With the next local government elections in mind, the Awami National Party in Sindh wants to revive the Pakhtun Action Committee or Loya Jirga to bring the Pakhtun of the city together on a single platform.
To make the Loya Jirga more dynamic and representative, the party – one of its major components – has started inducting new members. Recently, two elders from Landhi joined, for example.
The jirga was formed in April 2006 in reaction to the Sindh government’s decision to demolish katchi abadis (unplanned settlements) and to ban two-stroke rickshaws in Karachi. It came to prominence in June later that year, when it forced the government to accept its demands.
The Loya Jirga is also regarded as a major factor behind the rise of the Awami National Party on the political scene of Sindh, as the party won two provincial assembly seats in the 2008 elections. However, the jirga’s public presence declined gradually as its member parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, were unable to keep the forum active in their zones.
“We are now concentrating our efforts more centrally,” said Awami National Party’s Yunus Buner, a member of the Loya Jirga.
Senator Shahi Syed, the party’s provincial president, told The Express Tribune that the jirga was a non-political body formed to protect the rights of Pakhtun in Karachi. However, the political parties, which were once part of it, seem to disagree.
All these parties have dissociated themselves from the Loya Jirga for what they say was the Awami National Party excessive involvement. “The jirga initially worked for the good of Pakhtun, but then the Awami National Party started using it for political gains,” said Israr Shah Mashwani, a former vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. “That is when I decided to quit the forum.”
Mashwani was once one of the most active members of the jirga. He alleged that Shahi Syed had brought people with criminal backgrounds into it.
Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ishaq Khan and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Abdul Ali Ghourghushti were also unhappy with the way the Awami National Party had wielded clout. “We participated in the jirga’s first meeting but found it a one-party show,” said Khan.
Ghourghushti was of the view that most of the decisions were made by a single party, sidelining others. “After the May 12, 2007 tragedy, the jirga leaders decided to hold a three-day strike in the city, but the decision was later withdrawn without consulting us,” he added by way of example.
Shahi Syed admits that the Loya Jirga helped jack up his party’s popularity in Sindh. “[But] it has benefitted the Pakhtun of Karachi much more than anyone else,” he says.
He, however, rejected the allegations about the political nature of the jirga. “If anyone has objections on how it works, they should come to me and discuss them,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2012.
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