Faced with no-trust vote, desperate Imran Khan rushes to powerful godman for support, but is denied meeting

IANS
New Delhi, India Updated: Mar 10, 2022, 03:04 PM(IST)

Pir Pagara also heads the family's political party, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, which won 1 million votes in the last election in 2018 and now he is a member of the Pakistan National Assembly. His party which is known as Grand Democratic Alliance is a coalition partner in the Imran Khan government. Photograph:( Twitter )

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Imran Khan has been trying to get in touch with Pir Pagara, who is considered close to the military establishment after the opposition moved a no-confidence motion against him on Tuesday

Faced with the no-confidence motion by the combined opposition in the National Assembly, beleaguered Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan reached Karachi on Wednesday to seek the "blessings" of powerful spiritual leader Pir Pagara, who is close to the military establishment.

However, Pir Pagara has refused to see him, according to sources.

"Pir Pagara will not be able to meet PM Imran Khan due to his illness and other pre-planned engagements in his hometown Pir Jo Goth," Geo News quoted Pir's spokesperson Saira Bano as saying.

Imran Khan has been trying to get in touch with Pir Pagara, who is considered close to the military establishment, after the opposition moved a no-confidence motion against him on Tuesday.

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Who is Pir Pagara?

The current Pir is Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi succeeded his father Shah Mardan Shah after his demise in 2012 and is the eighth hereditary ruler of more than 900,000 devotees who consider him a living extension of God.

Pir Pagara is a powerful spiritual leader with a million tribal members of Sindh region of Pakistan known as 'Hurs' (free and brave men).

At least 50,000 of the Pir Pagaro's most fanatical followers, the militant Hurs, serve in positions reserved for them in the Pakistani Army and provincial police. The jobs were created as a reward to the Pir for his service to the several military governments of Pakistan, including General Zia's eight-year military regime.

According to Pakistani experts, in the pre-independence era, Pir Pagara led his most fanatical followers, the Hurs, in a bloody revolt against the British. As a result, the British labelled them a "criminal tribe", a designation they had in common with the Thugs of Bengal.

"The current Pir's father, the 7th Pir Pagara Sibghatullah Shah was hanged in 1943 by the British for conspiracy to wage war. Hundreds of his followers were also hanged, many without trial," says Anees Jilani, a Pakistani activist, adding that like their ancestors, the present Pir is loyal to the Pakistani Army.

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And that is the reason that Imran Khan has been desperate to meet Pir Pagara.

Pir Pagara also heads the family's political party, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, which won 1 million votes in the last election in 2018 and now he is a member of the Pakistan National Assembly. His party which is known as Grand Democratic Alliance is a coalition partner in the Imran Khan government.

"Pir is totally a GHQ (Pakistan Army headquarter) man like many other rich politicians in Imran Khan's party. He will do what the military establishment will ask him to do. It is true that he has not been happy with Imran Khan for the last few months," said one insider.

"We are your allies, but the government does nothing to prove it," Pir Pagara reportedly told Imran Khan.

Like Pir, other allies in Sindh like Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan are also not happy with the Imran Khan government.

The anxiety is evident in the ranks of the government as Imran Khan himself has taken up the task to win back his allies.

"Pakistani Army is with me and we will defeat them in such a way that they will not be able to recover from it until 2028. There are multiple foreign hands backing the opposition," Dawn quoted Imran Khan as saying.

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On the other side, circles close to the 'number game' informed that the opposition parties are playing on the 'internal rifts' of the ruling party and by incentivising members of the National Assembly with a commitment of awarding popular party tickets in the next general elections.

According to Pakistani media, now the ball is in the court of the Speaker of the National Assembly who has to convene the session within 14 days, that means by March 22. After tabling the resolution through a motion in the Assembly, the Speaker will be required to put it for a vote no sooner than three days and not later than seven days. So the voting will take place between March 26-29.

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Meanwhile, the Imran Khan government has asked the Speaker to defer the voting till March 29 as Pakistan will be hosting a two-day meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on March 22, for which the Assembly hall is presently being renovated.

"Imran Khan should resign if he wants to save himself from further humiliation. The speaker is duly bound by the constitution. He cannot defer the voting date," said the opposition.

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