KARACHI: The chief minister-designate of Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah will be the 24th individual since April 1937 to hold the top administrative post of Sindh and along with father, Abdullah Shah, the pair will make it the precedent of its kind where two generations ruled this southern province of Pakistan.

He is considered among the young cadre of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as compared to outgoing Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, though the former will turn 54 this coming November.

With his nomination to replace the veteran PPP leader at CM House, it is considered to be an end to the longstanding ambitions of many PPP leaders who had been in queue for the top job for almost three decades.

“It is a watershed moment. Now anyone who would get this position some time in future will be younger than Murad Shah,” said a senior party leader.

Most believe he was attached to Syed Qaim Ali Shah for so many years as an apprentice to ultimately assume the same job now. “He is an able apprentice of a man whom everyone in the party admires,” says a PPP parliamentarian.

His nomination is also considered to be a great ‘change of heart’ on the part of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who was considered to be an avowed foe of Murad’s father Abdullah Shah when the latter was the chief minister and led a fierce operation in Karachi. Chief of the then Mohajir Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussain lost his elder brother and nephew during the operation. Mr Shah’s government was wrapped up along with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s after her brother, Mir Murtaza, was also killed along with his companions in a mysterious police encounter. In case of Murad Shah, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has never concealed his admiration.

Unlike Qaim Ali Shah, and his father Abdullah Shah whom he calls his ideal, Murad Shah was never a dedicated political worker in his youth. In fact, his decision to join active politics came after his father went abroad and gave him a go-ahead to further his legacy in the early 2000s.

He contested and won the constituency of his father from a small town of Jhanghara in 2002 general elections, now in Jamshoro district, and became an integral part of PPP’s think tank to analyse and oppose the provincial government backed by the then military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf.

His increasing interest in financial matters and rules of business of the assembly won him key position in the party, which paid dividends in the latter years when the PPP formed its government in Sindh.

After winning the same constituency in 2008 he was made the minister for irrigation in Syed Qaim Ali Shah’s first stint as the chief minister. Later, he got the portfolio of the finance ministry that he has been overseeing till date. In between he was disqualified from the assembly seat for holding dual nationality. He surrendered his Canadian nationality and contested the elections again though he remained adviser to the chief minister for finance during this period. He finally assumed his ministry after winning the by-election.

Murad Ali Shah was born on Nov 8, 1962, in Karachi. He was schooled in Karachi where he bagged his engineering degree from the NED University of Engineering and Technology.

He got a job of junior engineer in the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), engineer at the Hyderabad Development Authority and later worked as executive engineer at the Port Qasim Authority. He was also a project director of the fish harbour authority.

Then he left for the US where he assumed masters degrees of engineering-economic system and civil and structural engineering from Stanford University in the 1990s.

He is said to be a reclusive person by his critics and admirers, which, most assert, he had to shun when he would go to run the province.

“You have to be in all the time to run a large province like Sindh and we are sure he must have learnt a bit or two in this respect from his predecessor,” says a party leader.

However, given the fact that Sindh is being run effectively by the party’s self-exiled leadership and influenced by the security establishment everyone is curious how long Murad Ali Shah will be able to head a government that could never be fully enjoyed by his predecessor in all his three tenures.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2016