It started with Kala Nag and Shero Dada decades ago. Rehman Dakait was killed in 2009. Arshad Pappu was bumped off Saturday night. With this death also came the demise of Nabeel Gabol’s political career in Lyari. The political game in this gangland will never be the same.
One of the clearest indications that the outcome of the elections in Lyari will be different this time around came from Gabol. The five-time winner of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ticket here announced he was joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) just a day after the PPP rule ended. With Gabol’s departure comes to an end his family’s political dynasty in Lyari. Nabil’s grandfather defeated Sir Abdullah Haroon in 1937. Nabil’s uncle Abdus Sattar Gabol defeated Mahmood Haroon in 1970 on the PPP ticket.
Till the 1970s Lyari was politically controlled by the Haroons but the chain of their popularity was broken by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when he launched the PPP in 1967. He challenged Haroon in the 1970 elections and awarded the party ticket to the local sardar Abdul Sattar Gabol. Since then, the PPP has never looked back and has swept all elections. Its weakness has, however, been an inability to end the bloodletting in the neighbourhood and murder became part of the politics. Anyone who wanted a piece of Lyari had to take sides.
Nabeel has become a victim of this bloody feud as he once sided with Rehman Dakait, who became his polling agent in the last elections. However, after the emergence of the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) after the last elections, this new group accused Gabol of favouring his men and ignoring party workers.
Indeed, Habib Jan Baloch, who is close to Uzair and Zafar Baloch, had even demanded action against Nabil Gabol. Gabol’s fault was that he never reconciled with the PAC, unlike the other MNA from the same area, Qadir Patel. There is no turning back the clock now.
“There was no room left for me in this new trend of politics in Lyari and the PPP’s decision to back non-political actors forced me to take this decision,” Gabol told me. ‘Non-political actors’ was his polite way of referring to the PAC.
Gabol now looks to the MQM to award him a ticket. But this also means that he will have to adjust to the MQM’s particular style of politics, which is quite different from that of the jiyalas. For all practical purposes, the PAC today controls Lyari. It has grown in strength since the tenure of former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza. But even he has been silent for a while. In an interesting move, the PAC had formed a buzurg committee of respected elders tasked with reconciling with the PPP. They are reportedly negotiating with Owais alias Tappi and Faryal Talpur, the president’s sister.
It is not clear who will contest from Nabeel and Rafiq Engineer’s seats but one thing is certain that it will be the PAC that will be vetting candidates though the PPP platform.
This seat may go to Bilawal in the end (through a by-election later on). For the time being, though, it could be Faryal, who may contest if all cases are withdrawn against PAC leaders and at least one of its prominent leaders get a party ticket.
And so, while the PPP is down in Lyari, it is not out. Despite the state of affairs there is not much chance of anti-PPP forces gaining ground. If the PAC and PPP do not reach any agreement, Uzair may, however, announce support for the PML-N, something which the PPP would never want.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2013.