AFTER the Sindh United Party (SUP) entered into an alliance with the PML-N, hopes of nationalists contesting elections from one platform have withered away.
Three nationalist parties — the SUP of Jalal Mehmood Shah, Dr Qadir Magsi’s Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party (STPP) and Ayaz Latif Palijo’s Awami Tehrik (AT) — formed, in 2010, the Sindh Progressive Nationalist Alliance (SPNA) so that polls could be conducted jointly.
Nawaz Sharif was in touch with the SPNA component parties but opted for an alliance with the SUP alone. Though the party is not very large in terms of votes and organisation, its founder has a high profile as the grandson of the Jeay Sindh Tehrik leader G.M. Syed.
The SPNA had lofty ambitions but practically remained merely an alliance of the heads of the component parties. After Dr Qadir Magsi developed contact with Imran Khan, and the AT linked itself with the proscribed People’s Amn Committee, the SPNA was left merely a ceremonial alliance. The lack of cohesion stood further exposed when the member parties protested separately against the Zulfiqarabad project.
The PML-N and the SUP have signed an eight-point declaration vowing to strive for maximum provincial autonomy within the ambit of the Constitution, protect the territorial boundaries of Sindh and implement the 1991 Indus Water Accord. It also calls for improving the NFC award.
Political observers argue, however, whether these points address Sindh’s concerns.
Barrister Zamir Ghumro believes that nationalists’ tilt towards the PML-N results from the PPP’s refusal to accommodate them.
In his view, the charter signed by the two parties contains nothing tangible: if elected, Mr Sharif is likely to give nationalists some share in power but not a share in the province’s politics and economy.
It would appear that the PML-N has different strategies for before and after the elections. Mr Sharif is keeping his cards close to his chest in terms of the MQM, raising the possibility that an alliance could be formed after the elections if needed.Meanwhile, political circles say that by rallying around Mr Sharif, Mr Shah has tried to alter the political legacy of G.M. Syed, the icon of Sindhi nationalism. Other than the two SPNA parties, all the nationalists — particularly factions of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz — oppose the move.
Khaliq Junejo, who heads his own faction of the JSQM, does not consider Mr Shah as the political heir of the late Mr Syed, arguing that the grandson never practised nationalist politics. He feels that the SUP is too desirous of power to appease Punjab, and recalls that Mr Shah rejected the 1973 Constitution outright on the grounds that it does not guarantee the rights of nations.
In Mr Junejo’s view, there is nothing new in the SUP-PML-N declaration.
Meanwhile, the head of another JSQM faction, Abdul Wahid Arisar, believes that Sindhi nationalism will not partner with any Punjab capitalist.
Future of the SPNA
In Mr Junejo’s opinion, the SPNA is for all practical purposes finished.
The AT, however, does not oppose the SUP-PML-N alliance although its president, Ayaz Latif Palijo, says that it would have been better had the SUP waited for the charter to be formulated after which the SPNA could have talked to Mr Sharif about an alliance. Acknowledging that reviving the SPNA would now be a difficult task, he feels that voters should be given a third option.
According to Dr Magsi, the STP had wanted the three parties in an alliance that could present a challenge to the PPP, but that goal has been scuppered. “The question now is, what is the future of the SPNA? Sindh has an agenda broader than the SUP-PML-N alliance, and the latter will provide a shield to the waderas who join the PML-N,” he says.
In political analyst Jami Chandio’s view, the PML-N wanted some footing in Sindh, and opting for an alliance with nationalists was better than with the MQM or a right-wing party. “Nawaz Sharif has no organisational set-up in Sindh,” he points out. “He has won over Jalal Mehmood Shah to get political and moral legitimacy. The nationalists have no seats and no vote bank. If the establishment is opting for a non-PPP set-up, Shah might be a suitable candidate for the post of chief minister.”
According to Mr Chandio, if the nationalists had gone for an alliance with Mr Sharif in the shape of the SPNA, they might have had more weightage. But he, too, doubts that the SPNA has any future any longer.
In Dr Magsi’s words, the nationalist parties are in a hurry to win.