Across Sindh, the feeling is that the Pakistan Peoples Party will have a tough time maintaining its electoral hold over the province it considers its home base on May 11. There are various reasons for this, the foremost among them being the baggage of incumbency and failure to deliver up to expectations.
New threats and old are emerging from constituencies once considered relative walkovers for the party such as Larkana and Nawabshah. Dadu, once counted amongst the major bastions of the PPP in Sindh, is also not immune to the current trend in provincial politics.
Two major figures dominate Dadu politics: the PPP’s Pir Mazharul Haq and Liaquat Ali Jatoi, who once again hitched his wagon to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s caravan in March 2012 after ditching the PML-Quaid. Hence the main contest in Dadu is between the PPP-Pir combine and Liaquat Jatoi and family under the N-League’s banner, with the PML-Functional and Sindhi nationalist parties thrown in just for some variety.
In Sindh’s last elected set-up Pir Mazhar was one of the most powerful men in government. Though technically senior minister in Qaim Ali Shah’s cabinet, many felt that the smooth-talking, quick-witted Pir of Dadu was actually just as — if not more — powerful as Shah Sahib, while it was at one time rumoured that Pir Mazhar was himself lobbying for a chance to occupy the CM House.
Yet those halcyon days are long gone. Though a seasoned politician who’s been with the PPP since the 1988 polls, it is said that this time around the PPP voter in Dadu is not happy with the Pir.
A telling sign of this is the fact that the former minister is not running in the upcoming elections. Instead, he has fielded his son and heir apparent Pir Mujeebul Haq.
Liaquat Jatoi is also a veteran of the political game. Partaking in politics since the late 1970s, Mr Jatoi has served as the chief minister of Sindh as well as a federal minister during the Musharraf regime. Yet he was defeated in the 2008 polls and has been in the political wilderness since then until he realigned with the PML-N last year. His initial association with Nawaz Sharif’s party goes back to the early 1990s.
Hence as far as Dadu is concerned, there aren’t any prospects of revolutionary change; it’ll be different versions of the status quo for the voter to choose from. What is more, the 10-party anti-PPP alliance forged by PML-F chief Pir Pagara has practically imploded in Dadu with the PML-F, PML-N, Sindh United Party and Sindh Taraqqi-pasand Party — all components of the Pagara combine — fielding separate candidates on the same seats.
There are two National Assembly seats up for grabs in Dadu: NA-232 and 233. In NA-232 Liaquat Jatoi’s son and former Dadu district nazim Karim Jatoi squares off against the PPP’s Rafiq Ahmed Jamali, who returned from the constituency in 2008. In NA-233 Liaquat Jatoi is taking on the PPP’s Imran Zafar Leghari, who was elected to the Sindh Assembly from Dadu’s PS-76 in the last elections.
The four Sindh Assembly seats from Dadu — PS-74 to PS-77 — again will likely feature a two-way battle between the PPP and PML-N with a few exceptions. PS-74 may see a particularly close fight as the PPP’s Pir Mujeeb faces two Syeds, the PML-N’s Syed Zafar Ali Shah and the PML-F’s Syed Mohammad Ali Shah. Political watchers in Dadu say winning the seat will be a major test of Pir Mazhar’s electoral prowess.
In PS-75 the PPP’s Syed Ghulam Shah Jilani, who won the seat in 2008, faces the PML-N’s Bande Ali Leghari and the Functional League’s Ghulam Rasool Babbar. PS-76 will be closely watched as Liaquat Jatoi is contesting from this constituency also against the PPP’s Parveen Aziz Junejo. Another Jatoi — Liaquat’s brother Sadaqat — is vying to win PS-77 against the PPP’s Fayyaz Butt, who returned from the constituency in 2008.
Hence in Dadu the Pir and the wadera are still mostly the main power players. Indeed many voters may be disgruntled with the PPP, but this will not automatically spell a crushing victory for the PPP’s rivals in Dadu mainly because the anti-Peoples Party bloc is disorganised and disunited. While the Pir Pagara-led alliance could have posed a much more serious challenge had a united front been put up, infighting and petty personal interests within the bloc have ensured that the PPP will face a tough time less due to the strength of the opposition’s platform but more due to the party’s own poor governance.
In fact some observers are of the view that it is the PPP’s lack of performance that has allowed Liaquat Jatoi-PML-N to become a force in Dadu’s politics again. As for the nationalists, many analysts feel they do not enjoy much of a vote bank in the district.