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-Photo by Mohammad Hussain Khan

HYDERABAD: Agriculture rich Tando Mohammad Khan district is faced with a host of issues in terms of development of infrastructure.The fact which makes Tando Mohammad Khan distinctive is that Pakistan’s first sugar mill was established during the Ayub regime in 1960, followed by more mills in Mirpurkhas and then in Badin. In those days the lower Sindh region was declared ‘sugarcane state’.

“I remember Gen Ayub had returned from hunting that evening and had performed the ground breaking ceremony of Fauji Sugar Mills in 1960,” recalls Abdul Majeed Nizamani, president Sindh Abadgar Board.

“He vowed “I will make Tando Mohammad Khan California”,” said Nizamani as he recalled Ayub’s words. The reason Ayuba wanted to turn this area into California was due to its striking similarity with the American state thanks to the existence of several lakes.

“Cane used to be brought from Punjab to Fauji Sugar Mills through train initially. Later, sugarcane cultivation began in lower Sindh,” he remarked.

It was Tando Mohammad Khan which had set the trend for sugarcane production in lower Sindh region, though now sugarcane is grown in upper Sindh region as well which is otherwise a cotton zone.

But unfortunately nowadays sugarcane production is dropping in the district for want of irrigation water. Growers take to streets during every Kharif season and accuse irrigation officials of selling water.

The district has four sugar mills namely Tando Mohammad Khan, Ansari, Abadgar and Faran Sugar Mills which indicate large production. But farmers complain about non-payment of adequate prices from sugar factories in every crushing season.

Two off-taking canals of Kotri barrage, Phulelli and Pinyari, irrigate lands in the district and also supply water to residents.

TM Khan has 16-UCs including Bulri Shah Karim and Tando Ghulam Hyder talukas. There are 260,060 registered voters now but in the 2008 polls 318867 were registered voters.

It had become a separate district in April 2005 like Tando Allahyar and Matiar, otherwise these three districts used to be talukas or sub-division of undivided Hyderabad.

When the outgoing PPP regime planned to restore old Hyderabad district, its residents launched an agitation against the proposal.

Communities of Mirs, Nizamanis, Khaskhelis, Sathias, Lasharis, Khoso, Lund and Zaunrs matter in local politics. The district is connected with Hyderabad and coastal districts of Thatta and Badin.

Creation of Tando Mohammad Khan as a separate district received a mixed response.

The population of the area gets untreated water in absence of proper water filtration plant. The off-taking canals are contaminated with discharges of sewage water from Hyderabad before they end up in Tando Mohammad Khan.

The district has a district hospital building but it lacks availability of doctors. The taluka hospital doesn’t have life-saving drugs and necessary equipments for surgeries and laboratory tests.

Resultantly, emergency cases are referred to Hyderabad.

The city also lacks proper drainage system. Some main roads are built but streets in city’s Shaukat, People’s and Mushtarka etc are not constructed.

While main roads were built, attention was not given to drainage thus causing a mess in every rainy season. Sanitation and drinking water supply remain major problems besides a proper sewerage system.

“The district is rich in oil and agriculture production but the youth are jobless. They do not get jobs in oil exploration companies,” says local journalist Ghulam Nabi Keerio.

He says that technical nature jobs are given to those who are mostly not residents of Tando Mohammad Khan.

On account of non-availability of market facilities, growers don’t fetch better price for their produces and are exploited by middlemen.

“Irrigation water shortage affects us badly. It is all due to corruption in irrigation department by officers.

"Such a situation is hitting average yield very fast. The area was badly hit in rains and growers suffered colossal losses as water could not be drained out due to a non-functional drainage system. The area has 21 main and sub drains,” argues Nabi Bux Sathio, general secretary Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), a resident of Tando Mohammad Khan.

Politically, it is a PPP stronghold. Mirs used to dominate area’s political scene until ZA Bhutto’s PPP emerged on the political horizon in 1988.

In the 1988 polls, Qazi Abdul Majeed, on a PPP ticket, was elected from the area and then Naveed Qamar was elected between 1990 to 2008.

PPP’s Mohsin Shah Bukhari always returned to the Sindh Assembly from PS-44 between 1988-1997 polls. Then the seat was changed as PS-53.

Qabool Mohammad Shah won PS-45 in the 1988 and 1990 polls and then the seat became PS-54. Amin Lakho and Abdul Khaliq Soomro were elected on this seat in the 1993 and 1997 polls.

In May 11 poll, former defence minister Syed Naveed Qamar will try to retain his NA-222 of Tando Mohammad Khan as Pir Sajjad Saeed Jan Sarhandi of PML-F is the main contender on this seat besides Dr Ahmed Noonari of Sindh Tarraqi-passand Party and Mohammad Anwar of MQM.

Qamar returned to parliament in 2002 and 2008 from NA-222. He served the area as federal water and power minister and then federal defence minister, providing Sui gas and executing schemes in road sector.

On PS-53 PPP’s Ejaz Shah Bukhari faces PML-F’s Inayat Talpur, former district nazim Tando Mohammad Khan, Sindh Tarraqi-passand Party’s Dr Ahmed Noonari, MQM’s Ejaz Ali Panwhar and Jamat-i-Islami’s Naseem Akhtar.

PML-F Syed Zulfikar Ali Shah would take on PPP’s Abdul Karim Soomro besides STP’s Dr Ahmed Noonari on PS-54. But being a ten party alliance candidate he is allowed to contest on PS-54. Shah’s maternal uncle Qabool Mohammad Shah, who had left PPP, has again joined PPP.

In the 2002 polls, Mohsin Shah Bukhari lost PS-53 to National Alliance’s Mir Ali Nawaz Talpur with 466 votes.

He was mainly backed by Arbab Rahim when he resorted to gerrymandering in 2005 LB polls across Sindh. But late Mohsin Shah Bukhari re-claimed PS-53 and Abdul Karim Soomro won PS-54 in 2008.

Mohsin’s death followed by-elections last year on PS-53 and subsequently the infamous Waheeda Shah (widow of Bukhari) case when she slapped an assistant presiding officer at a polling station. The Supreme Court took suo motu notice of it.

STP’s candidate is contesting for the first time whereas Mir Inayat Talpur joined PML-F a few months back after Functional League quit Sindh government following LG law controversy.

Inayat had remained district nazim Tando Mohammad Khan after winning 2005 LB polls. Bukhari versus Talpur contest is going to be exciting.