KARACHI: A day before the polls on the NA-205 constituency of Ghotki, the spiritual leader of the Hur Jamaat and the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, popularly known as ‘Pir Pagara’, has asked his followers, party workers and friends to vote in favour of Ahmed Ali Mahar.
Offering unconditional support to Ahmed Ali Mahar, the son of late former Sindh chief minister Ali Mohammad Khan Mahar, Pir Pagara said that he supported the decision of the Mahar tribe of nominating Ahmed Ali Mahar as a candidate from the constituency.
In a statement released from Kingri House on Monday, Pir Pagara, who also leads the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), announced his support in favour of Ahmed Ali Mahar.
All set for by-polls
A tough competition is expected between the two cousins, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Sardar Mohammad Bux Khan Mahar, who is also the chief of the Mahar tribe, and Ahmed Ali Mahar. The latter is contesting the seat as an independent candidate but enjoys the full support of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allied parties.
The National Assembly (NA) seat fell vacant after the death of the federal minister for narcotics and former Sindh chief minister Ali Mohammad Mahar.
Earlier, the by-polls were scheduled for July 18, but the date was postponed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for July 23, citing administrative issues.
According to the ECP, a total of 290 polling stations have been set up for the NA seat, 164 of which have been declared highly sensitive. The total count of the registered voters in the constituency is 360,875.
Significance of seat
Both political rivals, the PPP and the PTI, have been accusing each other of attempting to rig the election.
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan, flanked by PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and others also visited Ghotki. After the opposition criticised the PM for directly influencing the by-polls, PM Khan justified that he was in Ghotki to offer his condolence to the family of the late federal minister.
During the meeting that lasted around 30 minutes, the Mahar family also discussed the pending development schemes for the constituency and prevailing political situation in Sindh.
Independent observers say that both parties realise the significance of the seat in the lower house of parliament, and have been trying to invest political capital to gain control of the constituency.
Of the two, the PPP seems to be particularly invested in the by-election. Three of the PPP’s provincial ministers have resigned. Mohammad Bux Mahar, the PPP’s candidate from the constituency, was the provincial sports minister and resigned to contest the elections. Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and Abdul Bari Pitafi who are considered political heavyweights in the constituency also went as far as resigning from their offices to support Mohammad Bux’s election campaign.
PPP’s chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari along with the party leadership addressed a massive public gathering in Sukkur and asked his local leaders and supporters to vote for Muhammad Bux.
On the other hand, GDA’s MPA Ali Gohar Mahar, who also happens to be the elder brother of Ali Mohammad, led the campaign for his nephew to reclaim the seat vacated by his father. “This seat has fallen vacant after the death of my brother. His son deserves to be elected,” said Ali Gohar, while speaking to The Express Tribune.
Pir Pagara also supported Ali Gohar’s stance and said that the rightful candidate for the seat as per Sindh’s tradition was Ali Mohammad’s son.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2019.