PPP leader Zulfikar Mirza. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, Oct 21: Had the by-election been for any other constituency in Sindh, the PPP leadership would have taken a decision quickly. But the PS-57 seat in Badin district has special significance. That's why the party high command is burning the proverbial midnight oil to decide who from among its members should contest the election.

The seat has been vacated by former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, who since resigning the party membership has been a particularly vocal critic of PPP ally MQM.

The provincial seat also falls in the home constituency of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, where she intends to launch the political career of her son. In the 2008 general election, Dr Zulfikar Mirza won the provincial assembly seat with 33,111 votes.

Sources told Dawn that President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, has to ponder long and hard before deciding on a candidate for the seat. According to them, President Zardari has already discussed the matter with his political advisers and confidants more than once.

The reason: If the PPP rejects the application of Hasnain Mirza (the son of Dr Zulfikar Mirza) for the party ticket it will be taken as a blow to Dr Fehmida Mirza who has reportedly been given assurances by the party about her son's future. Dr Fehmida Mirza won the National Assembly seat (NA-225) from Badin in 1997, 2002 and 2008.

According to a PPP office-bearer, “refusing the ticket to the speaker's son means the party disowns her, which is not the case because despite her husband's continuous media outbursts against the MQM she has not spoken even a single word on the subject”.

On the other hand, a win in the election for Dr Mirza's son will strengthen the perception that whatever the former home minister has been saying against the MQM, and also against some PPP leaders, has the backing of the Presidency.

The sources said that taking a decision on the matter would be tough for President Zardari because fingers were already being pointed at the Presidency for its possible complicity with Dr Zulfikar Mirza.

Talking to reporters in Sukkur, former MNA Marvi Memon said: “Zulfikar Mirza is playing the role of PPP's 'B' team. After the party lost credibility, President Zardari has planted him to repair the damage.”

Talking to Dawn, senior PPP leader Taj Haider said party high command would decide in the coming days who would contest the by-election for the vacated seat. He said his party had earlier awarded the ticket to husband of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza. And now if her son was vying for the ticket, the party would definitely give his name a serious consideration.

Though not in so many words, one can safely assume from Mr Haider's tone and tenor that the PPP leadership will grant Hasnain Mirza the party ticket for the by-election.

When the same question was put to PPP's information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, he was a bit guarded in his response and said the party had a certain procedure to award tickets and the decision would be made at an appropriate time.

According to the schedule of the Election Commission, nomination papers for the seat will be submitted on October 26 and 27. The final list of candidates will be released on November 18 and polling will be held on December 11.