Sunday February 25, 2024

Revitalised GDA likely to threaten PPP’s dominance in Sindh

November 13, 2023
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (left) and Co-chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari. — AFP/File
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (left) and Co-chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari. — AFP/File

LAHORE: A likely 'updated' version of Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) in Sindh comprising PMLN, MQM and JUI-F could put PPP in real test which has won three terms in the province since 2008.

A recent meeting between PMLN senior leadership with PMLF top leader and head of an anti-PPP alliance GDA Pir Sibghat Ullah Rashid (Pir Pagara) has discussed in detail the election strategy to counter People’s Party in Sindh.

This is the second major development pertaining to the election strategy of PMLN whose Supermo Nawaz Sharif has returned to Pakistan after a four years period of self exile. A few days ago, a three-member delegation of MQM-P comprising Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi, Dr Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal held a meeting with PMLN top brass and agreed to develop alignment for the upcoming general elections scheduled to be held in February 2024.

On Saturday, PMLN leaders, including Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Khawaja Saad Rafique, held a meeting with Pir Sibghat Ullah Rashdi. Besides, PMLN leader also contacted JUIF Sindh leader Rashid Soomro. In the coming days, a meeting is also likely to be held with GDA leaders like Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, Irfan Ullah Marwat, Dr Safdar Abbasi, family of late GM Syed, whose sons are also part of the Grand Democratic Alliance, and Ayaz Latif Palejo.

GDA comprises of five parties or groups including PMLF, PPP-Workers, National Peoples Party (founded by late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi), Qaumi Awami Tehreek (headed by Ayaz Palejo), the groups of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and family of GM Syed.

Although, the GDA could not challenge PPP in Sindh as latter won almost all seats in interior Sindh (except the one in Larkana in which PPP's Jameel Soomro was defeated) from 2018 to 2023. Most of the noted political groups including Shirazis, Mehrs preferred to join PPP.

In the general elections of 2018, GDA candidates won from Sanghar, Badin and a few more areas but rest, in interior Sindh, was PPP's solo flight. Now, with PMLN showing interest to be the part of GDA along with MQM and JUIF, the vote bank would certainly witness an increase.

PMLN would be the greatest component of GDA while keeping in view its previous record on ballot even on the soil of Sindh.

In 1993, 1997, 2013 elections, PMLN got success even in the city of Karachi which traditionally has been a stronghold of MQM followed by PPP. Besides, in 1997, the PMLN even bagged the top chief ministerial slot. In the Urban areas Sindh, the PMLN and MQM alliance along with a right party like JUIF could disturb PTI, which won major chunk of seats in 2018 general elections and also to PPP which at least grabs two to four National Assembly seats in Karachi in every general election.

Historically and traditionally, MQM has been a major winner from Urban Centres of Sindh, including Karachi, Hyderabad whereas even in districts like Sukkar and Mirpurkhas, its candidates have got elected in 1988, 1990, 1993 (Provincial Assembly as MQM had boycotted the NA polls), 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013.

After 2016, Altaf Hussain, the founder of MQM was not able to lead the party that resulted in the emergence of different factions of MQM, chiefly MQM Pakistan which grabbed only a handful of seats after PTI replaced it in Karachi.

In 2024, MQM Pakistan itself has to battle for its survival against PPP or even PTI. With the support of PMLN, the increase in vote bank is quite likely. In 1993, PMLN surprised everyone after it won six seats from Quaid's city out of total 13 amid boycott of MQM led by Altaf. It was expected that PPP would emerge as the beneficiary of the situation but PMLN clinched six and as many as were won by PPP and only one by Jamaat-e-Islami's Pakistan Islamic Front.

Even a greater surprise came in the 1997 elections. In which, PMLN, despite the presence of MQM in contest, won two NA seats and five Sindh Assembly seats from Karachi. Ejaz Shafi and Capt (Rtd) Haleem Siddiqi were elected as MNAs while defeating MQM candidates whereas figures like Farooq Awan, Salim Zia, Humayyon Khan, Sardar Abdul Raheem, Haleem Adil Sheikh became MPAs.

From the stronghold of PPP, Lyari, PMLN MPA Farooq Awan was elected whereas PMLN lost the NA seat with a margin of just a few hundred votes agaisnt PPP candidate Waja Ahmad Karim Dad. In most of the Karachi constituencies where PMLN lost, its candidates were at number two position and PPP was at number three. For the first time, PMLN candidates won from interior Sindh districts including Badeen, Dadu and finally it was able to form government with its allies.

In 2002 and 2008, PMLN was not able to win any seat from Karachi as in 2002, it remained a battleground between MQM and MMA and later between MQM and PPP. In 2013, PMLN once again gave a surprise and it won a seat from Malir district, as its candidate Abdul Hakeem Baloch emerged successful. Hakeem Baloch later quit PMLN and got elected as MNA in 2016 on PPP ticket. In 2018 elections, PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif fielded himself from Karachi but lost to PTI's Fasal Vawda after a very tough contest. On many seats, PMLN candidates stood at number two position. GDA Secretary General Dr Safdar Abbasi when contacted told The News that discussion was underway to establish an alliance in Sindh where all forces except PPP lacked the 'level playing field'. He said contacts had been developed between the senior leaders, and possibly a GDA with more partners could come under existence.