Political analysts and Lyari residents have expressed mixed reactions to Pakistan Peoples Party’s former MNA Shahjahan Baloch’s decision to join Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Baloch, a long-time PPP loyal from Lyari, made the announcement on Thursday after he met PML-N chief and former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore.
Some analysts deem him irrelevant to Lyari’s politics because of his past association with the criminal gangs operating there, while others say his joining would help PML-N in future elections in Lyari because the party has found a significant Baloch leader in the area.
From his student life, Baloch had been associated with PPP and remained active in the Sindh chapter of Peoples Youth Organization, the party’s youth body. A resident of Lyari’s Nawalane neighbourhood who runs a cable network business in the area, Baloch served as the union council Nazim after he was elected in the 2005 local government polls.
At that time, because of Abdul Rauf, who was also Nazim from Lyari’s UC at the time and a noted gang leader, Baloch formed relations with the gangs and became active supporter of the Peoples Aman Committee (PAC), a social-cum-political front of the Rehman Dakait-led gang. In the 2008 general polls, Baloch supported PPP’s candidate Nabil Gabol from Lyari.
However, when Uzair Baloch took charge of the PAC, its relations with the PPP started worsening and a month before the general polls of 2013 the PPP leadership formed a committee to initiate talks with the PAC to nominate the candidates from Lyari. Uzair, however, announced his own candidates for Lyari’s one national and two provincial assembly seats and the PPP, which was virtually at the mercy of the PAC, accepted the PAC’s nominated candidates and Baloch became candidate from NA-248, Lyari’s then National Assembly constituency.
But, in April 2013, just a month before elections, the PAC gangsters killed rival gang commander Arshad Pappu and his brother in a brutal manner – after torturing, they killed him, paraded his body around Lyari and played football with his head. Eventually, an anti-terrorism court issued arrest warrants for Uzair and his accomplices, including Baloch. Police failed to get Uzair but arrested Baloch.
Sitting in Karachi’s Central Prison, Baloch contested the 2013 elections and won the seat. He was the lone PPP MNA from Karachi out of the city’s 20 seats. Baloch was released in December 2015 after getting bail, but after the weakening of criminal gangs because of the ongoing crackdown, the PPP stopped giving importance to Baloch, its lone MNA, from the city.
After failing to get a ticket from Lyari for the 2018 general polls, Baloch along with other PPP disgruntled leaders formed an independent ‘Lyari Panel’ against the PPP candidates. Instead of contesting from NA-246, Lyari’s new National Assembly constituency after delimitation, from where the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also contesting, Baloch chose to contest the provincial assembly seat of PS-107. However, in a major upheaval, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s candidate Mohammad Younas Soomro won from PS-107 bagging 26,248 votes, defeating Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s candidate Mohamamd Asghar, who secured 15,915 votes. The PPP’s candidate Javed Nagori, who was also supported by the PAC in 2013 polls, ranked third by bagging 14,309 votes, while Baloch ranked seventh with a mere 2,330 votes.
Ultimately, after consultations with his supporters, he showed interest in joining the PML-N, which has a significant vote bank among Lyari’s non-Baloch communities, such as Punjabis, Miawalis, Hazara and Pashtun communities.
PML-N Sindh Secretary General Saleem Zia and other Lyari leaders, such as Sultan Bahadur brought Baloch to Lahore to meet with Nawaz Sharif in jail. Political analysts believe Baloch has become irrelevant in Lyari’s today politics but in the form of an influential Baloch leader, he can help PML-N increase its vote bank in upcoming elections.