HYDERABAD: The existence of higher seats of learning, thermal and coal power houses, one of Sindh’s three barrages over River Indus, National and Indus Highways and a natural tourist resort makes Jamshoro one of the country’s strategically vital districts.
Above all it is the land of Qalandar Lal Shahbaz whose call attracts millions of devotees on annual Urs from across the country and abroad.
But when it comes to politics, it is the ‘territory’ of a chieftain, Malik Asad Sikandar.
A look at this constituency’s profile would reveal contrasting information. It has Sindh University but until a few years back Jamshoro had highest number of closed schools, according to a study conducted by an NGO, Thardeep.
Besides, the study indicated that the district had the second highest number of children who are out of schools.
Jamshoro has Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, but it doesn’t have its own civil hospital and maternity and childcare centre.
while at the same time taluka hospitals lack equipment for laboratory investigations and are hit by a shortage of drugs.
It has National and Indus Highways that cover a considerable area of the district, but no trauma centre exists to deal with fatal road accidents that occur almost frequently.
Asia’s biggest natural lake, Manchhar, exists here too but it has been turned into a pond of sewage and drainage water, that comes from upper Sindh and Punjab.
It cries for rehabilitation but a Rs29 billion Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) project has been incomplete for a decade. RBOD has to by-pass the lake to carry saline and wastewater to the sea from Main Nara Valley.
The fishermen community, that depends on catching fish from the lake to make a living, has suffered huge financial losses and has migrated to other areas in large numbers.
Other than the potential for a tourist resort with a picturesque view, the lake is an ecological disaster case.
The lake killed 42 people in Hyderabad and its surrounding in May 2004 after its poisonous water was released into the River Indus to lower its water level.
Water from the River Indus is consumed by the population in Hyderabad after it is lifted by Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) at Kotri Barrage.
Jamshoro has Pakistan’s first national park i.e. Khirthar National Park. It is located in Thana Bula Khan Taluka.
Rich in flora and fauna it existed for ages, having species like the ibex (white goat) in abundance. It has over 5,000 urials (white sheep).
While royal guests and people from the local privileged class have the right to visit it, it is out of bounds for less privileged people.
Not many are aware of Rani Kot fort, described as Deewar-e-Sindh by historians, which is another potential tourist resort in Jamshoro.
There is disagreement among anthropologists and historians over the fort’s history. It is a marvellous site to visit but poor law and order situation prevent people from visiting it.
One of the biggest designated industrial estate of sub-continent, Nooriabad Industrial Estate, was established here but couldn’t be developed as per expectations thanks to lawlessness that reigned supreme in the 90s.
It used to be a hub of industrial activity before it was shifted to Punjab due to highwaymen activities and extortion.
Shaukat Aziz's government had talked about his economic policies and boom ad nauseam in his government but fruits of his policies didn’t reach the people of Jamshoro, who face droughts in Kacho and Kohistan at regular intervals.
As a result they die of hunger, due to absence in relief and lack of medication.
However, when it comes to politics it is the territory of a Sardar, Malik Asad Sikandar, a former district nazim Jamshoro and chieftain of 92 tribes that inhabit the district’s hilly terrain. Asad Sikandar usually avoids the media.
‘Malik’ is a title given to his forefathers by the British otherwise Asad Sikandar himself belongs to the Burfat tribe who migrated from Lasbela district of Balochistan in this hilly area where the British had awarded them jagir.
But due to land reforms, most of land was resumed by government. It was Malik’s father, Sikandar Khan who had defeated the late G M Syed with a comprehensive margin.
“You [Jalal Mehmood Shah of SUP] should face me first then talk about challenging PPP,” the Sardar had roared at the PPP’s public meeting last year in October in the backdrop of the controversial LG law.
As a personal favour to Liaquat Ali Khan Jatoi, the then chief minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim carved out Jamshoro out of district Dadu in December 2004.
As CM, Arbab had declared it as such in his speech. Before bifurcation Dadu used to be area-wise the biggest district in Pakistan.
With four talukas of Manjhand, Sehwan, Thana Bula Khan and Kotri, Jamshoro has one NA and three PA seats i.e., NA-231 (Jamshoro-I) that borders with Balochistan and PS-71, PS-72, PS-73.
NA-231 has 369424 registered voters with 202364 male and 167060 female voters. In 2008 it had 499996 voters with 273064 male and 226932 females.
Malik has been returning to parliament from 1988 to 1997 from NA-231 (old NA-177). In the 97 polls he returned as an independent candidate with 22413 votes, beating PPP’s Pir Zaman Shah, who has joined MQM only recently.
After parting with the PPP in 1996, due to differences with then Sindh Chief Minister Syed Abdullah Shah, the tribal chief is once again romancing with PPP.
He had given a cold shoulder to the PPP on account of personal issues during Feb 10,2007 by poll on PS-71 which PPP lost and Zaman Shah’s nephew won. He remained district nazim of undivided Dadu and then Jamshoro district.
“PPP leaves award of party tickets at disposal of Malik sahib and then he distributes them at will,” says a local journalist.
He adds that “Malik sahib had resisted ticket for Dr.Sikandar Shoro for his below par performance. PPP persuaded Malik in lieu of ticket for a minority seat for Gyan Chand Israni, who is Malik’s choice, he says.
Another political dynasty stakes its claim here, the Syed Dynasty.
An exponent of an independent Sindh, late G M Syed lies buried in Sann.
His grandson Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah is following parliamentary politics since 1997 when he was elected from PS-72 to become deputy speaker Sindh Assembly in MQM-PML(N) coalition government. He then founded the Sindh United Party in 2007.
Shah is now vying for NA-231 and PS-71 against PPP’s Malik Asad Sikandar and Dr Sikandar Shoro respectively. MQM’s Pir Zaman Shah Jillani is in the fray on these two seats.
Nawab Ghani Talpur, Malik’s brother-in-law, had won NA-231 in 2002 with 76568 votes against Jalal Shah’s 39320 votes.
He retained it in 2008 with 138320 votes against 33,362 of Jalal Shah. Contest on NA-231 and PS-71 seems to be exciting.
On PS-72 which covers Kohistan belt of the district, PPP’s Faqir Dad Khoso is up against Malik Changez of PML-N, a relative of Asad Sikandar.
PPP suffered a setback on PS-73 ahead of polls after Syed Murad Ali Shah was barred from contesting elections on it by the apex court on account of dual nationality. He was elected in 2002 and last polls from PS-73.
His covering candidate and cousin Abdul Nabi Shah, is contesting against Habibullah Rind of PML-N and Chakkar Khan Shahani of PML-F. Jamshoro’s PS-73 stretches upto taluka and also covers areas of Dadu district.
PML-N is backing Jalal Shah on NA-231 and PS-71 in lieu of SUP’s support for Habibullah Rind on PS-73. PML-F is lending support to SUP on NA-231.
Large parts of Jamshoro speak of neglect by successive governments and elected representatives.
The flyover at Kotri railway crossing still remains a major demand of the people. Locals are facing serious issues such as safe drinking water, education and health facilities.
Despite the fact that Malik Asad remained district nazim of undivided Dadu and then of Jamshoro district, he and his brother-in-law Nawab Ghani Talpur were successively elected MNA's from the area.
“We need a girls college here and a hospital so that people don’t have to travel to Kotri city,” says a resident.
The people of Jamshoro do pin hopes on candidates, who are going to be members of the next parliament.
They hope that their representatives will be able to turn things around for them, but they still don’t know what the future holds for them.