Anti-PPP forces eye chinks in armor

Sindh waits on Punjab politics but trouble brews at home

Anti-PPP forces eye chinks in armor
The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and its opponents have held big public meetings in Sindh over the last two months. This ‘show of strength’ as political parties like to call it, is, however, not much of a barometer of how the party will necessarily fare. They are waiting for the outcome of political developments underway in Islamabad and Lahore to finalize their own strategies. Major PPP opponents are still not sure whether or not the forthcoming general elections will be held on time. Some of them still seeing a national government set-up in the offing and this uncertainty is palpable.

PML-Functional chief Pir Pagaro, who heads a major opposition party in Sindh, is also confused about the situation. It was observed in a recent informal interaction with him that he was also uncertain about whether the elections would be held on time. He was of the opinion that they may not be held for the next four to five years. It is not clear whether his observation was based on his analysis or his wishes. He expressed concern about the situation arising in the Punjab, especially developments in the aftermath of the Model Town report.

The PML-Functional-led Grand Democratic Alliance had held a big public meeting in Sukkur in the last week of November. This is the constituency of PPP leader and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khurshed Shah. Prior to this the PML-F had held a workers convention in the PPP’s stronghold of Larkana.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman had also addressed a mammoth gathering of his party, the JUI-F, in Larkana also in the last week of November. It was organized on the death anniversary of JUI-F’s murdered leader, Khalid Mahmood Soomro. The JUI-F has a large number of followers as well as voters in Larkana, and the party has remained an opponent of the PPP. Soomro had also contested the elections against Benazir Bhutto in the past.

Former anti-PPP elements are prevailing in Sindh in the shape of nationalist groups. The late GM Syed’s grandson Syed Jalal Mahmood Shah leads them. Shah’s Sindh United Party has agitated against the PPP government on Sindh-specific issues with the help of other nationalist groups. Previously, it organized protest rallies on the census, and currently it is protesting Computerized National Cards being issued to “aliens” residing in Karachi, especially the Bengali-speaking people.
There is a reason why opponents of the PPP are not seen as being in a position to pose a threat to the party in Sindh till now. This impression exists because the PPP has been in power continuously for nine years

The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is also trying to capture anti-PPP votes in Sindh. The party has organized well-attended public meetings in Sehwan and Ghotki. Imran strongly criticized PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur during his speeches at these public gatherings.

The MQM has started revving up its political activities in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and other urban parts of Sindh where Urdu-speaking populations are settled in large numbers. The MQM’s candidates have been elected from these areas in the past. However the MQM’s recent work is more aimed at defensively protecting its vote bank from rival breakaway factions such as the Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party.

There is a possibility that these PPP opponents could get together to form a joint strategy once the dates for the general elections are announced. The PPP leadership could also take steps to counter them and protect its political base, Sindh, where it has been hemmed in. According to members of the PPP circle, the party does not consider anyone a real threat in the forthcoming general elections.

There is a reason why opponents of the PPP are not seen as being in a position to pose a threat to the party in Sindh till now. This impression exists because the PPP has been in power continuously for nine years. However, there is optimism that the situation will suddenly change once the elections are announced. They hope for some important developments against the PPP.

They claim that all the anti-PPP parties and groups in Sindh will form electoral alliances and make seat adjustments in the elections. They are also optimistic that leaders who are annoyed with the PPP and feel that they have been sidelined by the party will join the opposition camp soon after the announcement of the general elections. Thus the opposition parties can potentially cause the PPP grief as a majority of those annoyed PPP leaders are heavyweights and are likely to be elected.

Opposition circles point out the PPP MNA from Jamshoro, Malik Asad Sikandar, the party’s MPA from Qambar-Shahdadkot Mir Nadir Magsi, the Maher brothers of Ghotki, the former PPP MPA and provincial minister, Pir Mazharul Haq, the family of former Sindh home minister, Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, and other PPP leaders as being on the list of people annoyed with the party leaders for different reasons.