HYDERABAD: With 74 seats the Pakistan Peoples Party looks set to form the government for a third term in a row even after suffering a setback in constituencies such as Karachi’s Lyari and Larkana — both bastions of PPP’s political power — while some leading lights of the much-trumpeted Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) lost in their home constituencies despite their claims that they would beat the PPP hands down in Sindh.
Unlike the 2013 general elections, when an unregistered 10-party alliance was created ahead of the polls, the PPP this time confronted an alliance initially formed against bad governance and rampant corruption in Sindh.
Lately, it was registered as an electoral alliance by four political parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, People’s Muslim League of Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Pakistan Peoples Party-Workers of Naheed Khan-Safdar Abbasi and National Peoples Party. Others who were part of the GDA included Ayaz Latif Palijo, Dr Zulfikar Mirza, his wife Dr Fehmida Mirza, and Ghous Ali Shah.
The PPP’s tally remained surprising considering its own governance in the last decade. Moreover, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), formed only a few months back, was able to become part of the Sindh Assembly.
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It’s not that the GDA failed to make its presence felt as it has caused ripples in the PPP’s strongholds, winning seats for its candidates from areas such as Larkana. GDA-backed Moazzam Abbasi, a nephew of Dr Safdar Abbasi, has beaten Nida Khuhro, a new face in the PPP and daughter of Nisar Khuhro, with a comfortable margin.
According to unofficial results, Dr Safdar Abbasi couldn’t make it to the Sindh Assembly after losing with a big margin. Moazzam got 32,000 votes against Nida’s 21,000.
With the PPP having 74-75 general seats in its hand, the party would perhaps not like to have unwanted allies for the formation of its government. This time the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, instead of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, is apparently going to emerge as the second largest party in the provincial assembly.
MQM-P loses its assembly slot
The MQM-P has been maintaining its record of being the second largest entity in the assembly since 1988 when it had first emerged on Pakistan’s political horizon — something it has lost owing to a variety of reasons, including the creation of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) in March 2016 that only ended up as a vote spoiler contrary to its oft-repeated claims of having its own or PSP-backed chief minister elected after routing the MQM-P.
The PSP failed to win even a single seat in Karachi, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas, where it stood third or fourth in terms of votes’ tally. It had in fact not taken the MQM as a serious contender against it in the polls.
The PPP seemed to have made recovery in its otherwise lost ground to the Mirzas.
Dr Fehmida Mirza could win Badin’s National Assembly seat by only 800 votes, beating Haji Rasool Bux Chandio. But she lost the contest on provincial seat of PS-73, which was attached to her NA seat. Her son has, however, won PS-72, defeating PPP’s Ali Bux Shah.
Dr Zulfikar Mirza — who had in fact laid the foundation of the anti-PPP vote bank in Badin a few years back — failed to defeat PPP’s Ismail Rahu in Golarchi, Rahu’s hometown. Rahu has won with a big margin and likewise Mirza’s son Hassam Mirza lost to Mir Ali Nawaz Talpur.
“The entire process was corrupt. I will obviously first go for consolidation of vote and then recounting,” said Dr Fehmida Mirza.
Her thrust is that the way she had run the campaign no individual did in any constituency and beating the rival with just 800 votes is just unbelievable for her.
“The GDA couldn’t run its campaign properly,” she said.
Pir Pagara’s debacle
GDA’s top leadership — Pir Pagara — could not make any major gains. His party (PML-F) that once used to hold sway in Sanghar and Khairpur has even lost their only NA seats it had won in the two districts in the last polls.
In Khairpur, Rashid Shah from Pagara’s family has won PS-32 besides Rafiq Bhanbhan on PS-29. PPP’s Naeem Kharal defeated Pir Sadruddin Shah’s son, Ismail Shah, on PS-31.
The PPP faced an interesting upset in Ghotki. Jam Mehtab Dahar lost to PTI’s Shaharyar Shar on PS-18. Shar had obtained 27,605 votes in the 2013 polls as the National Peoples Party candidate against Dahar. PPP’s Ali Nawaz, alias Raja Khan Mahar, lost to Ali Gohar Mahar on PS-20 but the PPP defeated Jam Saifullah Dharejo, who accepted Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s ticket to fight against Ali Nawaz Mahar.
GDA’s Arif Mustafa Jatoi has won one seat — PS-36 — in Naushahro Feroz and the rest went to the PPP. GDA-backed Sindh United Party candidate Syed Zain Shah lost to PPP’s Ghulam Qadir Chandio on PS-39 in Benazirabad.
“I think it is time for self-introspection for the GDA as well, but I feel that this alliance must continue. I am of considered opinion that the PPP has got so many seats despite its bad governance. Money has indeed mattered in these elections,” commented Dr Safdar Abbasi.
“Sindh is in fact an option-less province,” said Inam Sheikh, a noted writer. The GDA had people whose performance was worse even than the PPP and some of them became chief ministers only with a couple of seats, he argued.
The much talked-about alliance did not have a [strong position] on Sindh’s core issues historically and that’s why the people did not have any other option, he said and added that the PPP didn’t have smooth sailing either and they had to face voters’ wrath in their constituencies.
Imtiaz Sheikh has defeated Agha Taimoor — both were involved in an unpleasant incident on polling day — in an otherwise interesting contest and similarly Agha Siraj Durrani has won in the same district.
In Tharparkar, GDA’s Arbab Ghulam Rahim lost to his nephew on PS-57. In Sanghar district the GDA won on PS-41, PS-42 and PS-46 while losing the others to the PPP.
The seemingly invincible PPP heavyweight, Malik Asad Sikander, eventually quenched his thirst for electoral revenge against a weak and independent candidate, Dr Sikandar Shoro, in PS-82. Shoro, however, seemed to have put up a brave electoral fight against Malik Asad by bagging 36,000 votes against the latter’s 40,000.
GDA luminary Ayaz Latif Palijo lost to PPP’s Jam Khan Shoro and GDA/PTI-backed Mohammad Ali Kazi to interned PPP leader Sharjeel Inam Memon.
PPP has also made a major gain in MQM’s stronghold in Hyderabad for the first time where it had never won in electoral history since 1988.
Now, Abdul Jabbar Khan has beaten MQM’s Yunus Gaddi, a weak candidate by all standards, on PS-64. The delimitation had given an edge to the PPP in Hyderabad, which was otherwise neglected by the party in its two back-to-back terms.
“The establishment cobbled together an anti-PPP alliance [GDA] but it had second thoughts when Nawaz Sharif didn’t give up and landed up in jail. So, the establishment decided to prevent Asif Zardari from joining Nawaz Sharif as it could have led to a popular agitation backed by smaller political forces. And GDA’s option was then dropped. Therefore, the PPP is going to be in the saddle again in Sindh after engineered polls,” said Dr Qadri Magsi when asked to comment why the GDA failed to have an impressive performance.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018