KARACHI, March 4: The nomination of Syed Qaim Ali Shah by the Pakistan People’s Party for the post of Sindh chief minister does not only put to rest intense speculation on the subject, it also offers an invaluable insight into the way the party seeks to operate in the province.
The other two hopefuls, Nisar Ahmad Khuhro and Pir Mazharul Haq, have been named for the posts of provincial assembly speaker and leader of the parliamentary party, respectively.
Sources privy to the closed-door discussions that preceded Mr Shah’s somewhat surprise nomination by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari at a press conference on March 3 insist that at least four factors are responsible for Mr Shah’s selection.One, the movers and shakers of the PPP wanted to have an easy-going person at the helm of affairs in the province. It was noted with satisfaction that Mr Shah has a track record of keeping a low profile and avoiding a collision course with difficult coalition partners.
Two, Mr Shah is not known to grumble when he is removed from office. (Few can forget the sullen look on Mr Khuhro’s face at the March 3 press conference.) Aftab Shaban Mirani replaced Mr Shah in the early 1990s without the latter staging any public protest over his fall from grace.
Three, Mr Shah is a Syed and enjoys considerable support on the basis of his caste among even some of the bitterest rivals of the PPP such as Pir Pagara.
Fourth, Mr Shah is one of the senior-most members of the PPP. He was a close confidante of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and also managed to be in the good books of Mr Zardari – a feat Mr Khuhro has not been able to pull off. Mr Bhutto awarded Mr Shah a party ticket for the 1970 elections and he was elected an MNA.
Mr Shah became chief minister in Benazir Bhutto’s first stint as prime minister and held the office till February 1990. In 1997, he lost to Syed Ghaus Ali Shah but was later made senator by the PPP.
Mr Shah, who is likely to be asked to form a government in the second week of the current month, will be the sixth chief minister of the PPP and 21st since 1936, when Sindh was separated from the Bombay presidency.
Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, who has been nominated PA speaker, was president of the Sindh PPP for eight years. As leader of the joint opposition in the last assembly, he went along well not only with his party colleagues but also with Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal members.
He had also led the opposition in the PML-N-led government in Sindh with Liaquat Ali Jatoi as chief minister, whose tenure was cut short with the October 1999 coup.
Nisar Khuhro, before joining the party in 1987, had learnt the art of politics in the Muslim League from his uncle Ayub Khan Khuhro. Later he joined the Pakistan Tehrik Istiqlal of Air Marshal Asghar Khan in 1978 and was its president for Larkana District. Later on he was made a vice president in the central organisation.
He has been contesting elections since 1988 on PPP tickets and returning to the assembly. In the second tenure of the Benazir government, he was made Sindh’s planning minister in 1993.
Pir Mazharul Haq, named leader of the PPP parliamentary party, is a grandson of former chief minister Pir Ellahi Bux, who served the province from May 1948 to 1949. He is an articulate lawyer and if he had not jumped into politics, he would have been among the top lawyers of the country.
It seems politics is a passion for him. He joined the PPP when other activists had started jumping off the PPP ship after the imposition of Gen Zia’s martial law.
Pir Mazhar had won all elections he contested except in 2002 when he was in self-imposed exile. His daughter Marvi was retuned to the Sindh assembly in those elections.
During his more than three decades of association with the PPP, he also suffered incarceration in 15 prisons, including the Machh Jail, but steadfastly clung to the party.
During the PPP governments in 1988 and 1993, Pir Mazhar was inducted as minister for housing and town planning, and law and parliamentary affairs, respectively. He has also remained general secretary of the Sindh PPP and deputy leader of the opposition.In the coming set-up as leader of the parliamentary party, he is likely to get the portfolio of law and parliamentary affairs to fill the gap in the absence of Nisar Khuhro and blunt the opposition benches’ attacks about the performance of the government in case the chief minister is away.