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WITH less than 10 years of experience in active politics, the victory of businessman Saleem Mandviwalla of the Pakistan Peoples Party as Senate’s deputy chairman on Monday is illustrative of his meteoric rise in a party once considered the last bastion of the underprivileged.

Mr Mandviwalla was the first choice of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and could have been the Senate chairman if the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had agreed on his name and not insisted on nominating Mir Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, an independent senator from Balochistan. (A profile detailing the career trajectory of the newly elected chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was published in Dawn on Monday).

His political journey began in October 2008 — a few months after the PPP came to power both at the Centre and in Sindh, following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto — when he was appointed chairman of the Board of Investment thanks to what many insiders say his friendship and family ties with Mr Zardari, who had been elected as the country’s president just a month ago.

Like Mr Zardari’s father, Mr Mandviwalla’s family is also in the cinema business as they have owned Karachi’s iconic Nishat cinema since the 1960s.

Fortune smiled on him again in 2012, when PPP’s Dr Asim Hussain, another close aide to the then president Zardari, had to resign from the Senate. Mr Mandviwalla then won a by-election on a PPP ticket for the upper house of parliament from Sindh. A few days later, he was made the minister of state for finance and replaced the then finance minister Hafeez Shaikh, who resigned in early 2013.

In March 2015, he was once again elected as a PPP Senator from Sindh on a general seat for a six-year term. Mr Mandviwalla was also the chairman of the Senate standing committee on finance, and in that capacity, he gave a tough time to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

Born in 1959 into a well-known business family that has been in the real estate, manufacturing, entertainment and automobile businesses, Mr Mandviwalla served as the president of the Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry before joining politics. His family owned a plastic factory in Hub, Balochistan.

Hailing from Karachi, he never held any organisational office in the PPP until a few months ago when he was made the head of the party’s manifesto committee for the 2018 general elections.

Some PPP leaders took pains to clarify that the rise of Mr Mandviwalla was not solely because of his relations with Mr Zardari, but that as a businessman, he was associated with slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as well.

Little information is available on the Senate’s website regarding Mr Mandviwalla’s personal life. According to the website, he graduated from the Fort Worth School of Aviation in Texas in 1981. His family confirmed that he got a commercial pilot’s licence from the United States.

Mr Mandviwalla owns properties worth Rs100 million as well as investments and income and other household assets worth Rs137m. He also owns a pistol valued at Rs85,000, according to his statement of assets filed with the Election Commission.

He defeated Usman Kakar, the candidate put up by the PML-N and its allies, in the election for Senate’s deputy chairman on Monday.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2018

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