Monday July 22, 2024

A tale of two sardars

By Saleem Safi
April 10, 2019

Though the slogans of the PTI are revolutionary, and its workers are very emotional, the party neither seems ideological nor democratic. Its internal structure seems more like a replica of the Sardari system of Balochistan. Hence to understand the PTI, we need to look at the model of the Baloch Sardari system.

To keep the system of Balochistan under control, the British imperialists in government in India at the time divided the people there in four categories. At the top of the system were ‘Nawabs’. Under every Nawab, there were many ‘Sardars’. Under every Sardar, there were many ‘Mirs’ and under every Mir there were many ‘Takkaris’. At the top of all of this was the Khan of Kalat (under whom many Nawabs were working). Though the Nawabs, Sardars, Mirs and Takkaris maintained a luxurious and privileged life, the real authority was vested in the hand of the Khan of Kalat.

Comparing the PTI with the Sardari system of Balochistan, we can say that Imran Khan is the Nawab of the PTI. Under this Nawab, there are basically two main Sardars: Sardar Jahangir Tareen and Sardar Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Asad Omar, Shireen Mazari, Aleem Khan, Chaudhry Sarwar and Azam Swati etc are the Mirs of the PTI. Similarly, Pervaiz Khattak, Asad Qaisar, Ali Muhammad Khan, Khusro Bakhtiar, Murad Saeed, Imran Ismail, Ejaz Chaudhary and Zartaj Gul etc form the category of Takkaris.

Naeemul Haq, Zulfi Bukhari, Iftikhar Durrani, Faisal Javaid, Ali Zaidi, Awn Chaudhry, Azam Khan, Arbab Shahzad, Yousuf Baig Mirza and many others of this type are courtiers of the Nawab and known to be an essential part of his evening parties.

The two PTI Sardars are currently engaged in a political duel which is denting the internal uniting of the party. Sardar Shah Mehmood Qureshi has won the game of politics with his shrewdnees and intelligence. Due to disqualification by the court, Sardar Jahangir Tareen lost the game apparently. But he apparently won the heart of the Nawab of PTI. Perhaps the reason is that Sardar Shah Mehmood Qureshi, being a custodian of the shrines of Bahauddin Zakariya, is not used to spending money on others; in fact, he may rather wish for others to spend money on him. On the other hand, Sardar Jahangir Tareen has the will and knows the art too of spending money on others. He spends with the same pace as he earns and history shows that the Nawab of PTI really likes those who spend their wealth on him.

Moreover, Sardar Jahangir Tareen is hard-working, which is why a considerable majority of the Mirs of the PTI support him. Only three Mirs – Asad Umar, Shireen Mazari and Chaudhry Sarwar – seem to be close to Sardar Shah Mehmood Qureshi. However, Sardar Jahngir Tareen’s position is strong in the sense that he also enjoys the support of more than 90 percent Takkaris of the party. Some of them – like Pervaiz Khattak, Fawad Chaudhry, Murad Saeed and many others – have openly showed their support to Jahangir Tareen (and I personally know that a majority of the Takkaris do not like Shah Mehmood).

Similarly, before the last general elections, hundreds of new Mirs were brought to the court of the Nawab; and almost all of them came to Bani Gala in the Tareen plane. Hence, Tareen has the sympathies of these new Mirs too. Though, the Mirs and Takkaris dominate the media screen, it is in fact the courtiers and personal workers of the Nawab of PTI who are more powerful. Jahangir Tareen is lucky that he enjoys the support of all of the Nawab’s courtiers and personal staff – except perhaps Naeemul Haq.

The role of one Mir – Asad Umer – is very mysterious, important and interesting. He is overambitious, opposes both the Sardars and wishes to become a Sardar and successor of the Nawab. But being highly shrewd, for the time being he has joined hands with two other Mirs – Shireen Mazari and Shafqat Mehmood – to kick out Jahangir Tareen. Mir Asad Umar has the ability of conducting effective self-marketing and has impressed the Nawab.

It is important to note here that one category of Mirs has no access to the Nawab and they need a Sardar’s help to reach him out. Asad Umar, Shireen Mazari and Shafqat Mehmood are those Mirs who do have direct access to Nawab. This aspect could strengthen the position of Sardar Shah Mehmood Qureshi; these Mirs have played an important role under Shah Mehmood in the disqualification of Sardar Jahangir Tareen.

Similarly, all Takkaris have no direct access to the Nawab and they rely on some Mirs or Sardars for that too. But some Takkaris like Murad Saeed, Fawad Chaudhry, Zartaj Gul and Asad Qaiser etc are in the good books of the Nawab and have unrestricted access to him. A clear majority of such Takkaris is with Sardar Jahangir Tareen and they are thus strengthening his position as well.

In the Baloch Sardari system, wives do not apparently play an important role. But in the PTI’s Naya Pakistan, the role of the wife of the Nawab is very important. Some important decisions, like that of the appointment of the chief minister of Punjab, were reportedly made at her whim and against the clear opposition of the Sardars, Mirs and Takkaris. Hence her role in the duel between the two Sardars will be very crucial. Currently, her sympathies seem with Sardar Jahangir Tareen.

Some say that in Balochistan foreign countries and multinational companies invest huge money on Nawabs through Sardars for the exploitation of the province’s resource. Similarly, before the general election, different companies and investors invested a huge amount on the Nawab of PTI; hence, the role of these companies and individual is also very important. The position of Jahangir Tareen is strong regarding these companies and personalities because they have reached the Nawab through Tareen. But the Nawab has made special promises and deals with external powers, especially the US, through Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Hence Sardar Shah Mehmood Qureshi enjoys some extra leverage on this front. Let’s see who wins at the end of the duel.

There is one other force whose role is more important than all the Sardars, Mirs and Takkaris. Let’s call this force the ‘Khan of Kalat’. It is not yet known which Sardar the Khan of Kalat will support – since both have remained loyal and are in the Khan’s good books for the time being. One disadvantage that Sardar Jahangir Tareen faces that his Mirs have no access to the Khan of Kalat. On the other hand, the three Mirs of Sardar Shah Mehmood Quershi are in close contact with the Khan of Kalat.

The million-dollar question now is: which Sardar will the ‘Khan of Kalat’ support? As soon as that is finalized, the Nawab will not waste a second in kicking out the other Sardar.

The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: saleem.safi@janggroup.