PIR JO GOTH/KARACHI: It was after a night-long, tiring session that 15 elders of the Hur Jamaat, commonly known as Khalifas, ruled in favour of Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, declaring him the spiritual and temporal successor of Shah Mardan Shah, Pir Pagara the Seventh.
Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi alias Raja Saeen, the eldest son Shah Mardan Shah, was one of three aspirants for the elevated position. Sadruddin Shah alias Younus Saeen and Ali Gohar Shah were the two other sons of Mardan Shah, who were also considered but disfavoured by the secretive electoral college.
Custom demanded that there has to be a Pir Pagara on the seat before the deceased Pir Pagara is consigned to his eternal resting place. The 15 elders of the Hur Jamaat, including chief Fakir Qadir Bux Mangrio and Fakir Ghazi Khan, who had come from India, therefore went into a closed-door session Wednesday night that continued till noon on Thursday.
Others who attended the session included Faqir Basit, Ahmed Saleh Mahar, Waryam Faqir Khaskheli, Pir Bux Ghaho, Ahmed Faqir Rajar, Mir Muhammad Raho, Abdul Salam Dahri, Lal Bux Ahmendani, Mufti Muhammad, Rahim Khoso, Muhammad Rahim Hingoro, Wali Muhammad Panhwar, Soomar Faqir Mahar and Abdul Khaliq Sanjrani.
And it was a little before the funeral prayers of the late Pir Pagara that these elders announced their decision and Sibghatullah was asked to occupy the holy seat as Pir Pagara the Eighth in the hall of the seminary. Then the process of the dastar bandi started with the Pir of Jhang, Sharif Syed Siraj Ahmed Jillani, who raised his hand to girt the long turban on his head. The others, including the two younger brothers and other prominent heads of other mystical orders joined in to give a turn to the turban as a mark of respect and allegiance.
The newly elected Pir Pagara VIII, Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, 55, started his political career during the era of General Ziaul Haq when he was elected an MPA in the non-party elections of 1985. He was elected to the Sindh Assembly two other times. He also served as minister for irrigation, works and services in the Sindh government.
In the 1988 elections, he was defeated on his home seat of Pir jo Goth but was elected from Sanghar. Pir Ali Taqi Shah, the younger son of Ghulam Qadir Shah Jillani, who was considered a rival of Pir Pagara, won the seat on a Pakistan Peoples Party ticket. However, in the 1990 election, Raja Saeen managed to secure his Pir jo Goth seat by defeating PPP candidate Rahim Bux Wasan, the elder brother of Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan.
Raja Saeen was, however, asked by the Hur Jamaat to dissociate himself from politics and concentrate more on the affairs of the Jamaat. Later he went to the UAE and stayed there till 2007 when he was again appointed a minister in the provincial caretaker set-up.
He married a cousin of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. But when his father (Pir Pagaro) divorced his first wife in 1992, Raja Saeen had no choice, but to break his marriage. It was done following a decision of the Jamaat. His second wife is from an Arab family of the UAE.
He has four sons and two of them - Pir Rashid Shah and Umar Shah - are active in local politics.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.