(From left) A three-way contest is expected on NA-214 between Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon of GDA, jailed PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi and PPP’s Pir Ameer Ali Shah Jilani.

Thar — the desert where women voters hold sway

Highest ever 71pc turnout of women voters recorded on NA-214 in 2018 polls; tough contest expected on two NA, four PA seats in the district.
Published January 27, 2024

• Highest ever 71pc turnout of women voters recorded on NA-214 in 2018 polls
• Tough contest expected on two NA, four PA seats in the district

THE desert district of Tharparkar is among a few areas of rural parts of Sindh where a tough contest is expected during the Feb 8 general elections.

Over 723,000 registered voters will choose two members of the National Assembly and four members of the Sindh Assembly on the day of polling.

The candidates of three main parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — seem more interested in mustering support of female voters keeping in view their highest ever turnout of over 70 per cent during the 2018 general elections.

The contests on NA-214 and NA-215 are among 14 main candidates associated with leading political parties despite the fact as many as 86 candidates, including independents, are in the electoral race.

NA-214 consists of Chachro-Dahli and Nagarprkar talukas.

In this constituency, there are 308,482 voters including 167,379 female and 141,103 male voters.

This is the only constituency of the country where female voters outnumber male voters and during the previous general elections the turnout of female voters stood at historic 71pc. Women vote plays a decisive role in elections here.

Interned PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, whose nomination papers were rejected from his hometown Multan, is contesting as an independent candidate against Pir Ameer Ali Shah Jilani of the PPP and Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon of the GDA.

Pir Ameer Ali Shah Jilani won a by-election on this NA seat after the death of his father, Pir Noor Mohammad Shah Jilani.

Pir Noor Shah Jilani had defeated Qureshi twice in the 2013 and 2018 elections with narrow margins on the ticket of the PPP. He secured 80,047 votes while Mr Qureshi got 72,884 votes in the 2018 elections.

This time round, Mr Qureshi is contesting the polls with the symbol of ‘Peacock’ after the PTI’s electoral symbol ‘bat’ was taken on the orders of the Supreme Court.

Here the votes of Rahimoon, Samejo, Nohrio, Meghwar, Khosa, Bheel, Samoon, Kolhi, Dal, Bajeer, and some other communities will decide the winner. The votes of all main communities are expected to stand divided mainly due to their spiritual associations with two spiritual groups — the Ghousia Jamaat and Jilani Jamaat.

Some communities here are also associated with Hur Jamaat of Pir Pagara and Sarwari Jamaat of the Makhdooms of Hala.

Hurs previously voted for Mr Qureshi and other anti-PPP parties, but this time they are yet to be given directions by Pir Pagara.

Keeping in view the association of the Makhdooms of Hala with the PPP, the votes of Sarwari Jamaat could go with the PPP candidate.

But, local people, who are keeping an eye on this important contest, claim that it will be very difficult to predict the final results until the completion of the counting process of the votes to be polled.

The political dynamics in Tharparkar appeared to have become quite interesting with Mr Qureshi facing challenges after being jailed.

Razzaque Rahimoon’s strong candidacy and support from the Rahimoon community could impact the election outcome. Voter sentiment will play a crucial role in determining the results.

Close contest expected in NA-215

Another neck-and-neck contest is expected on NA-215, where former Sindh Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim is all set to lock horns with Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani, the only non-Muslim candidate of the country who had won a general seat by defeating Arbab Zakaullah in 2018.

Dr Malani had secured 106,630 votes against Arbab Zaka who had bagged 87,884 votes.

In this constituency, the number of total registered voters is 415,109, including 225,016 male and 190,093 female voters.

In NA-215, estranged PPP leader Advocate Mohammad Mein Bajeer is also in the run as an independent candidate.

 Arbab Ghulam Rahim of the GDA will face PPP’s Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani (below) in NA-215.
Arbab Ghulam Rahim of the GDA will face PPP’s Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani (below) in NA-215.

Here the Meghwar community, which has nearly 40,000 votes in the constituency, will play an important role and will decide the winner.

Lajpat Panjuwani Meghwar of the same community is also in the run. Recently, Kala Ram Meghwar, who filed nomination papers as an independent candidate, withdrew his candidatures in favour of Dr Malani on the NA seat and on PS-55 in favour of Arbab Lutufallh after he was persuaded by top PPP leadership.

However, it will remain to be seen whether his withdrawal pays any dividends to the PPP.

Other communities, which have votes in thousands of numbers include Nohrio, Bajeer, Junejo, Bheel, Suthar, Loond Thakur, Kolhi, Dars, Sand and voters of various other communities living in four big towns include Mithi, Dilpo, Islamkot and Kaloi will be decisive.

Here a very tough contest is expected since main candidates have been left with no other option but to win this seat for their political survival.

Neither Dr Rahim is contesting on any other seat like he did during previous polls, nor Dr Malani has been allotted the reserved seat by his party this time.

PS-52 Tharparkar-I

On PS-52 comprising Chachro and Dahli talukas, Sher Khan Samejo of the GDA and Dost Mohammad Rahimoon of the PPP are in the race.

Razaq Rahimoon won this seat, which was only seat won by the GDA in the previous election.

Mr Rahimoon secured 26,510 votes and the PPP candidate lost by getting 25,403 votes.

PS-53 Nagarparkar

On PS-53 Nagarparkar again this time Qasim Siraj Soomro is contesting the polls against Arbab Anwar Jabbar of the GDA. Mr Soomro had defeated Arbab by polling 47,344 votes. Arbab Anwar bagged 33,215 votes.

But any surprise cannot be overruled on this provincial seat. Because the GDA also won local bodies elections in town committees and in different UCs.

PS-54 Islamkot

On PS-54 Islamkot, Fakeer Sher Mohammad Bilani is contesting again on PPP ticket against his two main rivals of PTI and GDA.

Arbab Khan Sahib Togachi of the GDA is contesting against Bilalani while Advocate Lajpat Soorani associated with the PTI is an independent candidate.

The divide of vote could greatly favour the PPP stalwart if Arbab or Soorani do not withdraw.

Bilalani won this provincial seat by securing 55,160 votes while his rival Arbab Togachi got 33,369 votes in 2018.

The Bheel community supports Lajpat Soorani.

PS-55 Tharparkar-IV

In this constituency, Arbab Lutufallah is considered to be a favourite against his rival Arbab Zakaullah.

Arbab Lutuf won this seat by polling a record 65,829 votes against his uncle Arbab Rahim, who secured 44,675 votes in the previous polls.

This time round, Meghwar community will again play an important role in deciding the fate of the contesting candidates.

Again Nohrio, Loond, Junejo, Bheel, Suthar, Thakur, Bajeer, Langha, various other communities will be decisive factors behind the final results in PS-55.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2024

Header image: (From left) A three-way contest is expected on NA-214 between Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon of GDA, jailed PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi and PPP’s Pir Ameer Ali Shah Jilani.

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