Senior leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — influential individuals in the area — Dr Talat Mahesar, his elder brother, Sardar Tufail Ahmed Mahesar, chief of the Mahesar tribe, and his nephew Saqib Mahesar have jumped the party’s ship, and joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Dr Mahesar was elected to the National Assembly (NA) in 2008 from the NA-234 (Mehar-Khairpur Nathan Shah) constituency. He is the younger brother of the late PPP leader, Rafiq Ahmed Mahesar who ran for the party against the Jatoi brothers in the past.

As soon as the 2018 elections were announced and the PPP leadership refused to nominate Dr Mahesar as its candidate, he along with Sardar Tufail Mahesar announced that they were joining the PTI, completely changing the political situation in Dadu district. The decision even prompted the co-chairman of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, to request a meeting with Dr Mahesar through senior members of the tribe, but to no avail.

Several local tribal chiefs in the area have announced joining the PTI as well, moving on from their allegiance to the PPP that they took with them through the last two elections in 2008 and 2013.

After the shift in alliances, the old guard of the PPP has left the party weaker, strengthening the PTI and benefiting its candidates in the area — Liaqat Jatoi for NA-234, and his younger brother Sadaqat Ali Jatoi for the provincial assembly seat of PS-84.

Irfan Zafar Laghari, son of former federal minister Haji Zafar Ali Laghari, is contesting as a PPP candidate for NA-234, and Fayaz Ahmed Butt, who served as an adviser to Sindh’s chief minister for health and rural development, is representing the party in the provincial constituency of PS-84.

The PPP candidates in NA-234, PS-84 (Mehar) and PS-83 (Khairpur Nathan Shah) face an uphill task, as their voters are not overly keen on supporting them. According to some sources, the PPP leaders failed to fulfil many of their campaign promises the last time.

Irfan Laghari was elected to the NA from the Mehar-Khairpur Nathan Shah area with a PPP ticket in 2013. His brother-in-law Dr Mahesar had won the NA seat in 2008 with the PPP, and his defection to the PTI now has left Irfan Laghari weaker.

In the PS-83 constituency, the PPP’s Aziz Ahmed Junejo is squaring off against the PTI’s Ihsan Ali Jatoi in what promises to be a tough competition.

Difficulties for the PPP

PPP candidates are not having it easy, as they seem not to be too welcomed by most of the electorate in the district. During campaign meetings and rallies, most of the PPP leadership continues to be questioned by voters on their failures the last time they were in power. The party has lost significant ground to the PTI as voters have started to move on from Bhutto’s legacy.

Although the PPP has won the three constituencies — NA-234, PS-83 (Khairpur Nathan Shah) and PS-84 (Mehar) in the last two elections 2008 and 2013 — the party’s image has been tarnished thanks to their sub-par performance and alleged involvement in major corruption scandals. Senior politician Liaquat Ali Jatoi has a much stronger position in all of Dadu district, and the PTI is expecting to win both NA-234, and NA-235 as well as four of the three provincial seats — PS-83, PS-84 and PS-86. The PPP on the other hand is only likely to win PS-85 in Dadu.

Candidates of both the Grand Democratic Alliance and the Sindh United Party have announced their withdrawals in support of PTI candidates further strengthening their positions.

PTI’s Karim Ali Jatoi, the PPP’s Sardar Rafiq Ahmed Jamali, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Ahmad Khan Lund, and independent candidates Sardar Taimur Khan Panhwar are locked in a battle for the NA-235 constituency.

Rafiq Jamali of the PPP won the seat in in the last two elections, but this time he may lose out to the PTI’s Karim Jatoi. Furthermore, the campaign of Sardar Taimur Panhwar has taken the votes of the Panhwar tribe — traditionally allied with the PPP — away from the party, helping the PTI in the process.

In the PS-85 constituency, the PPP remains the favourite as its candidate Pir Mujeebul Haq takes on the PTI’s Ashiq Ali Zour. The Pir’s family has won the seat since 1988 giving him a strong winning pedigree. Furthermore, Syed Mohammad Shah who ran against the PPP in all previous elections, has this time decided to support his old foes, bringing in more votes.

PTI’s candidate Dr Bandah Ali Laghari, Syed Ghulam Shah Jilani of the PPP, and PML-N’s Ali Nawaz Rind are set to go up against each other in the PS-86 constituency. The PPP has lost support in the area over the last few years as the party has failed to solve the drinking water problem — a commitment that they had made before the last elections.

There are 733,351 registered voters in Dadu district out of which 406,443 are male.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2018