KARACHI: There may be a political vacuum for parties other than the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to fill in Sindh but using Diwali as a means to gain inroads into Hindu voters is not sitting well with political analysts in the province.
With the second phase of the local government elections just round the corner, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto have met representatives of the Hindu community and have planned events to celebrate Diwali — a practice rarely seen before.
Both the PPP and PTI have planned to hold Diwali celebrations in Tharparkar and Umerkot districts today. The same districts will be voting for their local representatives on November 19. Even the prime minister spent time with the members of the minority wing of his party during his visit to Karachi on Wednesday.
“No leader of a mainstream political party has ever attended a Diwali event, expressing compassion towards Hindus in Sindh,” pointed out Sindhi writer and analyst Dastageer Bhatti. “The greed for votes has compelled them to turn up and attend this event.”
Bhatti wondered why these leaders failed to rush to the same districts when hundreds of newborn babies were dying of starvation. “Why have they planned their programme merely seven days before the elections?” he asked, claiming that they are doing politics on Diwali.
“The PPP has not delivered in Sindh and there is a political vacuum, which can be filled by the PTI or any other party,” said Bhatti. “But proper attention needs to be paid towards the problems of the people instead of sudden visits, especially so close to the elections,” he added. “This will not make a difference.”
Imran Khan’s visit will have political significance, admitted PTI Sindh leader Zulfikar Halepoto, who has now joined as deputy information secretary of the party. He added, however, that his party took the lead in celebrating Diwali with the Hindu community. “Bilawal Bhutto and even the prime minister followed us after Khan Sahib had already planned to partake in the event,” he claimed.
Defending Bilawal, Sindh Information Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro insisted that the idea of celebrating Diwali was brought forth by the young party chairperson. “No one can snatch this credit from Bilawal Bhutto,” he said.
Speaking at a Diwali event organised by his Pakistan Muslim League, Prime Minister Sharif said that minorities have rendered several sacrifices for this country and that he congratulates them on this festival. “I used to complain to my Hindu brothers for not inviting me on Diwali and other events,” he said.
PTI’s Halepoto, who is also a Sindhi writer, said his party is following the mission of the founder of the nation, giving no religion, cast or creed priority over the other. “Since Hindus are an integral part of this province, therefore, we have decided to stand by them in their joy and sorrow,” he said. “There is no doubt that Khan Sahib’s visit will benefit the [political] situation and this happens in politics,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2015.