Attention: Sindh is up for grabs
Sindh is not as safely in the Pakistan Peoples Party’s column as might appear at first glance.
With all the national attention focused on the political battle over Punjab, it is worth pointing out that parties across the political spectrum would do well to realise that Sindh is not as safely in the Pakistan Peoples Party’s column as might appear at first glance.
Ever since the party was first launched in the late 1960s, Sindh has firmly stayed loyal to the Bhutto clan and one of the fundamental assumptions in Pakistani politics is that rural Sindh will always vote, by and large, for the PPP. In the 1980s, the MQM was able to peel away the urban part of the province, but not enough to form a majority in the Sindh Assembly.
Yet look closer and the PPP’s grip on Sindh is not quite as secure. Sindh initially jumped on the PPP bandwagon for the same reason the rest of Pakistan voted for the party: the raw charisma of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In later decades, the party was trusted in Sindh as the only guarantor of Sindhi rights at the federal level, particularly when Pakistan’s power structure was so heavily concentrated in Islamabad.
Sindh’s intellectual and emotional loyalty, however, has always belonged to the Sindhi nationalists. Go even into the heart of PPP’s stronghold in Larkana and you are likely to find more flags of the Sindhi nationalist parties than the PPP. Bhutto may get the vote, but GM Syed holds sway over people’s hearts.
The PPP keeps winning elections because the nationalists do not take part in electoral politics. But rural Sindhis seem to have had enough of the PPP’s poor governance record. And with the 18th Amendment to the constitution, Sindhis have less of a need for a party to protect their interests in Islamabad, since more decisions will be made in Karachi.
And then there is the interesting development: Sindhi nationalists seem to be somewhat more willing to make peace with urban based parties. What happens when Sindh’s intellectual leadership starts supporting a party other than the PPP? The answer is not as certain as it once was.