KHANEWAL, Aug 15: The district which was once represented in the power echelons by seasoned politician Syed Fakhar Imam is now being ruled by the Hirajs as they have sway in all tiers of the government.
Raza Hayat Hiraj and Hamid Yar Hiraj are the state ministers and latter’s father, the man of all seasons, Sardar Allah Yar Hiraj is an adviser to the chief minister. Allah Yar’s eldest son Ahmed Yar Hiraj was the district nazim while another son Muhammad Yar is an MPA. The long list of the Hirajs being everywhere does not stop here as cousin Zafar Ahmed Hiraj was the Kabirwala tehsil nazim.
The agriculture-rich district of Khanewal comprised four tehsils — Kabirwala, Khanewal, Mian Channu and Jehania. The first three tehsils have 25 union councils each while the fourth has 24. Syeds, Hirajs, Bodlas, Dahas, Wahlas, Khagas, Maitlas and Qureshis are the traditional political powerhouses of the district and, hence, are playing the role of ringmasters to muster maximum support from the electoral college before vying for the district and tehsil top slots.
The Hirajs got the political life on the shoulders of PPP but afterwards jumped to the official bandwagon as the ‘patriots’. Raza, Hamid and Muhammad had returned on the PPP tickets in the general elections of October 2002. Earlier, Ahmed and Zafar had become district and tehsil nazims, respectively, with the active support of PPP’s cover-up Awam Dost Group in the partyless local polls held in 2001 under the devolution plan.
However, this time around the groups of minister Raza Hiraj and former tehsil nazim Zafar Hiraj are pitched against each other in Kabirwala. The former is rubbing shoulders with provincial minister Hussain Jehania Gardezi while the latter is said to be enjoying the support of Allah Yar Hiraj for the electoral battle of Kabirwala.
Kabirwala was once the source of strength for former National assembly speaker Fakhar Imam but now it seems that he is fast becoming irrelevant to the nitty gritty of the partyless local body politics which in the rural areas mainly rests on police and courts. The phenomenon is commonly known as the politics of ‘thana aur kutchary’.
But Fakhar Imam always talks about principles and fair play in politics with high ideals of democratic norms. He had resigned as the federal minister for local bodies when he could not make it to the Multan district council chairmanship against Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, currently the incarcerated PPP central vice chairman, in the local polls of 1983. Khanewal was then the part of the Multan district. His cousin former MPA Syed Khawar Ali Shah was said to have looked after the ‘requirements’ of local politics on his behalf but reportedly both of them are no more the political allies. Each of them has fielded his own candidates for the Aug 18 elections.
PPP’s MPA Syed Mukhtar Shah and Sajid Raza Thaheem have fielded their candidates from the platform of Awam Dost Group in Kabirwala. At some places, they have struck seat adjustments with both Fakhar Imam and Khawar Shah.
In Khanewal tehsil, the leadership of ruling PML-Q has been divided into two opposing camps, Hirajs and Dahas. The former camp is being led by Allah Yar Hiraj while the latter by the former tehsil nazim Nishat Ahmed Daha. The PML-N has a strong representation here in the form of its former provincial minister Irfan Daha and former MNA Major Aftab Daha (retired).
The Awam Dost Group of PPP is being led here by the party’s time-tested loyal advocate Javed Iqbal Hashmi. The group has struck seat adjustments at some places with PML-N and the MMA. However, the Dahas of PML-Q and PML-N have joined hands against the Hirajs.
PML-Q, PML-N and PPP-Patriots have tied the alliance in Mian Channu tehsil against the powerful Awam Dost Group. Begum Majeeda Wyne, the widow of late Ghulam Haider Wyne, PPP turncoat MNA Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla, PML-Q’s Chaudhry Abdul Raziq and Shahzad Khan Khakwani are grouped together while former tehsil nazim Shujat Hasnain Qureshi and MPAs Zahoor Qureshi and Mushtaq Shah Khaga are campaigning for the candidates of Awam Dost Group.
The ruling PML-Q has nominated Shahzad Khakwani as its candidate for the top slot of Mian Channu tehsil council. Aslam Bodla is said to be estranged with the Hirajs because he was the third PPP MNA along with Raza Hiraj and Hamid Yar Hiraj from Khanewal who had deserted their party after returning on its tickets in 2002 but the Hirajs did not share the reward (two ministries) with him.
So, the Dahas in Khanewal tehsil and Bodlas in Mian Channu can be a thorn in the flesh of the Hirajs who otherwise are riding high, thanks to the patronage of a powerful personality of Punjab (other than the Chaudhrys of Gujrat). Leaders of PML-Q, PML-N and PPP-Patriots are also grouped against the candidates of Awam Dost in Jehania tehsil of the district. PML-Q MNA Ghulam Murtaza Maitla, MPA Razzaq Niazi, PPP turncoat MPA Naveed Jehania and PML-N’s Rao Sadiq Ali Khan have formed a group while the rival Awam Dost Group is being led by business tycoon Chaudhry Iftikhar Nazir.
However, there is a lot of scepticism among the ranks of PPP or Awam Dost Group about the sincerity of Chaudhry Iftikhar as it is being said that he is secretly in contact with the Hirajs through Jehania’s former tehsil nazim Karamdad Wahla.