KARACHI: Despite the recent inclusion of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz minority MNA Bhawan Das and other leaders in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) before the general elections, all does not seem well with the party as many influential political families of Sindh are reportedly interested in joining other political parties or independent groups.
Among such dissident families is the Mahar family of Khangarh in Ghotki district who have a history of correctly predicting which party gets the majority in Sindh and then joining that party. After almost 10 years’ association with the PPP, the family is planning to turn its back on it.
Sources privy to the development informed The Express Tribune that senior leaders of the Mahar group avoided meeting with PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari when the latter visited Ghotki on Friday. Although Bilawal’s programme had been organised by one of their family members, Raja Mahar, the family leaders, including MNA Ali Gohar Khan Mahar, former chief minister and MNA Ali Muhammad Khan Mahar and Sports Minister Muhammad Bux Mahar, did not show up at the event.
“For the last few months, the PPP leadership has been trying to woo them but nothing has come of it,” sources revealed. It has also been said that two days before Bilawal’s visit to the area, the PPP leadership sent former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah to Khangarh to negotiate with the Mahars, however, they spared him hardly 20 minutes and possibly informed him that the family was not going to align itself with the ruling party in the upcoming elections.
The differences between the PPP and Mahars came into the limelight in the first week of March when Gohar, who is said to be the key leader of the family, announced his support for the Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) candidate in the PS-7 Ghotki by-election. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of Sardar Ahmed Ali Pitafi. Going against the Mahar brothers’ recommendation, the PPP awarded its ticket to one of its loyalists, Bari Pitafi. The PPP won the seat by securing around 47,000 votes against Mian Abdul Malik of the PML-F who received 36,924 votes.
The Mahar family, which has not lost an election in a long time, enjoys widespread influence in Ghotki district. The Mahars have never been permanent loyalists to any government or party. Before joining the PPP in 2007, they were affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid that supported General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. It was during that era when Ali Muhammad was elected Sindh chief minister.
“Instead of re-organising the party at grass root level, our party is merely focusing on electability of newcomers without [keeping in view] their past conduct,” a PPP stalwart who has now been sidelined said on the basis of anonymity. He added that the incumbent chief minister and PPP MNA Faryal Talpur both contacted the Mahars but they refused to meet them even in their hometown.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Gohar said they had been ignored by the PPP and issues in their constituencies had not been resolved. “We have not formally parted ways with the party but ground realities show that we can’t go with it in the future,” he said.
Besides the Mahar family, there has been resentment brewing among party leaders in other districts too. MPA Nadir Magsi and his brother MNA Amir Magsi have reportedly been sidelined for quite some time. There are reports that both brothers who belong to the chieftain family of the Magsi tribe of Sindh and Balochistan have expressed reluctance to contest elections on PPP tickets in the future. “Almost all PPP leaders, including Bilawal, Asif Zardari and even Talpur, have held a number of meetings with them, but the Magsi family members are not comfortable with the party. Another meeting between [PPP leaders and] them is scheduled in Karachi,” said sources familiar with the development.
The Makhdooms of Hala, who have historically supported the PPP through thick and thin, have also reportedly announced that they will field their own candidates in the elections. The Makhdooms are the chiefs of the Sarwari Jamaat whose adherents live throughout Sindh. The late Makhdoom Amin Fahim was one of the trusted companions of Benazir Bhutto, however, after Benazir’s assassination and Zardari’s take-over of the PPP, the Makhdooms have continually complained of being sidelined in the party.
Meanwhile, the PPP claims that there have been no rifts within the party. PPP Sindh President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, while speaking to the media a few days ago, rejected such impressions, claiming that the party would sweep the upcoming polls and bring in its own chief minister in the province again. “No one will leave,” he said, adding that there have always been differences of opinion among party leaders on various issues, but no one parted ways due to these differences.