Shehbaz solidifies anti-PPP poll alliance in Sindh

Published December 30, 2023
THE PML-N delegation led by Shehbaz Sharif meets MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.—Shakeel Adil / White Star
THE PML-N delegation led by Shehbaz Sharif meets MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.—Shakeel Adil / White Star

• Teams up with GDA, secures MQM-P’s assurances during his Karachi visit
• Pledges water, transport projects for metropolis if PML-N comes to power
• Dar says seat adjustments with other parties ‘to be very limited’

KARACHI/LAHORE: In a decisive push to forge an anti-PPP electoral alliance in its stronghold Sindh, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif wrapped up his two-day Karachi visit on Friday after finalising a deal with the six-party coalition Grand Democ­ratic Alliance (GDA) and securing MQM-P’s assurances for a long-term political partnership.

Mr Sharif also pledged Centre-funded water and transport projects for Karachi, contingent on his party’s victory in the upcoming general elections.

During his multiple interactions with the media and addresses to workers and leaders, Mr Sharif refrained from directly naming individuals or parties. However, he pointed out on several occasions how Karachi’s infrastructure “was ruined” during the past 15 years and “bad governance” had turned the metropolis into “worse than a rural area”.

On the second and final day of his visit, he also shared his plans for Karachi, where he wanted the Centre, along with provincial and local governments, to become actively involved in infrastructure building, establishing water supply schemes and introducing a modern transport system.

He showed sympathy with the Urdu-speaking community, stressing that despite their “great sacrifices” to found Pakistan, they were still deprived of drinking water.

“I don’t want to accuse anyone, but this city wasn’t given the rights it deserves,” the former prime minister told reporters after meeting MQM-P leaders at their party headquarters.

“This city became home to millions who migrated to Pakistan after sacrificing their lives and wealth. Their women were humiliated [during Partition and migration] and they paid a huge price for creating this great country,” he said.

“But it’s a shame that the city, which now generates trillions for the national economy, isn’t even getting drinking water. The roads and infrastructures are ruined. The buses plying here don’t even meet the standards of those operating in rural areas,” he added.

Mr Sharif promised to turn around the situation with the help of his political allies, and for that, he vowed that the PML-N would come up with a comprehensive strategy, taking his partners MQM-P and others on board.

Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the MQM-P seconded Mr Sharif’s views and said the two parties were enjoying coordination and harmony that had never been witnessed in the past. Their partnership, he said, would lead to a better future for urban Sindh and other parts of the province.

Earlier, the two leaders held brief talks at the MQM-P headquarters and agreed to give their teams more time to finalise a deal on an electoral alliance before taking matters into their hands for a consensual decision.

‘Mafia rule’

Later, Mr Sharif drove to the residence of GDA chief and spiritual leader of Hur Jamaat, Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, better known as Pir Pagaro, where the two agreed on the alliance for the Feb 8 polls.

Assisted by senior PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Ayaz Sadiq, Mr Sharif finalised the initial sketch of the alliance with Pir Pagaro, and both agreed to settle the terms and details between the two sides at a lower level.

As Mr Sharif drove to the airport to catch the Lahore-bound flight from Pir Pagaro’s residence, Mr Rafique, along with GDA leader Sadaruddin Shah, briefed the media about the development, suggesting a larger alliance was set to contest in Sindh with its main fight against the PPP.

Calling the past 15-year governance the “rule of a mafia”, the two leaders, in their addresses, kept their guns on the PPP, though without naming the party, and vowed to bring down the “system of corruption” after the Feb 8 elections.

‘Seat adjustments to be limited’

Meanwhile, senior PML-N leader Ishaq Dar has said his party will make seat adjustments with different political parties but on a very limited scale.

Talking to the media in Lahore on Friday, he said though seat-adjustment talks were ongoing with several parties, these would materialise for a few constituencies as the PML-N itself had more than one option for each constituency.

The former finance minister, who is also a confidant of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, downplayed reports of internal disputes with the party on the distribution of tickets and said that only the ticket holders would contest the polls while others would withdraw their papers.

Responding to a question, he said the 33-member parliamentary board interviewed more than 2,200 hopefuls for the PML-N ticket during the last two weeks or so and the final list of ticket holders would be prepared before Jan 12.

About seat adjustments with JUI-F, he said the PML-N leadership held talks with Maulana Fazlur Rehman in high esteem, but there was a difference between valuing someone and contesting elections.

Meanwhile, PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar has claimed that the PTI is being favoured by the judiciary. Referring to former premier Imran Khan, he said a person who scandalised a confidential document like a cipher was being declared innocent.

Talking to the media on Friday, he also regretted that all rules and regulations were violated in the PTI’s intra-party election, but the Peshawar High Court directed the Election Commission not to object to the irregularities.

To a question, he said the last meeting of the PML-N’s parliamentary board would be held on Saturday and then a series of public meetings would begin to contact the voters.

He said seat-adjustment talks with the PML-Q and Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party were still inconclusive.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2023

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