Following the expulsion of two senior members, cracks appear in PkMAP
Quetta: The differences within the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), which had existed for many years, came to light when the party’s chairman, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, expelled two of his old guards on charges of conspiracy against the party and deviating from the party line.
Instead of following the rules and procedures, such as serving show-cause notices and seeking explanations from the expelled leaders, the party chief’s extreme action sparked outrage among workers and members of the central committee.
Mukhtiar Yousafzai, the party secretary general, who is already at odds with the party chief, rejected Achakzai’s decision, calling it illegal and arbitrary.
In a statement to the media, he stated that the party chairman, rather than following the rules and procedures for taking such a drastic step, made a unilateral decision that could harm the party in the coming days. He stated that he has repeatedly requested a meeting of the party’s working committee to discuss the party’s long-standing crises, but the party chairman has always been evasive in calling the highest body into session.
However, the party secretary general convened a central committee meeting on November 23, 2022, in Quetta to discuss the party’s current situation.
PKMAP, which earlier was named the Pashtunkhwa National Awami Party (PKNAP) by its founder Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai, known as Khan Shaheed, in 1972, was founded by his son Mahmood Khan Achakzai in the 1990s. Samad Khan, who was killed in a hand grenade attack in 1974, remained a member of the defunct National Awami Party (NAP) until the dissolution of one unit and creation of four provinces.
He left NAP and formed his own group, PKNAP, after disagreements with the leadership over naming Balochistan province after the Baloch ethnic group. Balochistan, where the Baloch ethnic group is dominant in all census reports in the eastern, western, central, and southern parts, was named with the inclusion of Pashtun districts.
PKMAP has been advocating for a separate province for Balochistan’s Pashtun ethnic group rather than joining the former North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). It contends that because Pashtuns constitute the majority in Balochistan, they should be treated as equal partners in all aspects of life. The Awami National Party (ANP), which has pockets throughout the province, accepts and wishes the majority of Baloch in the province well. The PKMAP’s claim is also rejected by Baloch nationalist parties. This stance on both sides has resulted in schisms and even bloody clashes between the two ethnic groups, but these differences have faded over time.
PKMAP has survived on the slogan of a separate province and the anti-Baloch slogan, in which oppressors (Balochs) are accused of usurping Pashtun rights. In 1970, the party won one of the 21 seats in the Balochistan Assembly, two seats in the 43-member assembly in 1988, four seats in the 65-member house in 2002, and 11 seats for the first time in 2013.
During the 2018 elections, the party did not win a single seat in the national assembly, although it managed to bag one seat in the Balochistan assembly. It has served in the administrations of Nawab Akbar Bugti (1989–1990), Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi (1993–1997), Dr. Malik Baloch (2013–2016), and Nawab Sanaullah Zahri (2016–2017).
Due to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s leaning toward nationalist forces, the party has also enjoyed significant power and position in Dr. Malik Baloch’s and later Nawab Sanaullah Zahri’s coalition governments. Despite this important position and the use of a large amount of public sector development funds over the five years (2013–2018), the party was unable to deliver much for the people, and its ministers have been charged with corruption.
In addition, the PKMAP became a party in the famous “Balochistan Unrest Case” in the court of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2011 against the use of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), which assembly members call a means of corruption. However, when it took power following the 2013 general elections, it followed the same procedure that it had opposed.
There is no denying that PKMAP has made significant sacrifices for the Pashtun cause, such as its leader Samad Khan and dozens of workers and activists who have died or been imprisoned, and its current leadership has had to lead self-exile in Afghanistan for years.
It employs the slogan “Punjabi imperialist” to accuse Nawaz Sharif of murdering 1.5 million Afghans (due to Nawaz Sharif’s status as a Punjabi leader and the Punjab’s support for the Afghan war against the Soviet invasion). With the passage of time, however, it began to draw closer to Nawaz Sharif for his newfound anti-establishment stance. It has also criticised the ANP, led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka Bacha Khan, for remaining silent on the inclusion of Pashtun districts in Balochistan or the establishment of a province called Balochistan.
This period in the party was long, but it began to emerge after the 2013 general elections, when the party chairman began to make his own decisions, such as negotiating a coalition government in Balochistan with Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), recommending his brother’s name as governor of Balochistan and names for provincial ministers and women close to him for reserved seats, and so on.
Despite the fact that party officials recommended Syed Akram Shah as the senior party office bearer for the governorship, Mahmood Khan rejected their recommendation and nominated his brother instead. Later, Akram Shah, a confidant of Mahmood Khan, was fired for having disagreements. He and his close friend Ahmad Jan, the former head of the party’s student wing, joined the newly formed National Democratic Movement (NDM), led by National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar. Muzammil Shah, Akram Shah’s son, was elected movement secretary general.
Mahmood Khan expelled senior party workers, including the party’s central information secretary, Raza Mohammad Raza, who also served in the Senate of Pakistan, and former provincial minister Obaidullah Babat, sparking a reaction among party workers and activists.
When asked about his opinion on the crises within the party, the PKMAP chairman refused to make any comment.
In his interview, Raza Mohammad Raza stated that the chairman was engaged in party power politics, despite the fact that the party has been fighting for a separate administrative unit, equality for Pashtuns, and non-interference in Afghanistan. He added that Mahmood Khan declared himself the Taliban’s foreign minister and requested that workers and activists refrain from making any statements against the Pakistan Army and remain silent over the Durand Line fences.
According to some party office bearers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, a delegation of senior party members met with the chairman and requested that his decision to expel senior officer bearers be reversed in order to save the party. “But instead of realising his error, he became enraged and taunted the mediators,” one of them said.
They added that due to his stubborn nature, Mahmood Khan will not listen to anyone in this regard and will even disregard the party’s damages. However, people close to him claim that the chairman has been ignoring these elements’ anti-party activities and embezzlement of party funds, but when he began reorganising the party by dissolving the district units, these elements began creating roadblocks to save their skin.
The rebel workers and activists, led by Secretary General Mukhtiar Yousafzai, appear committed to attending the central executive committee meeting, while the chairman is said to have directed his loyalists not to participate. It would be the first time in history that a major division occurs within a party that claims to be the sole representative of the Pashtun ethnic group. This schism may benefit the ANP, another nationalist group representing the Pashtun population, as well as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), which has always been more popular in the north than nationalist parties.
The ANP has four seats in the Balochistan Assembly, while the JUI-F has 11 seats plus five in the National Assembly. The rebel group claims they have many options, including forming a separate PKMAP group or joining Mohsin Dawar’s newly formed NDM, but they will consult extensively before making any decision.