by Zia Ur Rehman
Monday, August 03, 2015
Groups formed on the basis of biradarism (casteism or tribalism) in Karachi are preparing to contest the upcoming local government elections – a trend that is seen in neighbourhood-level polls in the city.
Analysts believe that the participation of these groups in the local government polls in the Sindhi and Baloch-populated boroughs including Malir and Lyari might pose problems for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.
At a get-together during the recent Eid-ul-Fitr, Sardar Jam Bijar, an influential chieftain of Malir who heads the Jokhio clan there, had invited local politicians and the heads of all key clans of the area to Jam Goth to discuss the local bodies elections.
The clan chiefs who attended the gathering included Ali Muhamamd Khaskheli, Wadera Manzoor Memon, Shokat Jokhio, Wadera Ghulam Rasool Palari, Jumman Baloch, Naveed Kalmati, Hussain Councilor, Ismail Kalmati and Haji Zafar Ali Duras.
Local PPP leaders and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Abdul Hakeem Baloch and Haji Shafi Jamot, the MNA and MPA elected from Malir respectively, Karachi Indigenous Rights Movement chief Saleem Baloch Kalmati and former Bin Qasim Town nazim Khuda Dino Shah were also present there.
“As our family is with all clans of Malir for the last four generations, we will devise a strategy for the local government polls in consultation with everyone of them,” Bijar told his guests.
Describing the meeting as “very important”, analysts believe that the tribal chieftains and local politicians have been trying to form a powerful electoral alliance named “Rajoni Ittehad” to contest the polls in Malir, which has been divided in the District Municipal Corporation Malir and the District Council Karachi after the recent delimitation.
Sami Memon, a Malir-based veteran journalist, said the PPP was facing a tough situation in the area similar to the one it had encountered in the 2013 general elections there, when a locally-formed alliance – comprising Baloch, Jamot, Shah and Kalmati – had convincingly defeated the PPP’s candidates.
“The PPP has traditionally been strong in Malir. But in recent years, especially in the last general polls, the party fared poorly because of bad governance and its internal rifts,” he added.
In the 2013 general elections, Baloch and Jamot, on PML-N tickets, had defeated the PPP’s candidates in the constituencies of NA-258 and PS-129, respectively. Kalmati gave a tough time to the PPP in the PS-130 constituency.
In Malir’s rural areas, Jokhio, Baloch, Memon, Khaskheli, Burfat, Brohi, Gabol and Palari are the most prominent clans and the leadership of the Rajoni Ittehad will try to accommodate the elders of all clans for union councils slots according to their population, explained Memon.
Baloch, who is currently serving as the state minister for communications but without power, has also been thinking of fielding his candidates independently instead of on PML-N tickets.
In Lyari, another stronghold of the PPP, several clan-based organisations, which had emerged to protect their communities during the gang violence in the area, are also becoming active for the local government polls.
The Kutchi Rabita Committee (KRC), which represents the Kutchi community in Lyari and other parts of the city, is among them.
The Kutchi community has traditionally aligned itself with the PPP. But Kutchi leaders and analysts say that after suffering at the hands of Lyari’s criminal gangs and the consequent emergence of the KRC, the PPP has lost its support among the community.
Akhter Hussain Kutchi, a central leader of the KRC, said the Kutchi community had a significant presence not only Lyari but also in other parts of the city including Malir, Keamari, Khokhrapar, Moach Goth and New Karachi.
“The KRC is part of the Karachi Awami Ittehad (KAI), an alliance comprising community leaders across the city that is headed by Abdullah Hussain Haroon, a former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations.
“The KAI has been making efforts to form an alliance with different communities including the Baloch, indigenous Sindhis, Memons and communities from Mianwali and Chakwal districts to jointly contest the local government polls in Lyari and other areas,” Kutchi told The News.
“It’s our first time and I am sure we will win in all our constituencies,” he confidently said.
“We have always proven our loyalty to the PPP but it has given us [dead] bodies in return.” Analysts believe that Lyari has been as a veritable fortress for the PPP since the party’s inception. However, in recent years, the party has significantly weakened there because of many reasons.
A PPP leader said to regain the Lyari’s Kutchis support, the party leadership had recently allotted tickets for the local government elections to several candidates belonging to the community. “There is much resistance by the South district office-bearers, especially its Baloch leaders, but the party has still decided to distribute tickets in a way that adjusts all ethnicities and clans in Lyari,” he added.
Analysts say that the trend of clan-based groups participating in local bodies elections surfaced in the country during military regimes.
Dr Qasim Rajpar, a Karachi-based political analyst, said this factor had gained significance in the eras of military governments- especially those of Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharaf, and were aimed at weakening political forces.
“In Karachi’s rural areas, especially in the District Council Karachi and the DMC Malir, individualism in voting behaviour is comparatively weaker than in the city’s urban areas,” he added.
“We also observed biradarism in the recent by-polls in the NA-246, an Urdu-speaking majority urban constituency of the city, where a number of communities, such as Ismailis, collectively decided to vote for specific political parties.”
Mohsin Ali, an Islamabad-based researcher who studies local government politics, said two elements were required for the victory of a candidate. “One is the ticket of a major political party having influence in the neighbourhood and the other is the support of a major biradari or clan”, he explained.
“In some cases, clans play the role of pressure groups for acquiring party tickets.”