tribesman who showed the way
not so good
not so good
braces for ‘tsunami’
In a courtroom at the
Eastern District Court of Virginia, a bespectacled defendant sheepishly
glanced at his lawyer. Turning his attention towards the judge, he uttered,
“Yes, your honour”. The defendant, Ghulam Nabi Fai, was affirming that he
was guilty of all the charges against him. Sentencing was scheduled for March
9, 2012. Free on bond, he returned home to get his affairs in order. Facing a
prison term, there was much to do.
And so ended the bizarre
saga of Dr Fai, executive director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC),
also known as the Kashmir Center. Born in the Bagdam district of Jammu and
Kashmir, naturalised as an American citizen in 1990, Fai had admitted he had
“unlawfully and knowingly conspired to falsify, conceal and cover up
material facts about his association with the ISI and tax evasion by tricks,
schemes and devices,” according to the court affidavit. Part spy thriller,
part farce, Fai’s downfall was the result of a combination of bad luck, bad
judgment, hubris and greed.
The Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) arrested Dr Fai on July 19, 2011. He and another
naturalised American citizen, Zaheer Ahmad, who at the time of Fai’s arrest
was in Pakistan, were charged with failing to register with the Justice
Department as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which mandates
that agents representing the interests of foreign powers be properly
identified to the American public. Fai had claimed earlier that he was
working on his own, a free agent for the Kashmir cause, which he then denied
after his arrest.
Talking to TNS shortly
after his first court appearance, Dr Fai spoke highly of the FBI’s
professionalism. He recalls that on the evening of July 18, he spotted an
unmarked car in a no parking zone in front of his Fairfax, Virginia house.
Suspicious, his family called the local police. A few minutes later the
police arrived and inspected the parked car. The vehicle moved out of the
illegal parking spot but remained in front of Fai’s residence.
The next morning when Dr
Fai was heading out to KAC office in Washington, the unmarked car blocked him
while other official vehicles surrounded his car. He was arrested immediately
and taken back to his house, where the FBI agents executed a search warrant.
They found $8,908 in cash and seized Fai’s personal email communication.
Fai knew the US government
had suspicions about the KAC’s sources of financing. In March of 2010, the
Justice Department sent Fai a letter notifying him that allegations had
surfaced that he was an agent, and that if he was, he was required by FARA to
register with the department. In his response, Fai asserted that “KAC or I
have never engaged in any activities or provided any services to any foreign
entity. And KAC or I have never had written or oral agreements with Pakistan
or any other foreign entity.”
A couple of months later,
in June 2010, Dr Fai was stopped by the police in New York and found to have
in his possession $35,000 in cash. He told the police that it received the
cash from an ‘individual’ as a contribution to KAC. The record with the
law enforcing agencies indicate that Fai immediately called that
‘individual’, and told him that the police searched his car and found the
money. The straw donor told Fai to make up a story claiming that this was
raised for the KAC at a local mosque in New York. The FBI was, however,
alerted, and upon inquiry, Fai told them that the amount had been collected
by that particular individual from Pakistanis and Kashmiris in the New York
community and at a mosque, and he had not received any cash amount from this
Fai told TNS that he set up
the KAC in the 1990s currently located at 16th Street, Suite 420. According
to the Statement of Facts, filed to the court, a connection was developed
between the ISI’s office handling Kashmir affairs and Dr Fai through
telephone and facsimile in the year 1990 as well. By 1995, Fai was making
executive decisions of kinds that were irritating for the ISI official, who
is identified as Khan in court documents.
According to the court
documents, Fai submitted his expenses to Khan for reimbursement that totaled
just $42,981.45. Khan notified Fai that ISI took no responsibility for his
unilateral decisions. In another email, Fai was told: “I once again remind
you of my earlier advice that any future transaction, contracts, visits,
events, etc must be forwarded to us for prior approval.” Fai responded that
it is part of his strategy to make the KAC appear as a Kashmiri organisation
run by Kashmiris and financed by Americans.
Over the next several
years, the expenses and budgets in Fai’s annual performance documents and
strategy plans ballooned. The Strategy Document for the year 2000 detailed
the KAC’s budget requirements for that year to be $490,000, including
$80,000 for contributions to members of Congress, $100,000 for a conference,
$60,000 for seminars, $50,000 for opinion pieces to be distributed to
newspapers across the country, and $30,000 to organise a Congressional trip
to Kashmir. The Strategy Documents for the later years detailed budgets of
$455,000 for 2001, $490,000 for 2005, and $719,000 for 2006. Each of the
budgets allotted between $80,000 and $100,000 for campaign contributions to
members of Congress, as well as significant sums for conferences, seminars,
and trips etc.
According to the Court’s
Fact Sheet, Fai wrote letters to his partner, Zaheer Ahmad, reflecting that
Ahmad was to transmit approximately $314,500 to Fai in 2003, while in 2004,
2005, and 2006, the totals were $505,000, $525,000 and $447,000,
Since the 1990 election
cycle, Dr Fai and Ahmad combined paid only $34,790 to political parties,
committees and federal candidates. Research conducted by the Center for
Response Politics, a highly respected think-tank on all matters related to
the US campaign finance, shows that Fai personally made $28,790 in
contributions since the 1990 election cycle. While Fai contributed money to
both Republicans and Democrats, his top recipient was Republican Congressman
Dan Burton, who co-chairs the Congressional Pakistan Caucus. Burton received
$10,900 between the 1990 and 2010 election cycle. Congressman Burton was
deeply shocked by Fai’s arrest. In a statement, he said, “If the origin
of the contribution is in question, he will donate the money to the Boy
Scouts of America.” Ahmad gave over $4,000 to Burton, in the form of $2,000
donations during both the 2008 and 2010 election cycle, the Center’s
Dr Fai continued to defy
his moneymen, resulting in requests for money to cover questionable expenses.
One e-mail exchange between Fai and Khan reveals that Fai requested $45,000
to offset the costs that Fai had incurred at a conference that he had hosted
in Uruguay. This request was denied in a reply: “Unfortunately based on the
understanding given by you when we dissuaded you from the said conference, it
is impossible to cater for the requested demand.” In his 2008 email message
to Khan, Fai mentioned his operating budget at $741,000. Similarly, in 2009
budget details sent to Khan via email, Fai projected budgetary requirements
of $738,000. In response to this inflated amount, he was notified to reduce
the budget. Fai reduced it to $638,000. Even in 2010 plan, Fai was told
through an email that “his requirement should be lesser than the 2009
By 2011, these expenses
reached $500,000 to $700,000 per year, totaling $3.5 million since the
mid-90s. Fai began to inflate his annual budgets and embellish reports of his
accomplishments in order to obtain the maximum amount of money. The documents
with the court indicate that the KAC’s bank records understate the amount
of money that Fai received from different channels.
The FBI started taking an
interest in the KAC and Fai himself by 2007, just when Fai’s budgetary
needs were elevating. The FBI was tipped off by two confidential informants,
according to the Department of Justice, that they participated in a scheme to
obscure the origin of money transferred by ISI to Fai. In 2010, Fai was in
full swing — hosting conferences, meeting with officials and handing out
campaign cash. Apparently, he had also begun to make mischief with the
sizeable donations pouring into the KAC’s coffers. According to the
affidavit submitted by the FBI, Ahmad began to notice certain irregularities
in Fai’s receipts. In once instance, Fai had received five cheques from
Ahmad totaling $39,000. Two of the cheques were not deposited in the KAC’s
account; rather, they were used to pay Fai’s mortgage.
After his arrest and later
in his plea agreement, Fai agreed to forfeit all interests in the property.
The US government found $110,250 from his American Funds account, $16,258.76
in a Bank of America’s joint account with his wife. Only $1,193.49 were
seized from an account at BB&T Bank and $6,241.07 from an account at
Citibank in the name of the KAC.
Fai’s primary occupation
during his last months of freedom will be a great challenge. As part of his
plea agreement he agreed to file correct tax returns for the years 2005 to
2011 within 60 days, as well as his books, records and documents to the
Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and pay all taxes, interest and penalties
incurred over the period in questions. Fai faces five years on one count and
another three on the second. He would have to pay at least $200,000 but not
more than $400,000 to cover the tax loss.
The story of Dr Ghulam Fai
never reached the level of drama of the Raymond Davis case or Memogate. The
reaction to the story was somewhat muted. The volunteer activists working for
the Kashmir cause had also distanced themselves from the KAC long time ago,
according to activist Tahir Iqbal, who once regarded Fai as voice of Kashmiri
cause. “The only thing that suffered the most is the Kashmir cause,”
Tahir said, adding that “Fai not only deceived the US government but also
the Kashmiris struggling for justice.”
writer is Jang/Geo correspondent in Washington
There was the letter from
an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then
there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and
This was in the mid-1990s.
The recipient of the letters was the fiery human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir,
under threat for having taken on the case of Salamat Masih, the illiterate
Christian boy sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ for having allegedly
written sacrilegious words on the walls of a village mosque.
Little would anyone have
thought that the writer of the second letter, Zarteef Khan Afridi, would one
day himself face death threats for his stand on human rights issues. But he
would have no armed guards protecting him when he rode his motorcycle, fully
exposed and vulnerable, to the school where he taught for two decades in
Jamrud, Khyber Agency. He was the school’s headmaster when unidentified
militants, also on motorcycles, intercepted and gunned him down on his way to
the school on Dec 8, 2011.
The slightly built,
clean-shaven Afridi was also Coordinator, Khyber Agency, for the Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), founded by Jahangir and others in 1986. His
association with the HRCP began even before he offered to come down to Lahore
from Khyber Agency with an armed ‘lashkar’ to protect her — an offer
all the more commendable for having being made in a situation that was so
fraught with risk.
The frenzy had been
building up. Masked gunmen had opened fire after a court hearing in April
1994, wounding Salamat and killing Manzoor Masih, one of the co-accused in
the blasphemy case. Glossy, full-colour stickers and posters cropped up all
over Lahore, calling for “believers” to find and kill Jahangir. In July,
a mob outside the Lahore High Court attacked her car. Luckily, she was not in
the vehicle but her driver was assaulted and the car smashed. It was a few
days later that that the letter vowing to hunt down and kill Jahangir was
delivered to her office.
Zarteef’s letter arrived
after eight armed men broke into Jahangir’s family house in October and
beat up her brother and his wife when they found her out. The assailants ran
away when the house guards opened fire. One of them arrested later admitted
that the aim had been to kill Jahangir and her sister Hina Jilani.
In that atmosphere of
threats and intimidation, Afridi’s letter of support was a message of hope,
particularly coming as it did from an area known for its religious
conservatism. It showed that even there, conservative opinion is not
homogenous and there are people willing to counter retrogressive trends.
“Born in this tribal
milieu, Zarteef Afridi is peculiar for his pacifism and his commitment to the
cause of education. Prevented in 1982 by maternal pressure from going to
Soviet Russia for a degree in engineering, he turned to teaching instead,”
to quote ‘In the eye of the storm’ an essay profiling Afridi’s work,
published a couple of years ago by South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAPPk).
“When he started out as a
teacher (in 1983), the Afghan jihad, funded by the West, was in full flow and
young men from all over the province made their way to the battlefield to
either be killed or to become utterly criminalised. (But) children under the
tutelage of the idealistic Zarteef were learning of the reality of the
so-called jihad. Looking back, he can proudly claim that not one of the
youngsters who passed through his hands went to the fight (although) many
have risen to …become college professors and medical practitioners. Some
have gone abroad while others have remained in their native land and in their
own ways have been useful against the tide of obscurantism.”
Although he was persuaded
not to come down with armed tribesman to protect Jahangir, Zarteef Afridi
continued to work for human rights. He participated in the first HRCP
workshop in Peshawar conducted by the senior journalists and former newspaper
editors I.A. Rehman and Hussain Naqi in 1991. The workshop trained volunteers
to become correspondents to HRCP’s quarterly newsletter ‘Jehd-e-Haq’
(Fight for Rights).
Afridi was already “a
practising progressive,” as Naqi puts it. “The extremists were more
annoyed when he succeeded in arranging a jirga (tribal council) to oppose
extremism and terrorism. He also succeeded in persuading a tribal
industrialist to contribute funds for a children’s school for internally
displaced refugees in camps.”
I met Zarteef Afridi at an
HRCP meeting in Peshawar in 1996. All of us drove to Jamrud, where he proudly
showed us the small public library he had built under the banner of the Fata
Education and Welfare Society.
Since then, he catalysed 15
registered NGOs and CBOs in and around Jamrud. With a USAID endowment of
Rs800,000 each, these groups focus on child rights, democracy and good
governance. “In an area where women’s education did not merit much
importance, Zarteef had long been a vocal proponent for it,” notes the
SAPPk essay. “While he spoke for it in the hujras, he had a somewhat covert
operation in progress within the homes as well. His training as an
electrician and expertise in this field frequently took him into people’s
homes. As he worked on their electrical appliances, he shamed the women of
the household for their illiteracy. He says that over the years, this
surreptitious campaign made for an increase in girls’ enrollment in
schools, as well as that, it prepared older women for school.”
organisation helped establish seven adult literacy centres in villages around
Jamrud, for women between 17 and 65 years old. Although meant for about 30
students each, these schools cater to more than three times the number,
totaling over 750 women.
In his work, Zarteef faced
opposition even from his own family members. I remember him saying, “I want
my daughters to marry of their own choice and not wear burqa (veil), but my
wife gets angry. She says she will leave me if I encourage such
But his persistence made a
dent. He ensured that no one in his family, starting with himself, received a
vulvar, or bride price when marrying off their daughters. This spoke volumes
for his commitment, countering the all too common hypocrisy visible in
Pakistani politics, where activists who talk of human rights often stop short
at practicing what they preach when it comes to their own daughters.
Zarteef Afridi was up
against much bigger forces than his wife when he publicly advocated against
these long-entrenched traditions. Besides countering bride price, he
campaigned tirelessly for girls’ education and secular education, for
women’s right to vote, and for Pakistani laws to be extended to the
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He met some success in all these
In August this year,
President Zardari extended Pakistan’s Political Parties Act to the Fata,
allowing political parties to operate there as they do elsewhere in the
country. Increasing numbers of women and girls are attending school. Women
voters are now visible on polling day in Jamrud.
“Zarteef was the one who
campaigned for women’s right to vote at elections and he took his family
females to vote,” says Husain Naqi. “Both Nasim Wali and Benazir Bhutto
contested and won seats in that area where the political parties had agreed
that ‘their’ women will not vote!”
Even these limited gains
are anathema to the extremist and criminal forces aligned with the Taliban.
Afridi is the third HRCP coordinators to be murdered during 2011. “He was
surely the most consistent and committed,” says Hussain Naqi.
Zarteef Afridi may be dead,
but his consistency and commitment will live on in his legacy of peace,
education and human rights values, shared by his community of activists in
Pakistan and around the world. The loss is great and painful, but in the long
run, his sacrifice and that of others killed in this path will not be in
The waiter took down the
order and then mumbled the word ‘water’ with a question mark. I said yes
it’ll be nice to have some water too, thank you. He gave me a tired look
from behind his notebook and repeated his question more explicitly: saada or
mineral water? Oh, mineral please.
It is a fairly big and
upmarket restaurant at the southern edge of Multan city. While looking for it
I’d stopped at a crossroads to ask for directions. ‘No’ a group of five
men shook their heads in unison. They’d never heard of this place.
‘It’s a big hotel,’ my driver said to them in Seraiki. ‘Oh, the big
hotel is on your left a couple of hundred feet down the road’. I learnt two
things in that instant. One, a restaurant is called a hotel in Seraiki, and
two, in Multan the name does not matter, size does.
The city is obsessed with
‘mine is bigger’ syndrome. Its shrines are bigger and more lucrative than
any other. It has the biggest brothels that have produced a record number of
film stars. Its Hafiz brand of sohan halwa is so famous that thousands of
businesses are competing to produce and sell the same sticky substance, with
the same brand name. Its airport is biggest among the small airports in the
country. It has the longest underpass and flyover in Asia — the last claim
made by none other than the most famous son of Multan who also happens to be
the prime minister of Pakistan and who is using all his powers to materialise
the wish of truck drivers inscribed with pride and a hint of sadness on the
back of their vehicles: ‘My Multan is no less a Paris’.
Indeed. The truck drivers
are quite likely to mistake Multan for Paris now that majority of the
development projects have been completed, and also because the pictures of
Paris they’ve seen are from the time when the city was being rebuilt after
the war. But the truth is Multan’s secret ambition is to become Lahore. The
Lahore with its numerous underpasses, bridges and shopping malls built by
Sharif brothers. After four years in office the prime minister may not have a
lot to show what he’s done for the country but he has lined up flyover
after flyover in Multan — some of which are inter-connected and hence the
claim about the longest suspended pathway — which will stand up for years
to come as potent reminders for the electorate to vote for messieurs Gillani
and Sons just like the underpasses of Lahore keep getting Sharifs re-elected.
The waiter hasn’t
returned. I wave at another one passing me by. ‘I asked for water a while
ago, could you get me a bottle before the food please’. ‘Saada or
mineral’? ‘Mineral please, thank you’. This restaurant, or hotel in
local parlance, has sprawling manicured lawns, marquees, indoor dining halls,
and a bustling atmosphere. Compares with any eatery in Lahore Cantt. But ask
a native for advice on where to have fish and you’ll be directed to Allah
Wasaya’s hotel in the old part of the city. Looking for best kulfi? Go to
Allah Tawakkul of the ‘pre-flyover’ fame. Best barbecue? Services Club of
course. Locals seem to be unsure if they want to stick to the old or embrace
the new. So they try out the new places in hordes and recommend the
traditional places to visitors.
It’s the same with
shopping. Visitors are shown the way to Hussain Agaahi bazaar to buy
‘original’ Hafiz sohan halwa, embroidered shawls and shirts, ash-trays
made of camel bone and lamp shades made of camel skin. You could also look
for the article made popular by Noor Jehan in her song: ‘Keep your promises
and get me Multani bangles’ but chances are the shop keepers will be as
clueless about Multani bangles as Ali Ijaz looks when Rani makes the demand
in the 80s film Ishq Samundar. Having diverted visitors to the narrow crowded
streets of the old city, the locals then dress up to visit the brand new
shopping malls in the cantonment area.
Still no water. I wave to a
manager hovering about a table full of bear-bellied men and loads of cooked
meat. He is quick to respond and suitably apologetic. ‘It’s a shame
you’ve asked for water twice and you haven’t been served. I’ll have it
sent right away. Saada or mineral sir?’
followup not so good
not so good
The long overdue
Aghaaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan, announced before the parliament on November
24, 2009, is yet to win over the angry people of Balochistan despite its
partial implementation. The package included six constitutional, five
political, 16 administrative and 34 economic proposals. The government
promised to implement all recommendations and proposals in three years.
Two years after the
announcement of the package, according to an official document of the
establishment division, only 27 of the 61 proposals are yet to be
implemented. Out of the six constitutional proposals, five have been
implemented and one is in the final stage. Two out of five political policy
actions and seven out of 16 administrative actions have been implemented.
Twenty out of 34 economic actions have also been implemented, and among the
remaining 14, two are in the advanced stages while 12 are awaiting
Federal Minister for
Information, Firdous Ashiq Awan, had told the media on November 2 that as per
the package, political dialogue has been initiated with the Baloch leaders
and “steps have been taken to implement 27 Balochistan Assembly resolutions
and significant progress has been made on the implementation of 20
resolutions so far”. She mentioned that the government has placed the
Frontier Constabulary under the chief minister and the powers under the
Customs Act to coastal guards have been withdrawn.
“Moreover, the checkposts
of coastal guards beyond their territorial limits have been dismantled.
Higher Education Commission had given 1200 scholarships to the Baloch youth
while 600 more scholarships would be given soon,” she said, adding that 172
cases against political prisoners were withdrawn.
Baloch analysts, however,
believe that both federal and provincial governments have failed to transfer
the benefits of the package to common people. They say the Balochistan
government is marked with powerlessness and absolute corruption. “The
primary fault in the package was its development in Islamabad without
consulting the local stakeholders. No nationalist party, which is the
aggrieved side in the conflict, was consulted while formulating the
recommendations of the package,” Malik Siraj Akbar, a US-based Baloch
commentator tells TNS.
He says while the federal
government took credit for announcing the Balochistan Package, it backtracked
and showed no interest when it came to implementing its recommendations.
“The provincial government did not have the power to deliver on the bigger
promises made in the package such as the issue of the missing persons. The
prime minister had promised that all the missing Baloch would return home but
it never happened. On top of it, around three hundred among the missing
persons were tortured and killed in, what the Amnesty International calls, a
“kill and dump” policy. These killings of the missing persons totally
broke the trust and the people began to disown the package,” he argues.
parties do not believe the government is serious in solving the problems of
Balochistan. “It is true that the Baloch have been given constitutional
guarantees of their rights under the 18th Amendment, but the laws still
remain unimplemented. Until the rulers accept and respect ethnic diversity in
the country by giving them right to their resources, the issue of Balochistan
will not be resolved,” Dr Ishaq Baloch, senior vice-president of National
Party, tells TNS.
Most of the 2500 jobs
provided to the Baloch youth by the federation are that of primary and
secondary school teachers. “They have not been accommodated in the federal
departments like OGDC, PPL, PSO, PIA and banks. These petty steps would not
develop a sense of ownership among the Baloch youth. They need to be brought
in the mainstream,” he says.
Akbar thinks the FC has
become a major problem. “It is insignificant if it is under the control of
the chief minister or the federal government. What is annoying for the local
people is the extra-constitutional role of the FC and its involvement in
extra-judicial arrests and disappearances. The FC has become a major power
centre which does not abide by the instructions of the CM. If the government
takes one step further, the FC’s role pushes it two steps backwards.”
A senior official at Quetta,
requesting anonymity, informs TNS that the government is yet to start most of
the mega projects. “Work on three economic zones in Gwadar — Port of
Singapore, Export Processing Zone and Industrial Zone — has not yet
started. The Ministry of Water and Power had proposed five dams for the
province — Hingol, Naulong, Winder, Pelar and Garuk, but work has not
started even on one so far because there are no funds available. The federal
government has also not released funds to the Higher Education Commission
which has sent in a request for 600 scholarships for the Baloch students.”
He says only 341 Baloch
youth were given internships under the special internship programme of the
Ministry of Youth Affairs. “The programme was stopped after devolution of
Youth Affairs Ministry after the 18th Amendment.”
“More than 300 prominent
Balochi families continue to live in self-exile, including Suleman Dawood,
Brahamdagh Bugti and Hairbyar Marri. We need to bring them back to the
province to give confidence to the Baloch youth,” the official says.
PPP central leader and MNA
from Balochistan, Dr Ayatullah Durrani, says that the basic philosophy of the
package was to introduce constitutional amendments which empowered
Balochistan as a province to take its decision. “When we say we have
achieved 80 per cent of the package, it means we have introduced new laws and
amended old ones to empower the province. The real problem was unfriendly
laws and bureaucratic hitches; we have succeeded in solving these two issues
and the development will come as a byproduct of these constitutional
Durrani is convinced that
his government has curtailed the role of the military in the province. “The
military is not setting up cantonments in the province; instead it is
constructing schools and giving jobs to the Baloch youth. The issue of FC
will also be solved soon,” he concludes.
It was a surprise for many
when Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, who had received higher education in the US
having done his LLM from the University of Houston Law College, Texas and
also Doctor of Jurisprudence and worked as a successful businessman there,
decided to join Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI-F, a pro-Taliban and anti-US
religio-political party, in 2003.
Eight years later, it
didn’t come as a surprise when Swati quit the JUI-F and also resigned from
the Senate. It was widely believed he was a misfit in the JUI-F and had to
go. Swati, who felt comfortable wearing Western clothes, spoke English and
was good enough to serve as federal minister of science and technology,
seemed odd in the company of the JUI-F clerics.
The separation hasn’t
been ugly as happens so often in Pakistani politics. Swati didn’t criticise
the JUI-F and its leadership while resigning from the basic membership of the
party. He claimed having written to the party a month before quitting that he
was resigning from the Senate because its resolutions and decisions were
being ignored and it was a waste of time sitting in a parliament that had
failed to serve the people and save democracy. He admitted having received a
show-cause notice from the JUI-F and it was then that he felt it was time to
say goodbye to the party.
The party leaders too
didn’t react bitterly, though its central general secretary Maulana Abdul
Ghafoor Haideri said Swati had been issued show-cause notices due to
indiscipline and violation of party’s policies and the JUI-F Mansehra
district head Syed Hidayatullah Shah pointed out that Senator Swati left
because he failed to secure a promise of party ticket for again contesting
the Senate election. Swati countered by arguing that this issue was never
discussed in party meetings and that he had won the Senate election as an
independent and not on the JUI-F ticket.
Swati’s six-year term as
Senator was supposed to end in March 2012. It was his second term as a member
of the Senate as he was first elected Senator in 2003. At the time he had
resigned as the District Nazim of his native Mansehra in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s
Hazara division after serving for one and a half years to be able to contest
the Senate polls. He obtained impressive votes on both occasions in the tough
Senate polls in which money was freely used by wealthy candidates to buy
lawmakers’ votes. Swati, who declared his assets to be Rs1.6 billion as
required by law to the Election Commission while contesting the Senate polls,
was also accused of buying votes but he denied the accusation. These assets
certainly made him one of the richest MPs in the country.
Swati returned to Pakistan
from the US, where he made his dollars in real estate and as a fuel
distributor for oil giants and wholesale businessman, to try his luck in
politics and also do business. His family’s influence and money enabled him
to achieve a meteoric rise as a politician.
During the Pervez Musharraf
regime, he contested the first local government elections and became the
Mansehra Nazim. To his credit, it was observed that he didn’t take any
salary and official transport and instead paid from his own pocket. He also
financed some social welfare and development projects and played a role in
setting up the Hazara University in Mansehra.
Swati’s resignation put
his younger brother Laiq Muhammad Khan, the MNA from rural Mansehra, in
trouble as he was elected in a by-election on the JUI-F ticket. Though he
hasn’t resigned and has pledged loyalty to the JUI-F and was even preparing
to organise Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s public meeting in Mansehra, it appears
he won’t be staying with the party for the long haul. It is possible that
he would remain a JUI-F member until the next general election and then join
his brother in the latter’s new party. And that party at the moment seems
to be Imran Khan’s PTI.
In fact, a big and influential group of politicians from not only Mansehra but also rest of Hazara division has held talks with Imran Khan for joining his party. Among them are stated to be former MNA and District Nazim Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, whose son Shahjehan Yousaf is presently a PML-Q minister of state, lawmaker Wajeehuzzaman and former MPA Zareen Gul. The PTI is on its way to becoming an important player in Hazara politics and a challenger to the PML-N and PML-Q that have been until now dominant in the area. If Swati joins the PTI he would surely be among the top party leaders in Hazara.
braces for ‘tsunami’
Sumaira Khan, a young
pharmacist, is excited. She is anxiously looking forward to attend the first
political rally of her life. But this will not be one of those political
gatherings organised frequently by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in its
stronghold. She is referring to the rally being arranged by Pakistan
“Imran Khan stands for
change and we, the young professionals and students, also want change. We are
fed up with this rotten political system which is getting us nowhere,”
Sumaira says, adding she, along with her friends and family, will attend the
PTI’s public gathering scheduled for December 25.
The fact is that PTI’s
massive gathering in Lahore in late October has evoked sentiments for change
in the general public, especially in the younger generation. These sentiments
are also creeping into the country’s biggest metropolis as Sumaira is not
the only one who is planning to participate in the PTI’s upcoming rally.
University and college students are eager to listen firsthand what Imran Khan
has to offer and to show their support and express solidarity with slogans of
“We need a new beginning
and I think Imran Khan is the only one who can deliver,” says Umair Ahmed,
a student of the Karachi University.
Asher Sultan, another KU
student, says “Karachi needs an alternative political force.”
MQM has enjoyed near
political monopoly over the city since the 1980s. It might be for this reason
that there is not much fanfare, in terms of banners, hoardings, publicity
camps which Karachi is used to in case of the MQM gatherings in the past. A
week ahead of the PTI rally, only a few hoardings have been mounted.
Another reason might be the
confusion whether the Sindh government would allow the PTI to hold this
planned rally at the Jinnah Foundation ground near the Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum
on the Christmas Day. The PTI officials say they have sought permission from
the provincial government for the rally, which is also essential given the
security concerns, but the Sindh government remained reluctant until
Wednesday before granting the permission.
The minority Christian
community has also objected to the rally schedule as it is being planned on a
Christmas. Nazir Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, has
reportedly sent a written request to the Sindh government requesting it not
to allow the PTI as on Christmas Day Sindhi Christians perform religious
rituals and pay visits to their friends and relatives with additional
get-together celebrations which may be disturbed due to this rally.
organisations from all over Pakistan in general and from Karachi in
particular have appealed to Imran Khan to postpone the rally,” Bhatti has
reportedly written in his request to the Sindh governor and the chief
head of the PTI, however, says that the Sindh government has allowed them to
go-ahead with the rally as scheduled. “The Sindh government has given us
the permission...they have also agreed to provide us full security for the
event,” he says, adding he is confident that it will be a massive rally in
which hundreds of thousands of people will participate.
“In our conservative
estimate, some 300,000 to 400,000 people will attend this rally for national
unity and you may see even bigger turnout,” Haque says confidently.
He says that PTI has
removed the concerns of all quarters including the Christian community.
“Imran Khan has talked to them….now they don’t have any reservations as
far as the rally is concerned,” he adds.
Faisal Sabzwari, a
prominent leader of the MQM, says that his party has no objections to the PTI
rally. “The MQM wants healthy political culture to flourish — every
political party of the country has a right to hold political rallies anywhere
in the country and the PTI is also a political party of Pakistan,” he says,
adding the MQM will always welcome other political players who want to do
something good for the country.
Sabzwari dispels the
impression that if the PTI is able to put together an impressive show in
Karachi it will dent the MQM’s vote bank. “MQM has always been able to
get support of voters on the basis of its performance and principles and we
will continue to do so in future. The MQM does not feel any threat from the
PTI as far as its vote bank is concerned.”
It seems that the stage is
set in Karachi for Imran Khan’s ‘tsunami’. As the day for the rally
draws closer, the momentum might build up even further. It is likely that
Khan will be able to woo Karachiites in huge numbers, but the likelihood that
the tsunami of change will also sweep Karachi on the election day, whenever
it comes, seems far fetched considering the complex political dynamics of
writer is a senior staff member. firstname.lastname@example.org