HYDERABAD: If communities’ preferences and local alliances together manage to tilt the voting pattern in their opponents’ favour, the yesteryears’ popularity of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Jamshoro and Dadu districts may prove insufficient to retain its electoral sway in the upcoming general elections.
The party had bagged all three seats of the National Assembly and seven of the provincial assembly in the 2008 and 2013 general elections from the two districts.
Now, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, backed by the Grand Democratic Alliance, and the Sindh United Party, with the support of its local allies, have emerged as major contenders challenging the PPP’s traditional sway. The PPP’s dissidents, who rebelled after the party finalised its election candidates, have also thrown their weight behind their party’s opponents.
With former chief minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah being its star candidate and Malik Asad Sikandar the party’s political heavyweight, PPP is pitted against a coalition in Jamshoro as well as one of its own former MPAs. There are even unconfirmed reports that the PPP is indirectly conniving with an independent candidate against its own ticket holder, Sikandar, who is contesting from PS-81.
The challengers have grouped under the banner of Jamshoro Ittehad, which is led by former deputy speaker of Sindh Assembly and head of Sindh United Party Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah.
Jalal Shah has thrown down the gauntlet to the former CM in PS-80, Sehwan, where a total of 19 candidates are in the field. On Tuesday, two councilors of the Sehwan Town Committee left the PPP and joined the Ittehad and on Wednesday, three more local influential figures, Sardar Hakim Khan Noohani, Sardar Ghulam Nabi Solangi and Raees Habibullah Khan Rind renounced their association with the PPP. “We always supported Murad Shah in the elections but have only received neglect in return,” Noohani told local media.
Jalal Shah has also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against Murad Ali Shah, pleading the court for his disqualification because he allegedly hid his dual nationality in the 2008 and 2013 general elections.
Jalal Shah is also vying for the district’s only national assembly seat, NA-233, where the PPP has fielded Sikandar Ali Rahupoto, an electoral novice. The two are considered the strongest among a total of 10 candidates in the constituency.
The PS-81 constituency, which consists of Thana Bula Khan taluka and parts of Kotri taluka, will witness an electoral fray between PPP’s Gianchand Esrani and the Ittehad’s independent candidate, Malik Changez Khan. Dismayed by the party’s decision of giving his former Kotri and Manjhand taluka-based constituency to Sikandar, former PPP MPA Dr Sikandar Shoro is contesting as an Ittehad-backed independent candidate from PS-82.
Although 13 candidates are in the electoral fray, the competition is likely to be between Shoro and Sikandar, who reportedly gave up his NA seat only to settle old scores with Shoro. The former MNA was elected four times to the National Assembly from Jamshoro.
Their relation turned acrimonious when the former MNA opposed land acquisition in Jamshoro in July, 2017, by a real estate developer and as a consequence allegedly ruffled feathers of the PPP’s leadership. Shoro and former local government minister Jam Khan Shoro were reportedly tasked to curb Sikandar’s influence.
“We didn’t betray PPP despite suffering adversities,” former MPA Khoso, who belongs to Sikandar’s camp, said at a corner meeting on Wednesday.
“The local workers and officer bearers of the PPP [in PS 82] are either campaigning half-heartedly for Sikandar or in favour of Shoro,” said a local leader of the party who did not want to be identified. According to him, Sikandar was given an NA seat and a PS seat, from where Fakirdad Khoso was elected, in 2013 elections. “Against two secure seats in 2013, he has now been cornered in one tightly contested seat,” he observed.
The Pir Pagara Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi-led Grand Democratic Alliance has fielded candidates on three PS seats, but unconfirmed reports suggest that each of them is likely to retire before the polling day in favour of the Ittehad. Two contestants of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Inaaf are contending on as many PS seats, two of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal on a PS and NA seat and one of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on an NA seat. However, they are being locally considered as weaker in comparison to their counterparts from the PPP and the Ittehad.
The district, well known for being home to three public sector universities, shrine of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and Manchar lake, has a total population of 993,142. The number of registered voters is 426,469 for one NA and three PS constituencies.
Dadu district will witness a contest between the PPP and PTI in most of the constituencies even though candidates of other parties besides independent ones are also contending. The PPP had won both the NA and the four PS seats in 2013 and 2008 elections. The district has a population of 1,550,266, of whom 733,351 people are registered voters.
For its part, the PPP has retained its team which was elected in 2013. Irfan Zafar Laghari and Rafique Ahmed Jamali are in the electoral competition from NA-234 and NA-235, respectively. Abdul Aziz Junejo, Fayaz Ali Butt, Pir Mujeebul Haq and Syed Ghulam Shah Jeelani have been given tickets for PS-83, PS-84, PS-85 and PS-86, respectively.
Jamali has been elected thrice to the national assembly from the same constituency since 2002. Earlier, his father Haji Muhammad Bux Jamali was elected in 1997, 1993, 1990 and 1988 general elections on the same seat.
Haq has landed in the electoral fray from PS-85, formerly PS-74, for the second time. But his father, former Sindh education minister Pir Mazharul Haq, was successively elected from that constituency from 1988 to 2008 elections except 2002 when his wife Marvi Mazhar was given the PPP’s ticket because of compulsory graduate degree condition.
Similarly, Jeelani has represented his constituency five times since 1990 elections in the Sindh Assembly. His family retained the seat even in the 2002 elections. Butt was elected in 2013 and 2008 and his father Munawar Ali Butt in 1993 from this constituency.
Among the six PTI candidates in Dadu district, four tickets have been given to the Jatoi family. Former federal minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi, who was elected MNA in 2002 and MPA in 1997 and 1990 elections, is contesting from Mehar and KN Shah talukas-based NA-234 against PPP’s Laghari.
Karim Ali Jatoi, Ahsan Ali jatoi and Sadaqat Ali Jatoi are the PTI’s candidates in Dadu and Johi talukas-based NA-235, PS-83 KN Shah taluka and PS-84 Mehar taluka against the PPP’s Jamali, Junejo and Butt, respectively. In PS-85 Dadu, PTI’s Aashiq Ali Zaunr is challenging PPP’s Haq and in PS-86 Johi PTI’s Banda Ali Laghari is contending against the PPP’s Jeelani.