Pakistan’s Ali Wazir: The lone Marxist to win despite Taliban killing 16 of his family

A rare Communist to survive and win, Wazir refused a seat from Imran Khan, who later didn’t put up a candidate against him.

Ali Wazir, a central committee member of The Struggle, has won a seat in the national parliament of Pakistan from NA-50 (Tribal Area–XI) with 23,530 votes and his closest rival from a religious parties alliance, MMA got 7,515. Thus winning the seat with a majority of 16,015.

Ali Wazir is one of the main leaders of the Pashtun Tahafaz Movement (PTM). This year, mass meetings were organised in major cities of Pakistan to raise voices for fair compensation to the victims of the “war on terror” and to demand the release of all ‘missing’ persons or to bring them to the courts if they are guilty.

Two other leaders of the PTM also contested for the national parliament and one of them, Muhsin Dawer also won the seat after a close competition. Mohsin Javed Dawer got 16,526 votes while Aurangzeb of Imran Khan’s PTI got 10,422. However, the MMA candidate Mufti Misbahudin got a close 15,363 votes.

These two PTM leaders contested from Waziristan, an area dominated by religious fanatics. However, a strong movement for civil rights of Pashtuns had cut across the influence of the fanatics and Pashtuns voted despite all the threats to them.

Two main leaders of the PTM present in parliament has given hope to many in Pakistan that at least there would be peoples voices in a parliament dominated by feudal lords, corrupt capitalists and stooges of the military and judicial establishment.

Who is Ali Wazir?
Ali Wazir is a very special person. His personal ordeal best illustrates what prompted his demands. Ali Wazir was pursuing a degree in law at the turn of the century when his hometown, Wana, the headquarters of the south Waziristan agency, became the epicenter of global terrorism after a host of Taliban-allied groups sought shelter in the communities.

No doubt the terrorists had some individual local facilitators, but ultimately it was the state that failed to prevent them from using the territory. When his father, the chief of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, and other local leaders complained of their presence, government officials ignored and silenced them. Instead, Islamabad spent years denying the presence of any Afghan, Arab, or Central Asian militants.

By 2003, the militants had established a foothold in south and north Waziristan tribal agencies and were attempting to build a local emirate. Ali Wazir’s elder brother Farooq Wazir, a local political activist and youth leader, became the first victim of a long campaign in which thousands of Pashtun tribal leaders, activists, politicians, and clerics were killed with near absolute impunity. Their only crime was to question or oppose the presence of dangerous terrorists in their homeland.

In 2005, Ali Wazir was in prison when his father, brothers, cousins, and an uncle were killed in a single ambush. He was behind the bars because of the draconian colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) law, that holds an entire tribe or region responsible for the crimes of an individual for any alleged crime committed in the territory.

Ali Wazir had committed no crime, never got a fair trial, and was not sentenced, yet he was prevented even from participating in the funerals for his family.

In the subsequent years, six more members of his extended family were assassinated. The authorities have not even investigated these crimes let alone held anyone responsible.

Ali Wazir and his family faced economic ruin after all of the notable men in his family were eliminated. The government failed to prevent the militants from demolishing his family owned gas stations. They later used those bricks to build bathrooms, claiming they were munafiqin (hypocrites) so even the inanimate materials from his businesses were not appropriate to build proper buildings.

His family-owned apple and peach orchards in Wana were sprayed with poisonous chemicals, and tube wells were filled with dirt to force them to surrender to the forces of darkness.

In 2016, his family-owned market in Wana was dynamited after a bomb blast killed an army officer, which was an accident. They nevertheless destroyed their livelihoods under the FCR. After the demolition, the government prevented the local community — mostly members of Ahmadzai Wazir tribe — from collecting donations to help them. They were told it would set an unacceptable precedent because the government cannot let anyone help those it punishes.

So all together 16 members of his family, including his father, two brothers were killed by Taliban during these years.

Ali Wazir was one of the main leaders of Pashtun Tahafaz Movement. He recently toured the country and organised mass rallies in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Swat. Lahore Left Front was the host of Lahore public meeting which was formally not permitted by the authorities. We were not allowed to campaign, no posters or stickers were allowed to be put up in the city.

Ali Wazir and seven more were arrested a night before the public meeting and after a massive immediate response, they were released before the rally. Yet, over 10,000 participated in this public meeting.

In June this year, dozens of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) supporters were injured and 10 were killed as a result of an attack on Ali Wazir by the “pro-government militants”, also known as the Peace Committee. However, the PTM sympathisers gathered to welcome Ali retaliated, upon which the militants fled, leaving Ali’s cousin and a Voice of America (VOA) journalist injured among others.

In an interview in April 2018, Ali Wazir said, “The past few months have transformed my life. Amid the agonies I have endured and the threats, suspicion, and accusations I face, the love, support, and respect I receive is overwhelming.

Since February, when we began protesting to draw attention to the suffering of ethnic Pashtuns — among the worst victims of terrorism — I have learned a lot about the potential of ordinary Pakistanis. Their thirst for change is inspiring and heralds a peaceful, prosperous future we must build for generations to come”.

During those difficult years, he didn’t lose faith in the mass movement and remained committed to politics of class struggle. He ran in parliamentary elections in 2008 and 2013.

In the 2013 general elections, his victory was changed to a defeat at gunpoint. He lost the election for just over 300 votes after the Taliban intimidated voters and tortured his supporters and campaign volunteers.

Amid the volcano of violence, thousands of civilians have disappeared, and thousands have fallen victim to extrajudicial killings. The leaders of PTM are profiled as suspected terrorists across the country, face humiliation at security check posts, and innocent civilians have to face violence during security sweeps and operations. As the world’s largest tribal society, the Pashtuns are known for their hospitality, commitment, and valour, yet they were falsely reduced to terrorist sympathisers despite the fact that they are their worst victims.

Ali Wazir belongs to The Struggle, a Pakistani Marxist organization that has joined the Lahore Left Front, a united platform of several Left groups and parties. However, the Lahore Left Front has organised some mass activities where Ali Wazir participated.

The general election of 2018 was the most rigged elections in the history of Pakistan. The society has pushed further to the right with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) coming to power. Imran Khan called Ali Wazir prior to the elections and offered him PTI nomination from the area which Ali politely refused. However, such respect for Ali Wazir Imran Khan had that that he told him that in any case, “we will not put up our candidate against you”.

Prior to the general elections, a wholesale rigging took place on the behest of the establishment. PML(N) candidates were threatened, forced to change loyalties and so on. The PTI had open support from most of the state institutions.

In this background when a more Right-wing party PTI, than the previous ruling party PML(N), has come to power, a Marxist in parliament would be a breath of fresh air.

Although other Left groups also contested including Awami Workers Party (AWP) and had launched tremendous election campaigns, however, the election campaign of Ali Wazir had some special characteristics. He addressed few public meetings every day, went door to door with his meagre resources. Thousands cheered him at all times. We were all sure that he will win but were afraid of any incident that could cancel the elections from his constituency.

Ali Wazir has opened the gates for the entire Left. He is loved by most of the social activists, a sober person who is always down to earth in his presentation in workers meeting but speaks like a lion when he is addressing the ruling class. A fearless class fighter who has emerged as one of the most respected Left leaders in recent working-class history.

This article was originally published in the Asian Marxist Review

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