Brought into politics by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a diehard worker of the Pakistan Peoples Party for almost three decades, a deserter and wrecker of the party for the next decade and, of late, a political nomad: meet Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat.
This proud inheritor of the Shah Jewna ancestry, with millions of spiritual followers, has been searching for a political nesting box for himself after breaking up with his latest political love or, as some would say, compulsion — the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid. The search goes on.
Son of a strictly non-political pir, Mr Hayat sailed into politics courtesy his khaloo (maternal uncle) Khalid Khan Kharal — a former bureaucrat — who served Larkana of Z.A. Bhutto as deputy commissioner. ZAB inducted a young Faisal into politics in trying to strike a balance between the local political ambitions of Mr Hayat’s two other influential relatives: Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari and Syeda Abida Hussain. He joined the PPP to fight and win many general elections for, and from, the same platform. His ideological romance with the PPP ended in 2002, when, elected on the PPP ticket, he not only ditched the party in favour of military dictator Pervez Musharraf but helped engineer nine more desertions. According to him, it was a choice between the interior ministry and jail and he preferred the interior ministry to being turned in.
Mr Hayat got the ministry and soon reaped a whole crop of allegations: it was said he had handed out thousands of jobs to his voters and had obtained huge development funds for his constituency. To save his ministry and cement his power politics, he joined the PML-Q when so dictated by the powerful. From his fortified constituency, he returned to the National Assembly in 2008.
For the next five years, he hunted and haunted both his parent party (the PPP) and his adopted home (the PML-Q) on different excuses and with varying intensity. He knew the more he insinuated about the PPP — which understands power politics more than any other brand — the greater chance he would have to return to its fold if need be. He took his former party to court on corruption charges, waged a relentless media war and earned some accolades. To his credit, he stuck to his court cases and public posturing even when the PML-Q joined the PPP-led government. However, when retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was thrown out of power and Pakistan and the PML-Q was deprived of its power base, it also fell out of favour with the House of Shah Jewna.
Political pundits still predict the Makhdoom would ultimately be back in the PPP, though his first round of bargaining has failed and he is facing the son of Fakhr Imam and Syeda Abida Hussain as the PPP candidate in the upcoming elections. To them, it is just a passing battle; the big picture (the Makhdoom and the PPP made for each other) remains the same. It is because both have thrown their ideological baggage away to become hardcore political realists. The PPP would need independent candidates if it has to stitch together an alliance after May 11. Mr Hayat, with his huge personal (but inclined towards the PPP) vote bank, would probably be there, with “a few more elected friends”. He is already in the process of cobbling together a group of those flying on the periphery of different political parties. Having been groomed as a hardcore political bargainer, he would only increase his political price tag if he gets past the returning officers and his opponents in the May 11 elections.