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New alliance in Sindh

October 24, 2017


ON Sunday, under the watchful gaze of Pir Pagara, the anti-PPP tribes gathered at Kingri House in Karachi to plot a strategy for the next general elections. It was decided that a new electoral platform — the Grand Democratic Alliance — would register itself with the ECP and participate in next year’s polls. Along with Pir Pagara’s PML-F, the other members of the alliance are mostly mainstream Sindhi nationalist groups, as well as disgruntled former PPP elements, such as the Abbasis of Larkana and the Mirzas of Badin. It should be remembered that the pir cobbled together a similar alliance in 2013, which failed to dent the PPP’s vote bank. The situation in Sindh is indeed strange: while the PPP’s governance has been anything but exemplary, the voter knows that despite the visible lack of good governance, the alternatives are not at all impressive, eg most of the constituents of the GDA are the same mirs, pirs and waderas who have done little for the common man. The PPP knows this and has become complacent, some would say arrogant, as is reflected in the Sindh Assembly speaker’s recent remarks in which he belittled the value of the vote.

Where mainstream parties other than the PPP are concerned, Sindh doesn’t seem to matter. For example, the PML-N’s top-flight leaders make fly-by-night visits to the province and announce multibillion-rupee projects for its cities and towns, but there is little long-term planning to establish roots in Sindh. The PTI, despite all its talks of change, has brought on board the same ‘electables’ and ‘influentials’ that have been part of Sindh’s political scene for decades. The MQM, which rarely ventured beyond its comfort zone of the province’s urban areas, is itself in disarray, though the PSP has made positive noises about bridging the communal gap between Sindhi and Urdu speakers. The nationalists are divided in two camps: one consists of hard-line separatists, the other is riven by internal division. Such a situation leaves the field open for the PPP. While Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has tried to spearhead development work, the fact is that power in Sindh does not flow from CM House, but from Asif Zardari and his family members. This arrangement, unfortunately, has done little to uplift Sindh’s condition, while there is little evidence of the formation of progressive political forces that can represent the province’s working and middle classes.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017