While he was being welcomed into the MQM, in Lyari people danced in the streets on his exit from the PPP. Now, he may be the most hated person in his old constituency but Nabeel Gabol doesn’t seem to care. As armed men stand guard outside his palatial Defence residence, he holds back-to-back meetings. Charged about being included in the MQM’s central executive council, he seems to have found a renewed sense of purpose. Asked about people’s reaction, he shrugs and remarks: “I wasn’t criticised as much as I thought I would be [on joining the MQM]. Many people knew how I had been sidelined for four years, so maybe that’s why.”
Nabeel is the only one amongst his siblings that has taken a keen interest in politics. His two brothers chose business over politics like their father, Ahmed Khan Gabol, but he followed his grandfather, Khan Bahadur Allah Buksh Gabol. The latter was elected as a member of the Bombay legislative assembly in 1927 and as a member of the Sindh Assembly in 1936; he also served as the first deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly and twice as the mayor of Karachi. Nabeel Gabol’s uncle, Sattar Gabol, was elected a PPP member of the National Assembly in 1970 and later 1977, contesting from Lyari.
Nabeel, born and raised in Lyari, studied at St Patrick’s College. He entered politics at the age of 24, joining the PPP from Lyari. In 1988, Nabeel was elected as a member of the Sindh Assembly. Since then, he has been winning elections from Lyari. In the 2008 general elections, he won a whopping 96,000 votes from Lyari, against Wasiullah Lakho of the MQM who won 4,200 votes. He resigned from his seat in January 2011, after having issues in getting complete control of the ministry of state for shipping.
Nabeel spent a turbulent few years in Lyari, mainly due to continuing strife between him and the Uzair Baloch-led People’s Amn Committee (PAC). He was ‘banned’ from entering Lyari, allegedly because of the rift with the PAC, though Nabeel denies this vehemently. “They cannot stop me from entering Lyari,” he asserts. “I left the party, not the people of Lyari.” About the nomination of a leader linked to the PAC from Lyari in the coming elections, Nabeel observes: “These people ruined Lyari so much that now the PPP is forced to give its party ticket to such people.” About the party he has joined, according to Nabeel, between Azizabad and Lyari the problems are the same, but the way to sort them out is different. “The MQM is more disciplined. If you have a grievance, the party leader asks you himself,” he comments.
Apart from contesting elections from Azizabad, Nabeel is contesting from Lyari too. Does he think there will be resistance to his return there? Only three union councils (UCs) in Lyari are under the control of the PAC, he explains, with eight other UCs where it has no hold whatsoever. “I don’t see why I can’t go there,” he adds confidently.
His number one aim, if elected, is to bridge the gap between Urdu-speaking and Sindhi people. Being “half-Sindhi and half-Baloch,” Nabeel says he wants to “reduce the fear” between different ethnicities. He adds that the MQM is not predominantly an Urdu-speakers’ party. “I have met a lot of Sindhis and Baloch at the MQM headquarters, Nine Zero,” he adds.
Nabeel believes that the next Sindh chief minister will be from the MQM. Asked whether the nationalists would allow such a development, he says “the nationalists are irrelevant.”
As for the challenges that he faces in his old constituency, he retorts instantly: “It’s not resistance any more, it’s a war between politicians and criminals. I can’t fight with them with a gun, elections are the only way to tackle such people.” Here, he takes a deep breath: “But let’s get elected first.”