The local government (LG) elections showdown in Hyderabad division is overwhelmingly a contest between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) versus the others. In most of the districts, the PPP will be defending its electoral headway and in a few others it will try to make inroads.
The opponents claim the PPP's seven-year rule is rife with corruption, nepotism and inefficiency. They joined forces with the objective of defeating the PPP in today's LG polls.
In the 2013 general elections, the PPP candidates won 10 out of 13 National Assembly seats from the nine districts in Hyderabad division. They also bagged 21 Sindh Assembly seats out of 29. But the LG elections are going to test the party's mettle, and equally of the opponents, given the diversity and huge number of the constituencies in the division.
The electoral coalitions in Badin, Thatta, Sujawal and Dadu have upset the apple cart for the PPP. Zulfiqar Mirza and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's provincial president Ismail Rahu, both heavyweights in the local politics of Badin, have allied to snatch a victory from the PPP. They have also received support of PML-Functional and other parties.
The PPP won all the seven seats of the national and Sindh assemblies in the 2013 elections. But this happened before Mirza turned against the party.
In Thatta and Sujawal the influential Sherazi family is struggling to maintain their electoral supremacy. PML-N's Shirazi group secured three of the five provincial seats and one of the two NA seats in 2013.
Buttressed by several local communities and the opposition parties, the Shirazi-Jam Ittehad is poised to retain hold of LG institutions for the third time after having won the 2001 and 2005 LG polls.
A less strong yet serious contest will be seen in Dadu where former Sindh chief minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi's Awami Ittehad Party, PTI, PML-N, PPP-Shaheed Bhutto and other parties have formed an alliance. The rivalries between the PPP's local leaders, former education minister Pir Mazharul Haq and MNA Rafique Ahmed Jamali, is likely to divide the party's vote.
The PPP appears in a position to grab all the municipal bodies in Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Matiari and Jamshoro districts. It has already won unopposed one-third of the seats in Tando Muhammad Khan district council.
Despite internecine differences, the PPP's position seems strong in Tando Allahyar district where almost all influential communities are represented in the party.
Matiari, which witnessed the only big wave of opposition to the PPP's Makhdoom family in 2013 polls in the last five decades, again appears to have settled to give leadership to the Makhdooms. MNA Malik Asad Sikandar along with provincial minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and MPA Sikandar Shoro continue to maintain their electoral dominance in Jamshoro.
Hyderabad, the largest in the nine districts in terms of population, presents an altogether different scenario due to the strongholds of the MQM in two of its four talukas. All the parties that are fighting against PPP in the other districts have joined forces with it under a 10-party alliance, Tameer-i-Hyderabad-Ittehad, led by two religious parties besides the PPP.
However, the coalition is limited to Hyderabad Municipal Corporation where its only challenger is the MQM. The grouping could not prevent the MQM from winning unopposed one-fourth of the seats of chairmen and vice-chairmen and over half of the 384 seats of ward councillors.
Bolstered by this victory, the MQM seems to be in a stronger position to bag enough seats to elect its mayor for the HMC.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2015.
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