By Zia Ur Rehman
The News International,
June 9, 2018
Riding on his personal clout and previous social work in the lower-income neighbourhoods of District Malir’s Landhi Industrial Area, Allama Aurangzeb Farooqi, central president of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), will submit his nomination forms for the general elections on Saturday (today).
The ASWJ, under the banner of the Pak Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP), a political party registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), has been fielding its candidates in selected constituencies of Karachi, an important city for the party where it has had some electoral successes after Punjab’s Jhang district.
ASWJ Karachi spokesman Umar Muawiyah told The News that his party is fielding Farooqi from Malir’s NA-238 and PS-91 constituencies. “Our party has immense support in District Malir, and this is the reason that we are fielding our candidate from there.”
In the 2013 general elections, Farooqi had secured 23,827 votes from PS-128 but lost to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Syed Waqar Shah with a margin of only 202 votes. The PRHP is also filing nominations forms for NA-248, a constituency comprising Keamari and its adjacent areas, said Muawiyah.
The ASWJ earlier operated as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan before being banned. For electoral purposes, the group has been using the PRHP, formed in 2012 by Hakeem Muhammad Ibrahim Qasmi, reportedly a former provincial leader of the SSP. The PRHP had participated in the 2013 general elections and the 2015 local government polls in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Farooqi had announced in September 2017 that he will take part in this year’s general elections from Malir. Since then, he and his party cadres have been visiting various localities through narrow streets riddled with garbage and overflowing gutters, offering condolences and attending funerals, meeting with the locals and consulting with the elders of various communities and attending cricket tournaments as chief guest.
The ASWJ chief, who was brought up in the impoverished Future Colony in the district, is known for his harsh sectarian views. However, in his constituency, he is politicking over its civic issues.
This is the reason that his group, under the banner of the PRHP, won three union committees (Dawood Chowrangi, Muslim Abad and Ali Akbar Shah Goth) of the constituency in the December 2015 local government polls.
In the past few months, the ASWJ has organised three protest rallies led by Farooqi to demand road repairs, which failed to get the attention of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led District Malir administration.
This January, he threatened to organise a sit-in outside the Malir DMC office, which caused panic, forcing the Malir DMC Chairman Jan Muhammad Baloch and other district officials to rush to Farooqi’s house to persuade him not to besiege the office.
“People are not supporting Farooqi because of his anti-Shia rhetoric. He is a local and a big name, and his party connects with the residents at grassroots level,” said Muhammad Hussain, an elder of the Jadoon community who supported Farooqi in the previous polls. “This time round, we shall vote for him again because we need a bold leader who can resolve our civic issues by putting pressure on the PPP’s local government representative in Malir.”
The ASWJ is also fielding its Karachi leader Maulana Taj Hanafi from PS-120, a constituency comprising the SITE Industrial Area and Shershah. From the constituency, known as PS-93 before the delimitation, the ASWJ’s then Karachi general secretary Dr Fayyaz had ranked third by securing 9,704 votes.
Fayyaz was killed in Shershah’s Paracha Chowk in March 2015. “We shall also field candidates from the provincial assembly’s seats of Mehmoodabad, Malir and Delhi Colony,” said Muawiyah.
Activists who monitor electoral politics in Malir believe that this time round the ASWJ is not in a position to win the seat, as the group has been weakening in the city, especially in the constituency, because of the ongoing crackdown.
They say the group has been facing a “quiet” crackdown in various parts of the city, resulting in “disappearances” of its active members on the suspicion of their involvement in sectarian militancy in the city.
A senior law enforcement official who monitors sectarian groups in Karachi told The News that banned groups have adopted the strategy of contesting elections under the names of little-known organisations. “It is the responsibility of the ECP and the Ministry of Interior to stop them from participating in the polls.