Nawaz Sharif’s whirlwind tour of the country to drum up support for his party achieved some success on Tuesday as the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) chief received assurances of cooperation during the 2013 election from Sindhi nationalist leaders in Hyderabad, though no formal alliances have yet been agreed upon.
Sharif met with Awami Tehreek leader Rasool Bux Palijo and Sindhi Taraqi Pasand Party leader Qadir Magsi at their residences. Both leaders have been critical of the PML-N and the Punjab government in the past for what they perceive to be a discriminatory attitude towards other provinces when it comes to sharing common natural resources, particularly water from the Indus River and its tributaries.
The PML-N leadership has been feeling cornered in recent weeks as the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been able to make an alliance with its rival Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), leaving the PML-N isolated as the only major party in the opposition.
PML-N leaders have been trying to cobble together a coalition of their own for the next general elections, scheduled for 2013. Sharif’s meetings with Sindhi nationalist leaders, coupled with his attempts to reorganise the PML-N in Sindh, have been seen as part of the party’s efforts to be better prepared for the next election cycle. Tuesday’s meetings are not the first time the PML-N leader has tried to make peace with Sindhi nationalists, who have historically viewed the Punjabi politician with suspicion. During his first term as prime minister in the early 1990s, Sharif also tried to form an alliance with the nationalists in Sindh, which ultimately fell apart.
Sharif seems to have been willing to give in to many of the nationalist party’s demands this time around. He even echoed some of the strongest nationalist rhetoric at his meeting with Palijo: “Nationalism is an admirable passion. Therefore, nationalists and the PML-N are on the same page. Palijo talks about the rights of poor people and minorities, autonomy for the provinces and against the dominance of the rich over the poor, all of which are similar to the manifesto of my party.”
At the ST headquarters, he said: “It is lamentable that the native people of Sindh are being neglected.”
Neither of the nationalist parties, however, was willing to commit yet to an alliance, though neither ruled it out either.
“It’s too early to make a decision. We have begun with coordinating with each other,” said Ayaz Palijo, president of the Awami Tehreek.
Sharif also continued his efforts to better organise the PML-N in Sindh, holding meetings with party leaders and workers at the residence of Nawab Arshad Talpur on the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2011.