Known as Addi among PPP loyalists, Faryal Talpur is regarded as amongst the most powerful persons in the Pakistan Peoples Party. After Benazir Bhutto’s death in 2007, she became a legal guardian of Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari. Beyond this responsibility, when her elder brother Asif Ali Zardari became the country’s president, he gave her the task of political wheeling and dealing on his behalf.
If insiders are to be believed, the power enjoyed by Ms Talpur is not because of extraordinary talent but simply because of trust between siblings; due to her unflinching loyalty towards her brother, she had been tipped as his successor in case it came to that.
Ms Talpur entered the political arena in 1997 when she was given a party ticket on a Nawabshah constituency (NA-160) but lost to the PML-N candidate. When retired Gen Pervez Musharraf introduced his devolution of power plan and held local government elections in 2001, she became the district nazim of Nawabshah, a post she retained in the local government elections of 2005 too.
She was never part of Benazir’s inner circle and was conspicuous only by her absence as the PPP leader ended her self-imposed exile in October 2007. Since she was the district nazim of Nawabshah, Ms Talpur was not awarded a party ticket to contest the 2008 general elections. Yet, she rose to prominence quite rapidly when her brother took over the party’s reins. She was given a party ticket from Benazir’s home constituency in Ratodero in the by-election, made guardian of the children and custodian of Benazir’s properties in Larkana.
Although Ms Talpur remained an MNA for five years, she did not hold any official government position in the PPP government. She is the central president of the PPP’s women’s wing but she oversaw almost all party affairs on behalf of party chairman Bilawal (now the patron-in-chief of the PPP) and her brother who until recently was the co-chairman of the PPP. Ms Talpur is described as a tough and stubborn person.
While no minister could run his department in the Azad Kashmir government without her blessings, she was also accused of running a parallel government in Sindh and it was an open secret that her private secretary was more powerful than the then elected chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah. It is said that she is very generous when it comes to offering a reward to her loyal favourites and she goes to great lengths to protect them. Several secretaries, heads of different government departments and other high-ranking officials were reputed to report directly to her instead of the provincial chief executive. Similarly, it is believed that certain notorious laws regarding inductions in premier provincial services were introduced through ordinances on her wish to protect her blue-eyed boys.
Nevertheless, politics is not Ms Talpur’s strong point. Her stubbornness caused huge embarrassment for the PPP when a dual local government system for Karachi-Hyderabad and the rest of Sindh was enforced. She was repeatedly told about the political repercussions but she did not listen to the then chief minister when he asked her to reconsider because it would ruin the PPP’s image in the eyes of the people of Sindh.
Ms Talpur has been instrumental in finalising the party’s candidates for the upcoming general elections. She heads the parliamentary party board of the PPP and is herself contesting elections from NA-207 (Larkana). Her husband, Mir Munawar Ali Talpur, is also contesting elections on the National Assembly constituency (NA-227) in Mirpurkhas.
Of late, there have been reports of serious differences between her and Bilawal. Though the latter denied these at a public gathering in Larkana, the reports are that Addi is unhappy over the growing role of Owais Muzaffar Tappi in Sindh politics. It is believed that her role within the PPP will be reduced drastically if Mr Zardari fails to have himself re-elected as the country’s president later this year.