LARKANA/SUKKUR/NAUSHAHRO FEROZE: The second and third generations of political heavyweights have entered the local government arena in two upper Sindh divisions of Sukkur and Larkana where the first phase of election is going to be held on Oct 31. Some candidates for union committee and union council seats have returned unopposed.

While councillors are being chosen through direct election, lobbying is in full swing for party tickets or backing for the slots of municipal corporation heads.

Larkana this time may see some upsets as suggested by the prevailing political scenario.

The territory is historically known for giving a blank cheque to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in terms of voters’ support but, of late, it is gradually giving space to anti-PPP forces. The PPP may no more have a smooth sailing though it may be able to have an edge over its opponents numerically to clinch the top municipal slots in the third tier of government.

The Larkana Awami Ittehad (LAI) led by former Sindh governor and chief minister Mumtaz Ali Bhutto with Haji Munawwar Ali Abbasi and Dr Safdar Abbasi being the other two political heavyweights is making its presence felt.

By fielding its candidates for all seats, the LAI is denying the PPP a chance to get a single of its candidates elected unopposed in 20 urban UCs. The alliance is there to make polls interesting.

Going without its district president Ayaz Soomro, who is currently out of the country for health reasons, the PPP is facing Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), besides LAI, in the 20 urban UCs and 80 wards of municipal and town committees.

The contest featuring PPP’s Khair Mohammad Shaikh, who is up against Arts Council secretary Javed Ahmed Shaikh in UC-17 will be interesting now after the JUI-F has withdrawn its candidate in favour of Javed Shaikh. PPP candidates Aftab Nek Mohammad Bhutto in UC-12 and Aslam Shaikh in UC-14 are facing weak candidates.

Nida Khuhro, the daughter of Sindh Senior Minister for Education Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, and Tariq Siyal, the younger brother of Home Minister Suhail Anwer Siyal, have already returned uncontested as Larkana district council members.

Ms Khuhro is also tipped as the potential candidate for the slot of district council chairperson.

Qambar-Shahdadkot district — ruled by tribal chieftains — is seen as being under the dominating influence of Nawab Sardar Khan Chandio, a PPP MPA who heads the Chandio tribe, and MPA Mir Nadir Magsi. The two tribes don’t allow encroachment on each other’s area.

Former PPP MNA Hizbullah Bughio is also in the contest for a district council seat from Dokri.

Nadir Magsi supports Manzoor Marfani, a strong opponent of Nawab Chandio, in Warah. His rival is his elder brother, Tharo Khan Marfani, who filed his nomination papers in compliance with Sardar Chandio’s order. The fray between the two brothers reminds one of a contest between Nawab Shabbir Ahmed Chandio, who was fielded on Benazir Bhutto’s directive,and his father Nawab Ahmed Sultan. The son had won the seat. Manzoor Marfani has put up 14 candidates against their PPP rivals.

Haji Sardar Jarwar of the Sindh United Party (SUP), who turned down a PPP offer for its ticket, is vying for Ward-7 of the Shahdadkot town committee but he is found nowhere these days. There are rumours that he has chosen to stay quiet “under a deal”.

Some tough contests in Sukkur expected

Stage is set for tough contests in Shikarpur — dominated by the Mahars, Sheikhs, Durranis and Soomros — between the PPP and PML-F.

Prime Minister’s Adviser Imtiaz Sheikh has not fielded a PML-F candidate against his paternal nephew, Fayyaz Mohammad Shaikh, in Ward-2.

The PPP has tasked Aftab Sha’aban Mirani, Maqbool Shaikh, Agha Taimour, Babul Khan Bhayo and Dr Yunis Haider Soomro with fielding trusted candidates. A neck-and-neck fight between PPP and PML-F is likely. Politicians are also relying on support of biradris.

Out of 11 UCs in Jacobabad district, entire panels returned uncontested in five UCs of Jacobabad taluka and likewise chairmen/vice-chairmen returned unopposed in 10 other UCs. Tough contests are expected between PPP and PML-N in 31 UCs.

PPP’s Sardar Mohammad Panah Odho has returned unopposed to stake his claim in the next phase of election for the slot of district council chairman. Ghulam Abbas Sundrani and Barrister Zuhaib Sakri may be the PPP nominees for the Jacobabad and Thull municipal committees, respectively.

Kashmore-Kandhkot was last led by Saleem Jan Mazari as the district nazim. Candidates in Kashmore got both PPP tickets and Mazari’s support. In Tangwani taluka, PPP gave tickets to Bijarani-backed candidates. In one town committee, five of the 14 PPP candidates returned unopposed but the situation is different in Kandhkot, where field is wide open for Abid Sundrani and Hazar Khan Bijarani to have a contest against each other’s candidates as the PPP avoided awarding its tickets to either side.

Bijarani intends to have his nephew, Mehboob Bijarani, return unopposed and get him elected as the district council chairman in the next phase. Mohammad Khan Khoso also returned unopposed with Mr Mazari’s support.

PPP MPA Abid Sundrani may support Mazari’s nominee. Bijarani-backed candidates have returned unopposed in Tangwani and Karampur so he finds himself in a comfortable position.

Sukkur, too, witnesses the second generation of politicians, dominating local politics in current LG polls as sons of Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah — the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly —and Senator Islamuddin Shaikh have returned unopposed.

Candidates of the PPP, MQM, JUI-F, PML-F, PTI, Sunni Tehreek, Jamaat-i-Islami, Sukkur Development Alliance and Independent Candidates Alliance, besides other independent contestants, are in the run for seats in the Sukkur district council and municipal corporation, as well as the Rohri municipal committee and town committees of Pannu Aqil, Salehpat, Kandhra and Bagarji.

For urban UCs, there are 1,542 candidates — including former MPAs Jawed Shah and Dr Nasrullah Baloch, and former Rohri taluka nazim Aslam Shaikh are in the field. Khursheed Shah’s son Syed Farrukh Shah, Islamuddin Shaikh’s son Arsalan Shaikh and LG Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah’s son Kumail Hyder Shah have already returned unopposed. Former MPA Anwar Mahar’s son Ameen Bukhsh Maharhas has also returned opposed on a district council seat.

Aslam Shaikh, backed by Nasir Shah, has managed to get six out of seven candidates withdrawn in his favour and now trying to get the last one to follow suit. Two PPP candidates, Shah Nawaz Mahar and Shafiq Shaikh, PML-F candidate Haji Ali Gul Mahar, his brother Hoot Khan Mahar and nephew Abdul Hafeez Mahar have returned unopposed in Pannu Aqil town committee.

Khursheed Shah, who wants his son to become the district council chairman, supports MPA Dr Nasrullah for the slot of Sukkur mayor, a position also being eyed by Arsalan Shaikh. He would support Aslam Shaikh in the contest for the district council chairmanship against Farrukh Shah.

JUI-F has fielded 125 candidates for district council seats and another 72 for municipal corporation seats, besides seven candidates in Rohri and 25 for town committees. Four of its candidates have returned unopposed.

Ninety PML-N are also in the fray and they have formed a local alliance. The party expects 50 per cent of them to win.

PTI has fielded its candidates in 13 UCs of Sukkur, seven wards in Rohri, two UCs in Salehpat, six UCs and eight wards of Pannu Aqil against their PPP rivals.

PML-N favourite in Naushahro Feroze

While all political parties in Naushahro Feroze are busy winning over tribal and community heads for their candidates in rural UCs, 14 town committees, one municipal committee and a district council, the PML-N seems to be in strong position at the district level thanks to an understanding between Zafar Ali Shah and former MPA Dr Ahmed Ali Shah.

The merger of the National Peoples Party with the PML-N also contributes to the situation. PPP has not allotted tickets to any candidate in some union councils but allowed them to contest as independent candidates.

For instance, in Bhirya City taluka, PPP district general secretary Shakeel Ahmad Jalbani and former MPA Syed Noor Ahmad Shah, who is the son of PPP MPA Syed Murad Ali Shah. Although the PML-N banks on support of the Jatois and Syeds expecting 40 seats in the district council, the PPP continues to claim that it would sweep the polls.

Ghotki district would give a smooth sailing to the PPP, barring a few pockets of Daharki and Mirpur Mathelo where PTI candidates are working hard. Mahars led by Sardar Ali Gohar Khan Mahar are with the PPP.

The Loond group, too, supports the PPP though a small faction of the community backs PTI candidates in Daharki and Mirpur Mathelo. Four PTI candidates in Daharki and Jhonk UCs have returned unopposed. The PPP candidates who have returned uncontested had mostly filed their nominations in Khangarh and Ghotki taluka.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2015

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