Sindh election: A ‘Tug of War’ between PPP and the anti-PPP alliance
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has won the most elections in Sindh since its foundation in 1967 mostly on the basis of its political strength in rural areas of the province. This election providing the party a rare opportunity to make its inroads in urban parts of Sindh and win more seats from the cities of Sindh including the crown jewel of Karachi due to fissures in the MQM. This time, urban Sindh’s mandate would be totally divided as the field is open for all political players.
The people of Sindh suffered collective trauma of the unnatural deaths of its two most popular leaders i.e. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, hanged after a sham trial in a murder case during the notorious regime of General Zia ul Haq, and Benazir Bhutto who returned from exile in 2007 to be assassinated in a bomb and gun attack after a public meeting in Rawalpindi-also during a military government. The trauma, however, has turned into political capital for the PPP, which has won the province in the past two general elections and has been on the verge to repeat the achievement again.
The PPP, after completing its tenure in 2013, however, suffered huge setback in the General Election in that year, when it was restricted to Sindh only. The party won most National and provincial assembly seats in the province making it entitled to govern Sindh again for five more years.
Present Political Scene
Pakistan’s other mainstream parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf have failed to change the political reality of Sindh, particularly the rural areas of the province.
Despite the allegations of corruption and bad governance against the party leaders and provincial government officials Sindh still prepared to vote for the PPP in the upcoming elections, most political observers suggest.
The PPP has been well entrenched to win the popular mandate of Sindh in the upcoming elections on the polling day of July 25. The unraveling of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), creating political void in Karachi, has opened up new possibilities for the PPP and other political players in the city.
After emergence of PPP, the rural areas of Sindh and smaller cities, have failed to fancy more political options to challenge the previlege enjoyed by the People’s Party.
Neither any mainstream national party other than PPP, has tried to win the votes in Sindh except communicating with some former political heavyweights. PML-N has no serious following and vote bank at grassroots level in rural parts of Sindh except some former Sindhi nationalists who had join the party in the recent past.
The PML-N has pockets of votes in Karachi but having no party infrastructure and the magic to attract the voters of rural Sindh.
However, the PPP will face a formidable opposition from its traditional opponents like Pir Pagaro’s PML-F and his Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) but also from the PTI, which after joining of the heavyweights like former governor of SIndh Muhammad Mian Soomro, who enjoys good reputation in Sindh, poses a challenge.
The PTI and GDA have now joined hands, further strengthening the opposition as two former chief ministers and influential Sindhi politicians Mumtaz Ali Bhutto and Liaquat Ali Jatoi are also now the part of the PTI.
Moreover, the PTI also depends on the influence of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has following in the shape of Ghausia Jamaat in some parts of Sindh and who is also contesting from two National Assembly seats on the party ticket in the province. Two of the three Pirs having huge influence in Sindh – Hurs and Ghausia Jamaat – are now on one platform against the PPP. However, the Sarwari Jamaat of the Makhdooms of Hala, is still with PPP. The contest could get more interesting if the MMA, also joins hands with the anti-PPP alliance.
In view of the new challenges in rural Sindh, the PPP leadership is trying to get maximum or at least sizable seats from urban Sindh, particularly from Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Hyderabad and most importantly from Karachi.
“Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA)” led by Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, Pir Pagara,comprises of a number of small Sindh based nationalist political groups and splinter groups of some mainstream political parties.
Former chief minister of Sindh Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, an estranged leader of PML-N, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, former home minister of Sindh, Arbab Ghulam Rahim, another former chief minister, former speaker of National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza, Safdar Abbasi, a leader of a splinter group of PPP, Zafar Ali Shah, Sindhi nationalist leaders Jalal Mehmood Shah, Ayaz Lateef Palijo, Zain Shah and scores of others with limited influence from Sindh are part of the alliance.
The GDA, a conglomerate of political groups from poltical left to right, with huge ideological differences, presenting itself as a replacement of the PPP to voters in Sindh. The alliance criticizes the PPP over failing to deliver during its 10-year rule in Sindh and damaging the economy of the province.
The GDA claims to solve the problems of unemployment, scarcity of water and power in Sindh and providing social justice but failed to give an election manifiesto, which vividly demonstrate the non-serious attitude and non-commitment to the burning issues of the present day’s Sindh.
A political entity with an X-Factor can fascinate the voters with its charisma and imagination. Atleast an implementable political strategy needed to attract the voter. A voter that have access to a number of the sources of information including a vibrant social media could demand more from his political leadership.
The PPP has a loyal vote bank in Sindh. How a voter who habitually gives vote to a particular party can change his loyalty to that entity. It becomes a very difficult proposition when nothing new being offered by the rival party.
The PPP will most likely emerge as the single largest party in rural Sindh, but it will be quite a challenge for the party leadership to gain more seats in rural Sindh in July 25 elections as compare to the May 11, 2013 elections.
The party is looking for around 40-plus seats so that it could play better in case of a hung Parliament along with independents and smaller groups. The party is expecting for around six seats in Karachi, but may get four to five in the city, which would still be better.
The fissures in MQM ranks and a favorable delimitation will likely to help the PPP in Karachi and in some other urban constituencies in Sindh.
The PPP have an upper hand in the province with its organisational network and the absence of strong opposition as there is no single opposition party with grassroots in rural Sindh.
Asif Ali Zardari in his political strategy wants to play a kingmaker’s role in the formation of government at the centre after the elections on the basis of the party’s strong performance in Sindh.
The PPP has organized and strengthened itself in Sindh with attracting influential opponents and anti-PPP political groups like Sherazis in Thatta and former PML-F leader Jam Madad Ali in Sanghar to fill the gaps and weak links. In case of a hung parliament after the elections, as several political pundits predicting, the party leadership will play a hard game to bargain in the post-elections political scene.