Tag Archives: elections

Force and Neglect in North Waziristan

I’ve just gotten off the phone with contacts/colleagues.

Here’s another example of the fall-out from cycles of violence in FATA, particularly Waziristan–fall-out that goes largely unreported and undiscussed in the national and international media. That silence only adds to the prevalent image of “backward tribals,” enraged Muslims and inexplicable violence when people in these regions do resort to armed resistance and/or stubborn refusal to work with the state.

First, recall this little reported story: 17 Pakistani soldiers were killed and scores more wounded when a car packed with explosives detonated near two fuel tankers at a military post in North Waziristan’s capital, Miranshah. The blast at Esha checkpost flattened two residential barracks last Saturday evening (Mar 23rd).

This is what happened after: the army imposed a 24-hour curfew in all of North Waziristan, one that is still ongoing 4 days later. The curfew was announced by the political administration. Shoot-on-sight orders have been given.

No services–including emergency services like ambulances–are reportedly allowed to run. Students at Miran Shah College have been unable to leave their hostels and have therefore missed some of their matriculation exams. Until at least Monday, approximately 350 vehicles and their passengers were stranded on the road between Bannu, a settled area in KP and Miranshah (ET). People are running out of basic supplies while businesses and vendors suffer losses as perishable supplies like vegetables and fruit rot. Some families have been reduced to eating shaftal or alfalfa, the fodder they usually give their livestock.

It is these daily cycles of brute force coupled with rank neglect that fuel support for insurgents who can then pose as resistance against a brutal regime. In other words, a gaping political vacuum exists in FATA, to which drones seem like an absurd response.

And finally, this is the first time that political parties will be allowed to operate and to contest elections from the Tribal Areas. Residents of FATA did not gain the right to vote till 1996, and although they were able to elect representatives to Parliament, these candidates had to run as independents. This year, however, parties have been given permission to carry out activities within FATA. In either case however, the Pakistani citizens here are in the bizarre position of electing representatives to an electoral body–the Parliament–whose laws do not apply to FATA. That questionable democratic process was further stymied by the curfew because candidates were unable to submit their paperwork for elections by the deadline this Sunday (Mar 24th).

Tagged , , , , , ,

Mr. Khan goes to Islamabad

I’ve been working on a profile of Imran Khan, whose meteoric rise has left some hopeful, others befuddled and still others, angry. As with any story, portions get excised from the final draft for a variety of reasons: the article needs to be shortened, or because the excised sections just aren’t as important or relevant for the media outlet’s primary audience.

So, here it is:

Another new recruit that’s given pause is former Intelligence Bureau chief Masood Sharif Khattak who contested the 2002 elections in KPK against Imran as a PPP candidate. Khattak was part of the PPP central committee for nearly a decade before resigning in 2007 over Benazir Bhutto’s deal with Pervez Musharraf about the NRO. So, perhaps the concern may be unwarranted, but his admission into the PTI has raised eyebrows among many already suspicious about the PTI’s links with the establishment.

The bulk of the people now entering Imran’s party are career politicians, a far cry from the urban professionals he has so long touted as his strength. In Imran’s terms, these are exactly the sort of people who need politics. Khwaja Khan Hoti is a career politician from KPK who served terms as federal minister and provincial minister with the PPP; at other times in his career, he served in senior position within the ranks of the secular, Pashtun, Awami National Party (ANP). As with so many others, politics is a family business for the Hotis: Hoti’s son, Omar Farooq, preceded his father’s entry into the PTI. The younger Hoti is expected to the ticket from Mardan.

Another politician whose addition to PTI has caused a stir is Sardar Faiz Tamman, from Punjab. Tamman, a careerist who appears to care for little else than ascending the political ladder, has drifted from one party to another throughout his time in politics. He shifted from the PPP to join a PPP split group, the PPP-Patriot, earlier in his career, but was elected to the National Assembly in 2002 as an Independent. Then, he was admitted to Musharraf’s PML-Q but resigned in 2008, later joining the PML-N. In 2010, Tamman had to resign from his seat when it turned out that he had had faked his college degrees.

Another dubious figure is Mian Mohammad Azhar who has been active in Lahore’s politics for nearly three decades. During Zia ul-Haq’s era, Mian Azhar served as mayor of Lahore under Nawaz Sharif’s governorship. In 1988, after Zia—quite literally, exploded—Azhar’s closeness to the Sharifs earned him a ticket from Gujranwala in Punjab, and by 1990, he had become governor of the province. He left the office in 1992 reportedly over differences with the Sharifs. He was back by 1997, this time as an elected member of the National Assembly. He moved on from the PML-N, however, going on to become head of Musharraf’s PML-Q. He has the dubious recognition of being a politician who lost his seat in the 2002 elections, even though it’s widely alleged that there was massive rigging electorally that year in favor of the PML-Q.  Clearly as with Tamman, Mian Azhar, too views the PTI strategically as a chance to revitalize his political fortunes.

The most significant addition to date is Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the former foreign minister of Pakistan who lost his post during the current PPP-led government after taking a stand on the Raymond Davis affair. Qureshi maintained that Davis’ documents did not show that the contractor who murdered two people in the streets of Lahore—a third was also killed after he was mowed down by a consular vehicle rushing to Davis’ rescue— held any diplomatic immunity. After being courted by the PTI as well as the PML-N, Qureshi joined Imran’s party in late November. He received the position of Senior Vice Chairman within the party.

Whatever the intentions of the leadership, the changes are causing unease within the party. Qureshi’s immediate ascension to senior ranks, for instance, created murmurs of dissension within PTI’s ranks among longtime loyal members who felt shafted. According to a local analyst in Swat, PTI’s members are deeply unhappy with the new additions. A columnist for the Urdu daily Aaj reported that PTI’s chairman for the party’s local district coordination council, Fazal Rabbi, had suspended the local cabinet early December saying that the party’s leadership was responsible for creating discord in the ranks.

Dr. Mazari, too, is now considering quitting the party. She’s reportedly upset the Imran may be softening his stance on drones and the US. And, the influx of new politicians who have checkered political careers may be another reason. A press release by the party denied the reports maintaining PTI’s position on drones and the “war on terror” remains the same. The press release also said that PTI’s central committee will vet applicants for election tickets to protect the party from “the opportunist remnants of the Musharraf era and Zardari regime now scrambling to enter the PTI fold.” Interestingly, that entire phrase was left out of the Urdu version of the release.


Tagged , ,