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Constituency politics and complexities in Chitral

By Akhtar Ali (QAU Islamabad)
Since its inception Pakistan has seen constituency politics. No party except that of Mujibur Rehman (1970) and in some extent Zulfikar Ali Bhutto contested election based on an ideology.
The entire political landscape of the country revolves around electable politics where ideology takes the back seat, causing dominancy of the elite in our political system. Imran Khan has long been deemed the last beacon of hope against traditional politics but in the end he too succumbed to the powerful status quo by saying that candidates should have knowledge about the science of contesting an election and that an ideology does not matter.
Since the entire political landscape of the country is dominated by constituency politics, Chitral is no exception. Political culture and tradition in Chitral is too much complex and sometimes too ugly.
Clans (Qaumiyat), sectarian affiliations and regionalism are those uncouth and distasteful norms in Chitral that loom like a dark cloud over the peaceful coexistence of its people and causes potential divisions among its inhabitants.
Most of the time dozens of candidates living hundreds of miles away appear making themselves the brother of voters using clan card even though they never visited each other before the announcement of the election, neither knew their background nor even their names.
Sometimes, the candidate narrates the story of some remote past when he used to learn where his (candidate’s) great grandmother or his close or distant relative had offered milk to the voters’ great grandfather or their relative and made him her foster or adopted son (chir xaw). Since then, they had been in an intimate relationship and this (relationship) should be revived. The voter brother is happy enough and zealously works to send his hitherto unknown brother to parliament, no matter when he would visit him again.
What is most worrisome and extremely distasteful aspect of clan dominated culture, however, is that it is the concept of superiority and inferiority based on one’s ancestors’ accomplishment in remote past which polarizes the society. The individual considers himself superior to his fellows on account of his bygone time ancestors’ status regardless of which extent he himself is able to the same position in contemporary days.
Since Chitral was a state which needed institutions obviously the institutions required people to carry out their routine business much like the contemporary state system. People were recruited in military and civil bureaucracy, revenue institutions, espionage agencies, judiciary etc., by dint of their abilities.
The less competent were given job/task in lower ranks according to their capabilities much like today’s world. What was different, however, is that of the name of the occupations that some of the lower ranks possessed disrespectful terms that still reverberate, and sometimes causes to label that clan member as an inferior. In essence nothing is different.
The same pattern which categorized the occupations, inducted individuals in different position based on their capabilities, are also practiced in today’s world. The then inferiors are in exalted positions today whereas the then so called superior are in a position of what was previously considered as inferior.
Politics in the name of clan accelerates this notion which is to be condemned. In today’s age of information and media, division of society into inferiority and superiority by virtue of ancestors’ era in the immemorial past is totally rotten, extremely illogical and completely stupid. With the announcement of election this culture gets momentum clandestinely, if not openly.
The game does not come to an end with clan politics. Another gentleman, if he could not find any mark to trace his clan, makes his entry to burnish politics with another slogan. This time the holy slogan is not about the mundane development but about life after death and promises to reward paradise’s certificate in lieu of his support. Still another group appears to remind us about his or his party’s past performances that it may be the tiny part of citizen’s fundamental right (like primary school or dispensary’s one side boundary wall). Some of them as old as my great grandfather’s age and we have to support them in retaliation of that work in this time.
Since ideological politics seldom works, multitude of candidates having different backgrounds, belonging to different localities, clans, political ideologies and sects jump to the fray. The political campaign in Chitral may trigger regionalism and religiosity, since clan politics is already in its apex. Distant clan brother, surely, appear to introduce himself but this time he should come for the acquaintance to his hitherto unknown brothers after the election; religiously motivated brothers should preach Islam in respective places whereas past services reminders should come to us with a new program since the past has now gone. What is needed to be done, however, is that of the new people centric comprehensive program which could work for the well being of the people of the region. Any campaign based on the division of people should no longer be encouraged.
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