After facing a shocking defeat in Lyari - which falls under the NA-246 constituency - in the 2018 general elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government has decided to announce another development package for the district that was once its stronghold.
The densely populated locality of Lyari, stretching over 1,800 acres in the city's South district, has been the one place the PPP could rely to win a seat from. And despite PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari losing the seat in 2018, the party still perceives the locality to be its 'base'.
It also holds true that the locality, which has voted for the PPP since its inception, is plagued by ill-maintained roads and streets, a poor sewerage system and deteriorating infrastructure all around.
Now, say PPP leaders, Bilawal's most trusted individuals will be directly monitoring the development work.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, sources privy to the work revealed that Bilawal, his sister Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and his aunt and MPA Faryal Talpur, are keen on ensuring the development of Lyari.
For this purpose, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has been instructed to sanction a better development package for the area, which the PPP still perceives as 'Bilawal's constituency,' claim sources.
"It is PPP's home. The party owns this area and we will bring change here," said Shazia Karim Sanghar, who was elected to the Sindh Assembly in 2018 on a reserved seat for women - RSW-137 from Lyari.
On the table
Sources within the party claim that projects discussed include the renovation of roads and streets, replacement of water lines, upgradation of pumping stations, sports facilities and parks, community and health centres.
A party worker from Lyari said a Rs2 billion development package is expected. He believes
Sources said that different development schemes have been discussed in the meeting with Junaid, including renovation of roads and streets, replacement of water lines, upgradation of pumping stations, renovation of sports and family parks, establishment of community and health centers.
A senior party worker based in Lyari, who has been attending recent PPP public and party meetings, says they are expecting a budget of Rs2 billion for the development schemes being discussed. He believes this package will change Lyari's fate.
PPP's Karachi general-secretary Javed Nagori, however, told The Express Tribune that a package of Rs1.5 billion is more likely.
This is Bilawal's constituency, he insisted, reiterating that the party chairperson wishes to address the issues Lyari faces.
The PPP has made similar claims in the past but the streets of Lyari still face sewerage and sanitation problems and dilapidated roads are common.
Last year, the party claimed to have carpeted and repaired over a dozen roads but local residents say that the work was abandoned halfway.
"The government just repaired parts of the roads and never finished them," said Haji Ishaq, a resident of Lyari. Citing Shah Abdul Latif Road - a major artery smack in the centre of the neighbourhood - as an example, Ishaq said that only a part of the road was rehabilitated. And within a year that stretch of the road deteriorated as well, he added, terming the situation "pathetic."
In 2015, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had announced a Rs1 billion development package for Lyari. This included a low-cost housing scheme with residential flats and the Bilawal Bhutto Engineering College. The construction for the latter was approved by the Sindh government earlier this year.
Zardari had also directed the then chief minister of the PPP-led provincial government, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, to resolve the area's water woes within three months.
However, ahead of the 2018 general elections, local residents had lamented a dysfunctional solid waste disposal mechanism - streets strewn with garbage, overflowing gutters were a common sight and continue to be - and scant access to potable water, among other things.
During the election campaign, the PPP had found many of its banners, signboards and portraits of party leaders wrecked. "No more PPP" scribbled in chalk had cropped up in various corners of the locality. Residents, disheartened by empty sloganeering and false promises, had maintained they would vote for the party that delivers.
The voice of dissent among the party's rank and file was further compounded by local leaders feeling sidelined when it came to allotting party tickets.
Regaining lost ground?
Development projects are being touted once again by the party leadership. The past year has also seen some progress in this regard. Rehabilitation work was initiated on roads around Lea Market and Kakri Ground, gas and water supply pipelines have also been replaced or repaired, four reverse-osmosis plants have also been reopened. Besides, construction of pedestrian bridges and was announced.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, one local party worker said, "The PPP can regain its votes if it directly addresses the concerns of Lyari's people."
Those who won from Lyari in the 2018 general elections have not delivered well, he said, adding that now was the right time for the PPP to show that it will serve the neighbourhood.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Abdul Shakoor Shaad had won the NA-246 seat in 2018 while the Jamaat-e-Islami and the now banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan had emerged victorious on the provincial assembly seats.
With the leadership's efforts to regain Lyari's trust underway, Bilawal's personal secretary, Junaid Saleem, has held at least four meetings with local PPP leaders and area elders in the constituency in the past month.
But party sources also told The Express Tribune that the PPP leadership was not satisfied with the work of existing PPP office bearers in South district. Some local leaders see Junaid's participation in meetings as a sign that there is mistrust between the local party leadership and the PPP leadership at the top.
"Some PPP leaders in Lyari want a share from development funds. This ultimately destroys the image of the party," claimed one jiyala, who has also been attending the meetings and has lodged a complaint before the party against local leaders.
Nagori, however, dispelled the notion of mistrust at any level. The party leadership simply wishes to oversee Lyari's development personally, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2021.