A fight broke out in Shikarpur city between supporters of the National Peoples Party (NPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) a day after the MQM held a massive rally on Friday.
The fight ended only when Mir Abid Hussain Jatoi, the Sindh minister for livestock, intervened and the police arrived.
At the rally, senior MQM leaders such as Mustafa Kamal addressed a crowd estimated to be in the hundreds. “Revolution is now in store for the country,” he said, “because people have been denied their rights, feel neglected and have given up hope.” He said that 89 per cent of MQM supporters are from middle class families and want an end to feudalism from this country. Two other leaders, Ashfaq Mangi and Yousaf Shahwani, also spoke.
“The time is now right for people from the lower and middle classes to fight for their rights under the MQM umbrella,” said Mangi. While Shahwani added that the MQM had helped “millions” of people displaced by the floods.
While the MQM has had a presence in the area for the past two decades, their influence in local politics has been almost negligible. Shikarpur has never elected any member of this party to either the provincial or national assemblies.
The traditional bastions of power in Shikarpur and its surrounding areas have largely been the Soomro and Jatoi families. A few decades ago, it was mainly the Soomros who held power in the area – with their most influential member, Illahi Bukhsh Soomro, formerly serving as speaker of the National Assembly and as federal minister.
Slowly, however, the influence of the Soomro family began to wane. The first person to engineer a shift in power dynamics was Aftab Shaban Mirani – a former chief minister of Sindh and current member of National Assembly from Shikarpur. Another influence behind the shifting dynamics of power has been Agha Siraj Durrani.
Local journalists also say that the arrival of the Pakhtun to rural Sindh has the potential to alter the vote bank. Additionally, the less well-off members of the Soomro clan have been migrating to other cities such as Karachi and Hyderabad for jobs.
Despite these small shifts in the making, it is unlikely, according to some observers, that the political landscape of Sindh will change in the near future. The magnetic pull of the Pakistan Peoples Party and its effect on Sindhi voters is not a phenomenon that will soon undergo a remarkable transformation — particularly with the emotional appeal of the slain Benazir Bhutto. One local journalist pointed out that the floods did engineer some social unrest – as people were extremely unhappy at the inundation of their lands with the influential landlords doing all it took to save their own. Despite this, most analysts are of the view that it will take time for the MQM to establish a foothold in the local politics. Landlords are still extremely influential and can twist voter registration centres to suit their needs. The MQM is still primarily viewed as a party representing the Urdu-speaking people and is ideologically different from what the Sindhi nationalist parties offer.
WITH ADDITIONAL WRITING BY OSMAN HUSAIN
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.