Pir Pagara (1928-2012)

Pagara was a relic of a bygone era, whose influence is undeniable.

Editorial January 12, 2012

The spiritual head of the Hurs in Sindh, and a politician who was anything but predictable, Pir Pagara passed away on January 10. His mark on Pakistan, though it is mixed and controversial, is indelible. He was at the forefront of every major event in the country’s politics, although one could never be certain what his ideology was at any given time. He was a supporter of every dictator that usurped power in Pakistan, giving his imprimatur to Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf. But he also took on the religious parties that were propped up by the military with gleeful abandon.

If there is one way to describe Pagara’s politics it is that he mixed the political with the personal. Thus, he held a life-long grudge against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a person whom he considered a pretender and had personally introduced to politics, only to end up being snubbed by him. His hatred for ZAB could partly be explained by the fact that Pagara never liked the idea of anyone from Sindh being more influential than him or not being beholden to him. Thus, Pagara was not only part of the civilian protests against Bhutto after the 1977 elections, he also joined Zia after his coup. It was during Zia’s time that Pagara reached the peak of his political power, with his hand-picked man, Mohammad Khan Junejo, chosen as prime minister. But as was Pagara’s wont, he ended up falling-out with both of them.

What truly explains Pagara’s popularity, both as a political and spiritual leader, was his rough-hewed charm. There was nothing he enjoyed more than having a group of journalists sit at his feet and listen to his prophecies and predictions. Sure, most of them turned out to be incorrect, but his certainty and charisma were part of the appeal. Whatever faults he may have had, Pir Pagara, at least in his rhetoric, always advocated education and equal rights for women. Pagara was a relic of a bygone era, whose influence is undeniable.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.


Nara-e-Mastana | 10 years ago | Reply There are other very important things to be mentioned here. The mindset of people of Sindh is more democratic and anti feudal. Sindhis believe in Sufism to a greater extent. Thus, to suppport this point I would like to qoute one living example. In the elections of 1988 and 1990 Pir Pagara lost his own personal legacy at the hands of a young midle class politician Syed Pervez Ali Shah Jillani consecutively with a wide margin. First Shah defeated Pagaro with 88,000 margin votes and second time 78,000 votes. After that Pagara announced his retirement from contesting elections. Before Shah or after no one ever defeated Pagaro. His sons then took over electrol politics and managed one seat after contesting from five different constituencies. It is interesting that a man who had his share in every government present or past still called the shots.
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