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Infighting threatens to derail PPP in Sanghar

Updated July 19, 2018

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IN this file photo taken earlier this month, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses a large crowd in Sanghar.
IN this file photo taken earlier this month, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses a large crowd in Sanghar.

SANGHAR district could spring a surprise or two on July 25 as all indications suggest the Pakistan Peoples Party won’t enjoy a cakewalk in the presence of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F).

If the PPP does suffer a setback, it won’t have to look beyond its own flanks to trace the source of its embarrassment — the Junejo group. The party ignored this faction during the award of tickets for the general election, but the latter has the ability to tilt the balance against the PPP by making it clear to the voter that it is disenchanted with it.

Read: With GDA help, PTI will defeat PPP in Sindh: Imran

Sanghar district has three National Assembly seats — NA-215 ( Sanghar and Sinjhoro), NA-216 (Khipro and Jam Goth) and NA-217 (Shahdadpur and Tando Adam). It has six seats in the Sindh Assembly — PS-41 (Sanghar), PS-42 (Khipro), PS-43 (Jam Nawaz Ali), PS-44 (Tando Adam), PS-45 (Shahdadpur) and PS-46 (Sinjhoro).

A tough contest is on the cards on all nine seats on July 25.

The contest can go either way in constituencies where the influence of heavyweights, and not a party’s popularity, is likely to determine the outcome. An example that comes to mind is the victory of PPP candidate Shazia Marri in a by-election to NA-235 (now 216), the first time that the PML-F lost an election in its stronghold.

We will sweep the polls in this district. Our differences with the Junejos go back generations and won’t have any bearing on PPP’s prospects. Naveed Dero

A repeat of such an upset cannot be ruled out in NA-216, PS-42, PS-43, PS-44 and PS-45 if Roshan Junejo, who is a PPP candidate in NA-217, becomes disenchanted with his party because it did not accept his plea for award of provincial assembly tickets to his son, Allauddin Junejo, and Asghar Junejo, an ex-adviser to the Sindh chief minister.

In the 2002 general election, when the Junejo group contested elections under the banner of the PML-F, the party made a clean sweep, winning all three seats of the National Assembly and the six Sindh Assembly seats.

The Junejos enjoy political leverage across the district, thanks to their interaction with the public. Moreover, they have been pragmatic. During the Musharraf era, they ended their long association with the PPP and joined the PML-F, led by the late Pir Pagara. He rewarded them by hand-picking Roshan Junejo for the slot of Sanghar district nazim.

Area: 10, 608 sq km  Population: 2.05 million  Registered voters: 951,327  Men: 521, 239 Women: 430,088
Area: 10, 608 sq km Population: 2.05 million Registered voters: 951,327 Men: 521, 239 Women: 430,088

Roshan Junejo’s father, ex-senator and state minister the late Shah Nawaz Junejo, himself wielded considerable influence due to his populist politics and presence in the area. He was popularly known as a “classical wadera” (feudal lord) as he used to head local juries or jirgas and was even sought after by other communities’ to arbitrate disputes between different communities.

Interestingly enough, the group has had a rivalry with PPP loyalist Fida Hussain Dero. The feud between them brought the PPP to grief in 2015 when it lost the election for chairmanship of Tando Adam’s taluka municipal committee to a minority group, Shehri Ettehad.

The Dero-Junejo rivalry has been a matter of concern for PPP high-ups as it is damaging the party in the district.

The Junejo group reportedly told the PPP leadership that it can win four seats in the provincial legislature and two in the National Assembly if it awarded tickets to people of their choice. But the leadership put faith in Roshan Junejo alone, picking him for NA-217.

On the other hand, the Dero group was given two tickets — one each to Naveed (NA-215) and his brother Faraz (PS-44).

Political analysts believe that the Dero group was accommodated in order to compensate it for the four deaths it suffered when its rally came under attack during campaigning for the 2015 local bodies election.

Naveed Dero dismissed predictions of defeat for the PPP in Sanghar as wishful thinking. “We will sweep the polls in this district,” Dero told Dawn with an air of smugness.

He was confident that the Junejo-Dero disharmony would not affect the PPP. “Our differences with the Junejos go back generations and won’t have any bearing on PPP’s prospects.”

It is believed that Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur tried to hammer out a patch-up between the two factions, but their efforts bore no fruit. Diehard PPP voters see these squabbles as ominous. They fear that the ultimate beneficiary of the infighting will be none other than the Grand Democratic Alliance.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2018