HYDERABAD: Ever since Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari deferred his visit, scheduled for Aug 28, to the residence of party’s MPA, Makhdoom Dr Rafik Zaman, the Matiari district is abuzz with various sorts of speculation.

Some comment that Makhdooms are feeling disenchanted by the PPP over some issues, others hint at estrangement within the Makhdoom family, to be specific Jamiluzzaman and his step-paternal uncle Dr Rafik Zaman.

The second theory seems to have more weight if a series of happenings within this prominent Hala family are anything to go by. Jamiluzzaman has been the sitting chief of the Sarwari Jamaat since the 2015 death of his father, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who served as president of the PPP-Parliamentarians till his last breath.

Bilawal was scheduled to offer his condolences to Amin Fahim’s younger step-brother Dr Rafik Zaman over the recent death of his mother. Dr Rafik Zaman is son of Makhdoom Talibul Maula, a PPP veteran from Hala who worked with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and then Benazir Bhutto.

“Arrangements [for Bilawal’s visit] had been finalised on Friday night following a confirmation call made on Wednesday by Mr Junaid, secretary to the PPP chairman, to Dr Zaman. The Saturday meeting with the family was to be followed by a lunch at Dr Zaman’s residence in Hala,” said a friend of Dr Zaman. But he received another call on Friday to inform him that the visit had been deferred. “I am, indeed, confused why this has happened,” he added.

Bilawal, after an overnight stay in Tando Allahyar, left for his father’s native district, Nawabshah, bypassing Hala, located along the National Highway. “This shocked Dr Rafik Zaman as everything [at his residence] was ready. He started checking why the programme was changed so abruptly. When he was told that the PPP chairman will come some other day, the MPA replied he will see to it then accordingly,” he said.

Dr Zaman’s associates claim that he learnt that Bilawal’s visit was put off after MNA Jamiluzzaman approached Asif Ali Zardari to tell him that “since I am not present in Hala [on Saturday], Bilawal should not come that day”.

Bilawal addressed a couple of gatherings in Matiari’s neighbouring district of Tando Allahyar and then left for Nawabshah. Jamil strongly denies having approached Asif Zardari to seek postponement of the visit or to say that Bilawal should offer condolence to him instead of Dr Zaman.

“Jamil hasn’t congratulated Dr Zaman over his son Makhdoom Fakhar’s betrothal,” said the former’s friend. This has been confirmed by Dr Zaman over phone while speaking to Dawn. “Jamil Saeen didn’t attend ceremony either as he was in Dubai,” he added.

“When I don’t get a call from Jamil Saeen, to date, to greet me on my son’s ceremony then tashveesh tu banti hey na [I have reason to be concerned]. I have no issue in family at all as we are not overlapping in any affair of life,” said Dr Zaman.

“I am still confused”, he said alluding to what he perhaps believes is the “strange attitude” of his nephew when no property-related issues are involved as Makhdoom Talibul Maula had settled everything among his children during his life. Jamil, however, contradicts reports that there is any tiff between him and his uncle.

“I condemn those reports that tend to suggest that there are differences within the Makhdoom family. Our family will keep flag of party always high and we are simply intact,” he said when approached for comment over phone.

He denied reports suggesting that he is demanding party’s senior vice-chairmanship on the grounds that this post usually goes to his family. “I didn’t make any such demand,” he said. There are also reports about his son’s portfolio in the Sindh cabinet.

The postponement of Bilawal’s visit led to messages like Matiari zila Makhdoom Rafik ka qila from Dr Zaman’s supporters on the social media as well. In mid-2016, Makhdoom Jamil had expressed serious reservations over affairs involving PPP. He had publicly and strongly complained that his Sarwari Jamaat supporters’ grievances were not heard and addressed by the party’s parliamentarians.

Makhdooms had faced a tough situation in 2013 general elections when an alliance comprising PPP’s disgruntled but Amin Fahim’s own friends like Ali Ahmed Nizamani and Nazir Rahu formed a group with the PML-F. Then president Asif Zardari had visited Makhdooms on Dec 25, 2012 ahead of the 2013 elections.

Makhdoom Rafik Zaman had differed with PPP in 2002 general elections while he had been the first district nazim of Hyderabad under the Musharraf era party-less local government system. Resultantly, party’s candidate for Matiari constituency (which Dr Zaman now holds) Makhdoom Fazal lost to PML-F’s Jalal Shah Jamote.

Jamil — known for his off the cuff remarks — candidly admitted opposing Makhdoom Fazal Hussain in 2002. Currently, all three seats of Matiari district are held by Makhdoom family members after the 2018 elections.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2021

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