this one, as is YOUR longest letter, for that matter. That letter I wrote in just one sitting within a couple of hours. This one took me 2 days. I would squeeze in an hour or two, now and then.

Well it's Sunday today, and I hope you are having a great time in whichever 'gali' you are in. It's Maghrib and I'm off to pray.

choccy.



Epilogue:

My gentle, good, kind 'choccy' died soon after, in a motor-cycle accident. He died at midnight 14th. August 1997, while the two countries he loved and hated rejoiced.


originally Published on June 29, 2000

QK Archives: The NWFP must get its due!


Published October 2003 for Khyber Mail
The writer is the present Senior Provincial Finance Minister in NWFP.

by Sirajul Haq
Allah Almighty has blessed the NWFP with abundant natural resources. Our snow-covered mountains, gushing streams, rivers, precious mineral wealth, fertile lands and hardworking manpower all constitute a big resource potential in this geo-politically important region. But, unfortunately, no comprehensive planning was done in the past to utilise these resources in an efficient manner, with least concern shown towards ameliorating the lot of the poor masses and removing the immense backwardness prevalent here in this province. All past governments worked on ad hoc basis to achieve political dividends and to further self-interest, while those working with sincerity were obstructed and discouraged. This is the very reason that this province is languishing under ever-increasing poverty and backwardness.

It does not mean other provinces enjoy riches and development. It is a glaring fact that millions of poor have to sleep hungry every second night in parts of the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. As a JI activist, I visited every nook and corner of the country and witnessed people longing for even basic facilities like potable water and medical care. However, the fresh official surveys have shown that the NWFP is far ahead of other provinces in poverty and unemployment. The MMA government was faced with enormous challenges including a deteriorating economy when it came into power in the NWFP.



It is astonishing that despite all its resources having duly exploited by the Centre, every provincial government has to seek funds from the federal government every year even for its routine expenditures. Presently, we have to rely on the Centre for our 90 per cent revenues. Hydle power generation and tobacco crop are our two main cash earning resources. But since the federal government controls both these resources, we have to wait for the payment of our share of profit in this respect. Though our Constitution has very clearly defined the rights of the provinces and responsibilities of the Centre, the latter is continuously - and intentionally - ignoring the implementation on its own decisions.

A clear example is that of hydle net profit. The Constitution has bestowed right of hydle net profit to the province where hydle power is generated but despite this vivid explanation, the NWFP could not receive its due share of hydle net profit since the promulgation of this law in statute. The AGN Qazi Committee has also conceded this right of the NWFP constituted under the NFC recommendations in 1990. This decision of the AGN Qazi Committee was even guaranteed by the president but unfortunately WAPDA is continuously violating this decision and the well-accepted Qazi formula is intentionally kept in cold storage. WAPDA is even intransigently delaying payment of outstanding hydle net profit dues of the NWFP which have now reached up to the tune of Rs. 309 billion. Interestingly but regrettably WAPDA has adopted its own derived modus ope***** since 1993 wherein NWFP is paid Rs. 6 billion annually which is sheer violation of the set provisions and rules under the Qazi formula as well as the Constitution. In such challenging circumstances when many national and international bodies have officially declared the NWFP leading every other province in terms of poverty and backwardness, where there is reign of joblessness and frustration among the youth despite the province’s geo-strategic importance in the entire region, the Centre is duty bound not to become hurdle in providing due rights to this poverty-stricken province, especially in respect of hydle net profit and tobacco crop earnings being its only and lion share of income. This just and generous step on the part of the federal government would certainly contribute in strengthening the economy of the province up to some extent; its people’s sense of deprivation will be removed considerably and the province will thus be able to march ahead on the road to progress and prosperity side by side with other developed parts of the country. As far as the MMA government is concerned, we have voiced our demand for our genuine rights at every forum. Responsible people right from the president and the prime minister to the federal finance and power ministers were approached. The NWFP Assembly has diverted attention of the Centre towards this important and crucial issue through passing a joint resolution unanimously as well as all MPAs from the treasury and opposition benches staged a joint walkout from the assembly to record their immense feelings. Immediately after presenting the provincial budget we summoned a meeting of all provincial finance ministers in Peshawar to discuss the issues. As a result of deliberations, a working group has been constituted to contact all provincial finance ministers and authorities and muster their support for using their offices to let the NWFP get its due rights. I myself spared no efforts to raise the matter at every forum to enable our province to get its just and constitutional rights. I wrote articles, columns in the press and compelled other columnists and journalists to play their role for such a great cause. But unfortunately the Centre has not budged. Yet owing to its ground-less intransigence, August 31, 2003, became a memorable day in the Frontier’s history as the MNAs and Senators belonging to the NWFP, as well as the parliamentary party leaders of the NWFP Assembly, irrespective of their political affiliations, assembled on a single platform in Peshawar to discuss the hydle net profit issue and other problems faced by this province on the invitation of the MMA government. It is indeed a matter of great honour and satisfaction that my invitation was not only whole-heartedly accepted by the majority of the parliament members but also the MPs and central and provincial leaders of various political parties attended this grand meeting, irrespective of their political differences with the provincial government. I am especially thankful to Qazi Hussein Ahmad, Senator Asfandyar Wali Khan, central president ANP, Senator Farhatullah Babar (PPP-Parliamentarians), Abdul Akbar Khan (PPP-P), Bashir Ahmad Bilour (ANP), Anwar Kamal Khan Marwat (PML-N) and Mian Nisar Gul (Tehrik-e-Insaf). This has of course encouraged the provincial government to go ahead in its effort to get its due rights. A joint declaration was also adopted in the meeting in this regard. The Centre has therefore no other option but to give us our due rights; it must immediately release hydel arrears of Rs. 209 billion to enable the NWFP to stand on its own feet. Immediate commencement of the NFC Award meeting is also the need of the hour to discuss our due rights and other financial problems. The Centre should discharge its constitutional obligations in letter and spirit to give people of all provinces the feeling that their rights are not jeopardised.


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QK Archives: Qissa Khwani’s tale of tear and blood



Qissa Khwani’s tale of tear and blood
Published 2002 statesman
Peshawar Pakistan

By Kazi Sarwar

History bears testimony to the undeniable fact that the valiant people of North West FrontierProvince, had stood as the undaunted vanguard of freedom struggle in the face of British incursionto the west of the Indus Bridge which saw so much action, bloodshed, gallantry devotion, enduranceand heart-warming tales of courage, faith and determination.With the passage of time, late in the twenties, the unceremonial exit of Ghazi Amanullah Khan fromthe seat of power in Kabul proved to be an event of far-reaching consequence that pleased theBritish. They felt, that things were going on well and all was queit on the western front. But theanalysis drawn was our unrealistic reading of the situation obtainable in NWFP.People's emotions still ran high over the dismemberment of the Ottoman dynasty, the 'Khilafat'Movement followed by 'Hijrat' and to top it, the highly offending denial of the application of theMontage Chelmsford reforms in NWFP, depriving people of elections, formation of legislature andministries, already exercised by provinces in the rest of India. This brought to surface enmity anddeep-rooted prejudice of the Raj Policy vis-à-vis NWFP and its people.It was at this time, that Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan called upon people to rise unitedly to shake off thealien yoke.He toured the area extensively, addressing meetings, exhorting his followers to wage a relentlessfreedom struggle.It had an electrifying effect that made the administration nervous and extremely enraged. Large-scale arrests were made, collective fines imposed and long-term jail sentences added fuel to the fireof Civil Disobedience Movement.Days before, events in and around Peshawar were gathering momentum. The population of Peshawar at that time was 80,000. The City was by a wall pierced at intervals by sixteen gates eachwith a history of its own. The main thorough fare-The Qissa Khawani Bazaar, some 820 yards long

and 40-feet wide, ran from the Kabuli or Edwards Gate on the west into the heart of the City. Themilitary strength then in Peshawar comprised British, Sikh, Garhwal units plus the Royal Tank Corpsand the Poona Horse. From these units, a 'City Disturbance Coleman' had been specifically formed.Political unrest grew in strength after the arrest of Bacha Khan and a number of his closecompanions. Two other prominent worker surrendered to the police, were taken to the Kabuli PoliceStation. They while being escorted to the lock-up were welcomed warmly by a large crowedassembled in the vicinity. The escort got panicky and used force to disperse the assembly. The so-farpeaceful crowed got enraged, slashed tyres of the vehicles and made attempts to free the twopolitical workers.The situation deteriorated to such an extent which moved the administration to approach the higherauthorities for speedy control of the situation. The military was requisitioned. Two armoured carsfollowed by soldiers took position near the police station and started firing right, left and centre thatresulted in heavy casualties. Those who survived stood defiantly where they were, and used allavailable means to resist the ruthless onslaught.Meanwhile, a very large number of highly emotional people from other parts of the City and nearbysuburbs joined their comrades. Sensing the situation grave, the Royal Garhwal Rifles was ordered tomove forward and fire. The refusal to kill the slogan-chanting and flag-waiving demonstratorscreated an embarrassing situation.The Rifles was immediately ordered to withdraw from the locality, marched back to its barracks anddisarmed.Later on, the Rifles 'Sardars' (Viceroy Commissioned Officers) were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Their lives were spared because of the Royal Garhwal Rifles outstanding past recordof exemplary courage in the face of much heavy odds both in and outside the country.Some of the 'Sardars' died in jail, while those who survived, were (said to be) rewarded andcompensated after independence by the Indian government.The City Disturbance Column now too took full charge of the fast-deteriorating situation supportedby the armoured cars. The Qissa Khwani, the bazaar of story-tellers since time immemorial, waslittered with blood here, there and everywhere of countless martyred and injured. The City was

occupied after the massacre. The Raj had triumphed over the unarmed people whose only 'fault'was their demand for the release of their two workers, nothing more.The demonstrators could have been dispersed by the police after resorting to baton-charge. But thealien administration's intention was to create fear and intimidation reviving the imperious episodesof Clive and Hosting, Bolton and Caroe; but it was vain for all intents and purposes, since it took afairly long time to restore normalcy.To-day, after a lapse of seventy two (72) years, the fond memory of those whose blood was shed inconfirmation of the noble cause of freedom struggle is ever bright, vivid and inspiringly uplifting.They laid down their lives so as to uphold the honour and dignity of their homeland, that ultimatelybrought them eternal fame and undying glory.

Monday, 7 August 2017

QK Archives: Stereotypes, essentialism and the Pakhtun

Stereotypes, essentialism and the Pakhtun

Published by THE NEWS

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
by Farhat Taj

Stereotype, a politicised myth serving to maintain conventional power relations. becomes dangerous when it is essentialised to a group of people.

Essentialism means that people have an intrinsic “essence-- that is unchangeable--like the “Black soul-- and “Jewish character-- stereotypes in the Western countries in the past. Cunningness and opportunistic handling of money were some of the essentialised aspects of the “Jewish character.-- Blissfully, the West has moved away from the age of those essentiliased stereotypes. No demeaning stereotypes are essentially attributed to the Jews in the West and situation of the Black people in racial terms, though still in need of improvement, is much better than what was a hundred years ago. Recently the US made a giant symbolic step towards racial equality by electing a black man, Barak Obama, as president. Human relations and activities that come under the socio-cultural realm are open to changes in accordance with the changing requirements of time.

In Pakistan the Pakhtun people are the target of essentialised stereotypes at the time when they are also besieged by Al Qaeda. This complicates the problems of militancy.

One of such stereotypes is religious extremism and the robot-like following of the code of Pakhutnwali--i.e., Pakhtun are essentially religious extremists tied up to an inflexible interpretation of the code. There are many people, in Pakistan and abroad, who hold such ideas.

For example, in his article in The News on Nov 25, Khalid Aziz says: “The problem is that the Pakhtun is prone to religious extremism and readily accepts membership into millenarian movements to resist reform of a centralising state which externalises Pakhtun governance and politics; he cannot live with the transfer of his management to a larger entity like a modernising state. This is because he fears that his social conduct, 'Pakhtunwali,' will be endangered and he will lose his identity. For a Pakhtun, whether he is supporting Mullah Omar in Afghanistan, Fazalullah in Swat, Maulvi Faqir in Bajaur or Baitullah in Waziristan --he is fighting a war to preserve his identity.--

This statement is not true in terms of history and the current realities of the Pakhtun and is problematic in terms of some of the established notions of social science.

The Pakhtun who have had exposure to education and modernity have been integrating themselves in the structure of the modernising state. For example, the Pakhtun are the second-largest ethnic group in Pakistani army. The Pakhtun soldiers' and officers' adherence to the professional discipline of Pakistan army is at par with their Punjabi colleagues. I never heard of Pakhtun of the army abandoning its standard for the sake of Pakhtunwali.

In this regard the case of FC soldiers, who are drawn from the Pakhtun tribes, is especially remarkable and commendable. Today they have been ordered by their commanders to fight within their own areas with their fellow tribesmen. Except for isolated cases of desertions, which may occur even in a professional army, the FC soldiers are up holding the standard of the army.

The most famous resistance movement among the Pakhtun is the non-violent and secular nationalist movement of Khan Ghaffar Khan against British colonialism. Ghaffar Khan was not a religious leader, but take the clock back to any day before the Afghan jihad and you will see that Ghaffar Khan was the only resistance leader known to all Pakhtun, whether in the NWFP, FATA, Balochistan or Afghanistan.

Fazalullah in Swat, Maulvi Faqir in Bajaur or Baitullah in Waziristan may justify their militancy in whatever terms they like, be it Islam or Pakhtun identity, the fact remains they do not represent Pakhtuns even in their own areas, which they rule like mafia groups. They are leaders of murderous gangs, which are composed of not just Pakhtuns but like-minded Punjabis, Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajik and others. They are the product of the jihad and of the wilful underdevelopment that have been imposed on FATA for decades. As for Mullah Omar, all the Pakhtun Afghans I know personally see him as no more than an ISI puppet.

Neither religious militancy nor the code of Pakhtunwali is genetic construction. They exist in the socio-cultural realm. Social scientists all over the world have established that socio-cultural realms are flexible and adoptable and change with the march of time. Thus the Pakhtun who have integrated themselves in the state structure of Pakistan do not claim to have given up the code of Pakhtunwali. They just interpret it in such a way that it becomes compatible with their integration. Unlike the British Empire most tribal people had never been hostile towards Pakistan. They happily availed whatever little opportunities were offered to them in the state structure, like the armed forces and civil services.

Why, then, does the socio-cultural realm of the tribal areas seem so frozen in the? The key reason is that Pakistan never sincerely tried to integrate the tribal people in full citizenship, and during the Afghan jihad the area, its culture and people were “gifted-- on a silver plate to the jihadis from all over the world, who stifled most of the process of a natural socio-cultural change in the tribal area.

Minus the tribal vested interests, who feed on the system of the political agent and the FCR, most tribal people, especially the poor, will be happy if integrated in full citizenship of Pakistan. I know this because of my many discussions with the tribal people, especially the poor and illiterate, and women. Each one of them asked for structures of modern economy and modern educational institutions for girls and boys. I asked each of them if you want modern education for both girls and boys a social change will definitely come. Everyone explained in detail how they would welcome the change. I can put their arguments in one sentence: that they are open to any social changes that may be needed for a dignified living in the globalised world of today. A young mother of four little orphaned children, including three girls, has this message for the American: “Please do not bomb us. Come and build hospitals and educational intuitions of all kinds for our daughters and sons.-- Her husband was killed by the Taliban.

The tribesmen and -women of Waziristan told me how happy they were when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as prime minister of Pakistan, reached out to them and promised development of Waziristan. They said that even to this date they thankfully remember him in their prayers for establishing the cadet college at Miranshah in North Waziristan.

I argue that the Pakhtun are no more prone to religious extremism than people in any other Muslim society. I have the pleasure of looking at the Muslim majority of Bosnia in Europe. Bosnian society is secular by practice, and Muslim only by tradition. There are extremist Muslims in Bosnia as well, although they seem to be a tiny minority in this beautiful country. They are called “Wahhabis-- in Bosnia. The origin of the “Wahhabis-- lies with the arrival of alien jIhadis in Boasina in the 1990s when there was a war in the country. I also met a Pakistani jihadi in Bosnia--he was from Punjab. Thus, even a thoroughly secular Muslim society like Bosnia can also produce religious extremists if conditions conducive for the growth of the extremism are provided. The same is the story of our tribal belt. Remove the jihadi milieu and infrastructure from the tribal area, and the society will become a normal Pakhtun society, open to gradual social changes in accordance with established notions of social science.

What we see in the tribal areas is a dynamic product of many variables, like the international jihadi infrastructure, underdevelopment, unemployment, criminal gangs joining the Taliban, sectarian groups from across Pakistan joining the Taliban, intervention of the foreign secret agencies. In such a dynamic situation if we essentialise anything, including the Pakhtunwali code essentially tied up to the religious extremists, I am afraid we will misunderstand the anatomy of the dynamics. This will stop us from reaching the right solutions to the problem of the tribal area.

I have deep respect for Kahlid Aziz. He is an intelligent person of high repute. I always learn something new in his research reports on the tribal area. I will, however, request him to be a more critical in dealing with the essentialised stereotypes about the Pakhtun.



The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo. Email: bergen34@yahoo.com


Khyber Mai: The JUI Mullah and the Pakhtun

The Mullah and the Pakhtun
Originally published by The NEWS 2 July 2017

By Zalan Khan
 
“How can I lend the Mullah my ear and forget the lark and the bulbul?"
 - Ghani Khan
 
This irreverent comment in a way was an apt description of a time long since gone in Pakistan's Pashtun belt. A time when the religious and religo-political party's were seen as political and social inferiors. This three part series will look at a history of the Pashtun relationship with the Mullah and complex relationship with the Deoband. It will look at how the new Pakistani state, in a desire to create a new identity formed alliances with the weaker JUI and its affiliates. This alliance would transform Pashtun society forever.

For centuries the Pashtuns most famed cultural trait was their code of chivalry. So Pakhtunwali writers like Rajwali Khattak was divided into some key attributes and several main domains. The attributes are derived from the word Pashtun itself, which is said to originate from the letters pey for Pat, which means honour, Sheen which means doing good to others or the needy, Tey for Toora, which literally means sword and bravery, Waw for Wafa, which means loyalty, Noon for Nang which means honour.

The main domains being Nang or honour, Sharam (shame), Peghore (taunt), melmastia (hospitality), nanawati (sanctuary for an enemy) and Badal (revenge). While Islamic religiosity was not included in this code it was seen by some scholars as interchangeable with Islam, while others feel the two are quite separate. This code was associated with a class system led by tribal leaders whose power depended on wealth but was relatively egalitarian. While not empowering to women by any modern definition, it did provide women a level of protection that allowed them to work in certain areas unhindered. Along with this was a rich culture of literature, poetry and dance in the form of the Attan.

In terms of social hierarchy, the Mullah was considered lower down the class system. They were often the source of ridicule or contempt in Pashto poetry and literature. While people's emotions could be influenced and at times erupt in outbursts of religious fervour. The austereness of the Deobandi sect had some appeal to the Sunni Pashtun but at the same time they also remained fascinated with religious mysticism.
 
The Mullah was also often termed the social inferior in general talk, but this class based dislike did not mean they could always control the religious leader. So for every Pir Roshan and Khushhal Khan Khattak, there was the initial appeal of Syed Ahmad Barelvi and the "Mad Faqir" or Sartor Faqir of Malakand. These brief episodes, were when charismatic men broke through the traditional religious and class hierarchy to rally people to fight and die for their cause against an external threat. This threat could range from fellow the Mughals, Safavid Persians, Sikhs and eventually the British. These rallying events would upturn the regional order before events would return to the old routine.

 
Following partition in 1947, the Pashtuns of the new state were in a unique situation. They were the only ethnic group in the new country to be divided into three clear parts. The main part in the North-West Frontier Province, the other in Baluchistan and the third FATA cut off from the rest of the country while ruled under the Frontier Crimes Regulations.
 
Around this time and the beginning of electoral politics in 1936 the dominant politics of K-P and Pashtun areas of Balochistan and the Tribal areas by the early 1940s, was driven by the reformist ethnic nationalism of the Khudai Khidmatgar and the Anjuman-i-Watan in competition against the weaker conservative local elite represented by landlords and tribal leaders.


The modern day JUI was a pre partition party that broke away from the parent JUH in 1946. The party's origins start with its Islamic return to orthodoxy message attributed to Shah Waliullah and his successors. It would provide a platform for opposition to the British Raj and would also be closely affiliated with the Congress and its non-violence movements against the British. They had allied with the Congress in the 1946 provincial elections. This victory proved short lived as it was followed by the 1947 referendum. The Muslim League had traditionally struggled in this region, tailored its appeal to religious appeals through people like the Pir of Manki Sharif.

The new ideological Pakistani state in its first fifteen years looked at the few opposition party's through a ideological prism of their lack of support for the idea of Pakistan. So both the Congress successors and the JUI leadership was considered suspect. But by the 1960s and with the economic boom of that era, state started to give space to Mufti Mahmud and his compatriots in exchange for support. This was reflected in Mufti Mahmuds decision not to support the candidacy of Fatima Jinnah. While religious precedent was cited as a reason, this was not sufficient reason for fellow religo-political Party the JI.
 
In 1962, Mufti Mahmud took over the leadership of the party after the death of the party leader. It would prove an opportune time to be party leader, especially in his home province.
 
By the 1960s it was clear there that the Muslim League had made clear inroads into the Pashtun parts of the province. Its main competition was the Pashtun nationalist bloc that would later coalesce under the banner of the National Awami Party banner.

 
The JUI in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in particular shared many traits of the Pashtun nationalists, they were both pre-partition party's, both with strong anti colonial traditions and had been allies with the Indian National Congress. Where now they took diverging paths as the JUI was free to operate unencumbered unlike their former allies. It's leadership had already seen its influence rise and could see the advantage of exploiting religious sentiment. It would have an opportunity to test this power in the 1970 elections.
 
 




 
Opponents but never enemies
 
By Zalan Khan
 
 
It issued said that once a puzzled JUI leader Mufti Mahmud asked why Wali Khan was so generous to his rival Zulfiqar Bhutto in constitutional discussions. To which Wali Khan is said to have explained  "we are opponents and not enemies."  

The veracity of the story notwithstanding, perhaps it was this story that would influence the JUI of Mufti Mahmud. For the next three decades its relationship with the Pakistani state would be defined by a competitive, occasionally at cross purposes but not a adversarial relationship. It was in this post 1970 era that the ideological test of party's now excluded the religo-political party's.
 
So by the 1970 election the JUI while not being the clear favourite party, tapped into the same sentiments that worked so well in the 1946 elections and in the early 1950s disturbances in Punjab. Examples of this was voters were be told to vote for the 'book' implying that the party symbol was a vote for Islam. Other campaign tactics were more brazen, stating that the votes cast were being counted in heaven.

The end result was successful, while the largest number of was won by the PML of Qayyum Khan it polled 22.6 % of the votes compared to the JUI's 25.4% and the National Awami Party's 18.4%.
 
It's appeal was religious and did crossover into Punjab  where it won 2 provincial seats compared to 4 in KP and three in Balochistan. But the Pashtuns of FATA remained cut of from this dynamic because of the Frontier Crimes Regulations.
 
An even bigger victory for Mufti Mahmud was his defeat of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in his home seat of D.I Khan. It would be here where the National Awami Party in a desire to deny arch rival Qayyum Khan from the Chief Ministry, they supported Mufti to become the first religious leader Chief Minister of the province. The once despised "Mullah" had by a twist of fate become a force to reckon with.
 
Two events would follow this, as the NAP-JUI alliance solidified as the coalition agreed to a raft of conservative measures in the province but also declared Urdu and not Pashto the provincial language of the province. The NDP, successor to the NAP, would come to the weary conclusion after four decades of relentless crackdowns and persecution that it was best to play by the states rule back.

This alliance would also weaken the linguistic linkages of language across the Pashtun belt from Peshawar to Quetta and Attock to Landi Kotal. Within a generation, written Pashto would only be widely taught in Deobandi Madrassahs.
 
Despite these breakthroughs it would take an event of global magnitude to breakdown those centuries old social barriers. Also known as, " Brezhenevs Christmas present", on 24th of December 1979 when the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan. This era of militarisation would flood the region with small arms and with K-P having, by conservative estimates, 7 million firearms.

Post Afghan war the growth in the Madrassah network also proved phenomenal. Although Deobandis only accounted around 25 % of Muslims they accounted for over 60%!of the growth. At time of independence there were about 250 madrasahs. Their number grew from around 900 in 1971 to over 8000 official ones and another 25,000 unofficial ones in 1988. With the highest percentage of total enrolled students studying in Madrassahs being from Pashtun dominated districts.

This was complemented by the large scale export of Pakistanis to work in the Gulf. The overall numbers of remittances went from $136 million in 1973 per annum to $6.45 billion in 2008. After 1980, Saudi Arabia's share in this was as high as half , with some recent estimates recently suggesting 30 per cent of which went to K-P. If this was not enough. There was the multi billion dollars worth of foreign aid during the Afghan war and the corrupting influence of billions of dollars generated by the drug trade.

Despite all this the JUI failed to capitalism se n any major electoral breakthroughs in the 1988-1997 period. In both K-P and Balochistan it was on average polling between 10-20 % of the vote. While its vote rapidly declined in Punjab and Sindh in the same period. In the Pashtun belt the vote tended to be higher in the range for NA seats over provincial seats. This reflected the voters, the Deobandi trained politicians led now by Mufti Mahmuds soon Maulana Fazlur Rehman, preference to vote for them on national politics but did not see them fit to solve their day to day issues. Even this had caveats when after an electoral rout in 1997, after being hit by allegations regarding diesel permits being sold out to the highest bidder while chair of the Kashmir committee the JUI-F leader was defeated and the party only polled 7% of the K-P vote.

Despite this, the JUI influence transcended simple electoral politics. It proved especially useful in alliance with the PPP in the mid 1990s by mobilising Madrassah students for the Taliban. It had developed strong trans Durand line networks and its impact on the broader Pashtun society was becoming more noticeable. The Deoband associated tabligh movement became heavily dominated by Pashtuns and broader social conservatism was taking hold. In the eyes of many at the time, this was another one of those periodic outbursts in Pashtun history. The old class and tribal system was shaken but not overturned and still saw the political Mullahs as mostly rural, occasionally useful but not fit for real power.





 Part 3

Makh ke sha!

By Zalan Khan

Not so long ago, a new leader started rapidly rise through the ranks of JUI. This clean shaven had ruthlessly risen up the ranks.

It is said his father was especially proud of his sons new found wealth and status. He returned to a local bazaar where many years back he was hurried away with shouts "makh ke sha " (Pashto: move ahead) at sight of him. He looked around and said, proudly, to someone "look at them, I've gone on so far ahead, they can't even see me!"

Events had dramatically turned by 2001, when he was one of the first politicians Pervaiz Musharraf would meet. Post 9/11, and despite leading aggressive protests against Pakistan's siding with the U.S, this new religo-political alliance was treated with kid gloves by the government. The MMA did not return the favour, taking advantage of a divided opposition. Pervaiz Musharraf had either intentionally created the ideal situation for the MMA. The Muslim League vote, and the MMAs main threat in southern K-P, was divided between the PML-Q and PML-N, the PPP in K-P had been split between Aftab Sherpao and the main PPP, the ANP was no better split between the ANP and the Ajmal Khattak led National Awami Party of Pakistan. If this was not enough both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif were in exile and unable to campaign in the province. This was on top of a condition that all candidates must be graduates, disqualifying several strong candidates.

The MMA campaigned aggressively and in a move reminiscent of the 1970s election skilfully exploited voters emotions but this time against the Military government. The ideological purity tests of the 1950s till 1980s were now being applied by the JUI allies, under the MMA banner, on the state itself, The Q in the PML-Quaid, voters were told was Kaaf for Kafir, the MMA election symbol book, was again overtly implied to be the Holy Book. A vote against the book would be a vote against faith. Unsurprisingly the MMA swept the Pashtun belt from Dir to Quetta. While it did attract a significant number of voters from elsewhere. There was no doubt that a significant percentage of the 3.1 million votes cast nationally and a staggering 43% of K-P votes for the MMA were Pashtuns.

The election marked a major real from the past. Most candidates were newcomers, the choice of Chief Minister was Akram Durrani who was not your typical ulema by any stretch. Nationally they claimed the leader of opposition post. The party's agenda was one of aggressive “Islamisation this would range from aggressive anti Americanism, denial of the rapid growth of and collusion with militant groups. This was in addition to a legislative agenda that included Hasba bills to a retreat on women's empowerment and promotion of interest free banking.

Many of these changes, side by side with anti Americanism were initially popular in a society. It also mainstreamed their image in the voters eyes. With the disintegration of the PML the JUI-F was now the acceptable choice for many old influentials and a new generation of politicians. This ranged from the old Khattak's of Karak to the Zaman of Haripur to the new wealth of Azam Swatis and Ghulam Ali's. This extended to the national sphere where Maulana Fazlur Rehman was the leader of opposition supported by the PML-N. Maulana Fazls politics was overtly ambitious. He saw himself as entirely suitable to be Prime Minister and as leader of opposition would effortlessly hold anti government rallies while keeping communication lines open with Pervaiz Musharraf.

However, things were rapidly changing on the ground, as a wave of heavy violence
hit K-P and FATA. This was combined by the opportunistic support the JUI-F provided PML-Q triggering the collapse of the MMA and the 2008 election defeat.

This period from 2004-2012 was marked by introspection within the JUI-F ranks and in Pashtun society. Scholars like the late Dr. Farooq Khan and Ulema like Maulana Hasan Jan pushed back against growing radicalisation both of whom were assassinated. The failure to push back in time meant the new voters looked for an alternative.

On the 11th of May 2013, a tsunami of new PTI voters nearly overwhelmed the Maulana. He had on two occasions been within inches of being Prime Minister of Pakistan. Unfortunately for him, he had to come to grasp with a new reality. Through social mobility and greater awareness, he could no longer rely on his religious status and networks to ensure electoral success. He had for the first time in Imran Khan found an opponent who could challenge him in his home seat and was immune to attacks on character.

The period of 2013 to 2017 has been one of a realignment by Maulana Fazl. He reached out to protect the ANP. He then built fences with the PMLN and look prepared to contest the next election jointly. At a societal level, the JUIs networks within Pashtun society remain strong. As it showed in its ability to mobilise people at its centenary celebrations. The party now has members coming from the middle class and elites that a generation prior would have looked down on them.


It's religious teachings as seen in madrassahs and tablighi events across the country are dominated by Pashtuns. It blends elements of Pashtun identity under the umbrella of the deobandi sect. And yet despite these successes, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the JUI from 1993-2013, have also inadvertently created a vulnerability. If the Mullah is mainstream, electable and capable of becoming the elite then perhaps he is also capable of becoming unelectable and despised too.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

PTI: from movement to Party

PTI: from movement to party
Apr 8 2012
The writer is the founder of Qissa-khwani.com

What was the most striking feature of the PTI’s March 23 Lahore rally? It was not necessarily the turnout nor was it the enthusiasm of the crowd nor was it what Imran Khan did or did not say.

If anything, the PTI’s second big Lahore rally showed an organisational ability that the party lacked before. It showed the party had broken away from being a one-man show to having a structure independent of the party leader. More importantly, it has become only the second political party after the PML-N to achieve mass appeal in post-1972 Pakistan.

To understand this perspective, we have to remember the most persistent criticism of the party was that it was essentially a ‘fan club’ and that supporters would only turn up to see the star and not vote for him. Despite this, it is often easy to forget where the party started from and how it has reached where it stands today.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf story begins in popular imagination with something as simple as a newspaper column. The first inkling of Imran Khan’s interest in politics begins with newspaper columns he wrote in the mid-1990s. The columns focused on the dismal state of affairs in the country and the ‘brown sahib’ culture, as well as Islam and people voting with their feet. There was also a scandal – unexplained to this day – of the role of Hamid Gul in the party’s formation.

Pundits at the time noted the similarity with the launch of another tehrik in the past. Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan (who along with Sherbaz Mazari was cited at one time by Imran Khan as political ideals) had done something similar in the 1960s before launching his originally named Justice Party which eventually became the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal .

In 1996, Imran Khan launched his party from Lahore, but before it could find its feet Benazir Bhutto’s government was dismissed and elections were held. The party narrative was simple: ‘anti-corruption’. It was memorably explained to a group of lawyers in 1997 when Imran was allegedly asked how he would sort out corruption. He reportedly said it would stop after he hanged the corrupt. It was this and his subsequent appreciation for speedy justice via jirgas that would shock liberals while earning praise from many in the middle class.

Barely prepared, Imran Khan threw himself into electioneering, contesting from seven seats ranging from Karachi, Dera Ismail Khan (against Maulana Fazlur rehman), Mianwali, Lahore, Abbottabad, Islamabad and Swat.

Attempting to avert a split in the Punjab vote, the PML-N is said to have approached Imran Khan for a seat adjustment and offered 20 seats to his party. When Imran refused to take the bait, the response was swift and brutal with a major smear campaign launched against Imran Khan and his personal life. What little momentum the party had was shattered and the eventual result was a foregone solution.

Nationally polling just over two percent of the vote, the closest anyone from his party came to winning a seat nationally was Imran Khan himself when he polled his best performance in Swat. This seeming greater support from the then-NWFP was to be a sign of future trends in the province towards the PTI.

Attempting to reinvent the party from 1997-1999, a conscious decision was made to draw in electables and old party men with organisational abilities. This meant that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ‘electables’, MPAs like Shehzada Gustasip and Mohsin Ali Khan joined the party on the one hand and on the other the old guard of the PPP like Meraj Muhammad Khan and Rao Rashid. This clash between the induction of ‘electables’ and the old guard triggered the resignation of many of the founding members of the party, including Nasim Zehra and Owais Ghani.

By 2002, Imran Khan and the PTI were facing a greater crisis. Many old PTI members with technocratic skills or electoral potential had through the carrot or the stick defected to the PML-Q. Despite having backed Musharraf in the notorious referendum, Imran Khan had turned down the offer to join Musharraf’s cobbled together national alliance.

Angering Musharraf and his allies, another smear campaign was launched against him by the PML-Q and a determined effort was made to ensure he was defeated in Mianwali. Despite this, Imran Khan managed to win his first national assembly seat from Mianwali and a solitary provincial assembly seat from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The party once again suffered a rout all across the country and its small share of the national vote dropped further.

Imran Khan’s decision to support the joint PML-N – MMA candidate for prime minister Maulana Fazlur Rehman antagonised many of the old liberals in the party and led to many quitting. This alliance with the religio-political forces invoked a level of confusion amongst many of his liberal supporters. A disillusioned Meraj Muhammad Khan quit the party, criticising the ‘fan club’ mentality of many supporters around their leader.

In the period between 2002 and 2005 Imran Khan and his PTI cut a lonely figure in the country, ignored by the major parties and lacking the resources to broaden the party’s base. It was doomed to become a single-seat tonga party of the likes of Asghar Khan’s party or the late Nawabzada Nasrullah’s party.

Fate, however, had something else in store. This was the era of the massive media growth in the country. With Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of the country, getting Imran Khan on a TV show was usually a guaranteed ratings boost. With his long experience of working with the media, he was to become a regular on the talk show circuit and was gradually introduced to another generation of fans.

It was also an opportune time because Musharraf’s alliances with the US and the ‘war on terror’ allowed a new narrative to be built, moving away from corruption alone. The party was seen now as anti-American, anti-drone, anti-corruption particularly appealing to northern Pakistan and the middle class.

Cementing his alliance with the lawyers’ movement, it was this new constituency that subsequently decided to fall on its own sword and boycott an election where opinion polls had it doing well, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Along with other members of the All Pakistan Democratic Movement, he boycotted the 2008 elections and was a bystander as the PPP and PML-N swept into power. Despite this, again with time and luck the party has once again seen opportunity land in its lap. The difference was that this time the actions that followed have left a lasting impression in the public’s mind.

Critics mock the party and its leader for faults perceived and real. The fact is that it has appealed across ethnic and religious lines to the urban voter in particular. It has created a positive precedent by holding intra-party elections and now has a party structure capable of functioning independent of its leader.

Where it lacks is something more systemic. It has shown a tendency to be intolerant to criticism from outsiders, and is often a victim of its own rhetoric as shown by the poor handling of issues like alliances and the inability to reach beyond its core support in northern Pakistan and Karachi. If that obstacle is not overcome, the party’s tsunami may end up as a high tide.

Azam Hoti: The Machiavelli of Mardan

It was in the early years of the Musharraf Government that the elderly Ajmal Khattak, acolyte of Bacha Khan, polymath and former president of the Awami National Party (ANP), sat in a press conference and thundered, “Accountability must be enforced even if it is someone’s brother.” Sitting not far from him was Naseem Wali Khan, provincial president of the ANP and sister to Azam Hoti, the ‘brother’ being referred to. It was an insult that would not be forgiven, and soon enough, Ajmal Khattak was expelled from the party to which he had dedicated his entire life. This story is one of the many that would earn Hoti his reputation. A highly polarising figure, Hoti was to his supporters a loyal Pashtun nationalist who bolstered the party in his home district and helped forge alliances that rehabilitated it. To his many detractors, however, he was one part of the Azam-Naseem duo, an unaccountable and manipulative politician whose only claim to office was family connections. Other than Wali and Asfandyar Khan, the son and grandson of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the ideologue of the party (then known as the National Awami Party – NAP), it is Azam Hoti who has cast a long shadow over its image.


 Hoti’s father, Ameer Muhammad Khan, was a Khudai Khidmatgar (servant of God) and a minor tribal chief from the Hoti area of Mardan. He was also a close companion of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (better known as Bacha Khan) and served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). It was Azam’s father who arranged his daughter Naseem’s marriage to Ghaffar Khan’s widowed son, Wali Khan. It was this marriage that would give his son access to the party rank and file and transform the family’s future. Pakistan’s post-independence era was marked by a brutal crackdown on any expression of Pashtun nationalism. It was in this scenario of the changing nature of Pashtun identity politics and socio-economic dynamics that Azam Hoti joined the Pakistan army. He was commissioned in 1967 and became a captain in the Armoured Corps, serving in the 1971 war between Pakistan and India. His career in the military was cut short due to the increasingly violent rivalry between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the NAP (the successor to the political wing of the Khudai Khidmatgars) which culminated in the infamous ‘Liaquat Bagh’ massacre and resulted in the death of dozens of their activists. Fleeing the crackdown that ensued, Azam Hoti remained in exile in Kabul from 1973 to 1979. It was during this period that he served as salaar (commander) of the Pakhtun Zalmay. By many accounts this was a difficult time for him and he had little by way of financial support. Little of any worth was achieved during his time in exile and he returned to Pakistan as part of an amnesty deal with Zia-ul-Haq. He was awarded a party ticket for the 1988 election, but was defeated by the local PPP candidate. In 1989 the former NAP, now retitled ANP, formed an alliance with the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) of Nawaz Sharif. This proved fortuitous for Azam as many senior leaders quit in protest of the alliance, thereby removing any serious challenges within the party.


And allied closely with his sister Naseem Wali Khan, who had taken over the party’s provincial presidency following the resignation of Afzal Khan, the Azam-Naseem duo were increasingly seen as untouchable within the party. The 1990 elections proved a watershed moment for Hoti: he was elected a member of the National Assembly from Mardan. But this victory was not without controversy. There were widespread allegations of ‘ticket selling’ in the election, and many critics within the party placed the blame on Azam. In the 1993 election Hoti lost his seat at the hands of the PPP, only to be rewarded with a Senate ticket by the party. And in 1997 he would again stage a comeback, winning his National Assembly seat, and becoming the ANP’s sole federal minister in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s new cabinet. Appointed to the powerful and lucrative Ministry of Communication for a second time, Hoti found himself facing a barrage of criticism. He was accused of being promoted as minister out-of-turn at the expense of many more experienced colleagues, and additionally, there were allegations of a large-scale misappropriation of funds.

His reluctant resignation from the ministry, following the collapse of the ANP-PML (Pakistan Muslim League) alliance, would be followed by further bad news for Azam Hoti. After Pervez Musharraf took over, Hoti was charged and convicted on two counts of corruption by the National Accountability Bureau. One conviction was on account of contracts handed out on the Lahore-Peshawar motorway, and the other regarding assets ‘disproportionate to income.’ The ANP’s rout in the 2002 election caused anger within the party, as many cited the politics of the Azam-Naseem duo as the cause of defeat. To save himself, Azam sided with party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan against his own sister. The end of the Azam-Naseem alliance revived some hope within the party that it would return to its ideological roots. However, this hope proved to be short-lived, as Azam’s support did not come without a price. Still in prison at the time he entered the new alliance, he was inexplicably released on ‘health grounds’ by the military government. This would again lead to another series of allegations that his support for the party leader was in exchange for a deal securing his release. Hoti’s release came at a providential time, as the ANP was staging a comeback and Azam held the chair of the ticket-awarding parliamentary committee. The party won its biggest-ever electoral victory in the 2008 election, and for the first time since 1947, the post of chief minister of the province was conceded to the ANP. It was widely expected that party veterans Bashir Bilour or Mian Iftikhar would be chosen for the post. But at this crucial moment, Azam Hoti was alleged to have used his influence to impose his son Ameer Hoti as chief minister. His son’s time as chief minister was marked by a wave of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacks in the province and against the ANP. It was also marked by a multitude of development projects in Azam Hoti’s home district, but his Machiavellian reputation persisted and allegations of nepotism and corruption continued to be hurled against him. Yet, despite these changes, he was again elected as a Senator on an ANP ticket in 2012. By 2013, the ANP was crippled by TTP attacks in the run-up to the general elections, and it also faced a tirade of attacks on its record of governance by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). The PTI’s victory and the ANP’s rout in the 2013 election led to another family split. This time it was due to anger within his family at Azam Hoti’s personal life and his fourth marriage. In a reversal of circumstances from a decade earlier, Azam Hoti’s son allied with Asfandyar Wali Khan against his father. Hoti’s humiliating ouster from the party ranks would mark the end of his political career as a self-styled ‘Machiavelli of Mardan,’ but not without leaving an indelible imprint on the party he remained associated with throughout his political life. Azam Hoti died on April 15 in Peshawar. He was 69 years old.
This article was originally published in Newsline’s June 2015 issue.