Could Floods Rake Up Past Skeletons In Sindh's Necropolis Hub Of Thatta?

PPP's Sadiq Ali Memon is expected to face tough competition from PML-N's Rasool Bux Jakhro for the NA-225 seat, while the former party is expected to have smooth sailing on provincial assembly seats

Could Floods Rake Up Past Skeletons In Sindh's Necropolis Hub Of Thatta?

The historical district of Thatta is considered a culture and resource hub for the delta districts of Sindh. While one party considers this district to be comfortably nestled in their back pocket, the floods of 2022 have washed up some ugly and unwanted skeletons that could influence voters on February 8.

The district will see competition on a national assembly seat and two provincial assembly seats, including NA-225, PS-75 and PS-76 respectively. The NA constituency comprises some 522,386 voters, including 286,354 men and 236,032 women. Some 1,516 polling stations for men and women will be set up in the constituency.

Historically, voters in the district mostly vote under the influence of the Sheerazi clan. Whichever way the Sheerazi clan swings, the constituency votes. The Sheerazi clan exerts similar influence in the neighbouring Sujawal district as well.

That being said, the key issues for voters in the land of the Makli Necropolis, Dulha Darya Khan Bridge and the Keenjhar Lake include security, poverty, poor standard of education and a water crisis, which has plagued the province throughout the 15 years that the PPP has reigned uninterrupted in Sindh. 

The contestants

Traditionally, Thatta has proved to be a stronghold for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). In this election, the PPP awarded a ticket to long-time party supporter Sadiq Ali Memon for NA-225. It has awarded a ticket to Riaz Shah Sheerazi for the provincial assembly seat of PS-75 and Haji Ali Hassan Zardari for PS-76. 

They will face off against 27 other candidates across the national and provincial assembly seats.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has awarded a ticket to Rasool Bux Jakhro for NA-225 and Abdul Jabbar Arain for PS-76.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has awarded a ticket to Junaid Niaz Siddiqui for NA-225, Mehar Ali Shah for PS-75 and Siraj Uddin for PS-76. 

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is backing Syed Jameel Ahmed Shah Bukhari for NA-225, Syed Amjad Hussain Shah for PS-75 and Meer Murtaza for PS-76.

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) hopes to win seats in the district by handing a ticket to Imtiaz Ahmed Palari for NA-225, Abdullah Adam Gandro for PS-75, and Muhammad Ali Khan for PS-76. 

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is fielding Altaf Hussain Kachhi for PS-76. In contrast, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI-P) have fielded Muhammad Arshad Memon for PS-75 and Saeedur Rehman from PS-76.

Main contests

An intense contest is expected between Memon of PPP and Jakhro of the PML-N for NA-225.

Locals say Jakhro is a veteran politician from the area who had a long affiliation with the PPP. He even rose to become the finance secretary of the district for the party. However, he opted to leave the party and join a rival after differences emerged with the party over the issue of ticket distribution. Jakhro met with key leaders of the PML-N, including Kheso Mal Kheal Das Kohistani.

Those close to Jakhro say the PML-N candidate has emerged as a strong contender after he managed to gain support from voters dwelling in remote areas of the district. In particular, he has wooed those affected by the 2022 floods and received little support from the PPP government. Moreover, locals have complained that the local leadership of the PPP was absent during the floods, leaving the people to fend for themselves — a sentiment not easily forgotten. 

Jakhro has also attracted voters from his extensive clan spread across the district. 

For its part, the PPP has decided to award tickets to Sadiq Ali Memon. He is the son of Shamsunnisa Memon. Shamsunnisa was handed a PPP ticket from this constituency during the by-elections in 2013 and won comfortably. She was backed by the PPP a second time in 2018 and returned to parliament with substantial voter backing. But the party has decided not to back her this time.

This lack of confidence stems from the growing sentiment amongst residents of Thatta that Shamsunnisa failed to deliver during the floods. Moreover, she was rarely seen at public gatherings or interacted much with voters during her two terms. This attitude of the former MNA reportedly compelled the PPP to opt for a fresh face without compromising the Memon clan's support.

The PPP did so while ignoring Sasui Palijo, who stood by the PPP in difficult times.

As far as Shamsunnissa is concerned, she is contesting for NA-225 as an independent candidate against her son.

As far as Sadiq Ali Memon is concerned, he has been endearing himself to voters in the district. Together with using Haji Ali Hasan Zardari and Riaz Shah Sheerazi, he appears poised to sweep this week's elections and avoid the public's wrath. 

For their part, Sheerazi and Zardari are confident in securing their places in the Sindh Assembly on February 8 as they face little threat from any competing candidate.

Zardari, who enjoys the backing of fellow Zardari clan member, former President and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, can also claim credit for some development projects in the district — particularly developing infrastructure of the coastal areas of Gorabari and ensure the supply of water for irrigation to remote areas of the district. He has also hinted at reviving the Zulfiqarabad scheme to woo voters. 

On the other hand, Sheerazi claims to have strong political roots amongst residents of his constituency thanks to the popularity enjoyed by his father, the (late) Syed Aijaz Ali Shah Shirazi. 

Jakhro and the PPP candidates have been holding large public gatherings, rallies and corner meetings in the district to attract voters.

The author is a practicing lawyer and freelance journalist. His areas of interest are cultural diversity and socio-political issues of Sindh.