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November 22, 2015
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Why did Mirza sweep Badin polls?

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November 22, 2015

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No result in the second phase of local bodies elections generated as much interest as that of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza-led group’s “clean sweep” in Badin — one of the strongholds of PPP after Larkana. Why the PPP lost Badin in an otherwise clean sweep in Sindh?
Few questions have emerged from this major upset not only for the PPP, but also for its co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and most importantly what led to this victory? The PPP, which was almost routed out in Punjab, faces a mini revolt in Sindh.
The PPP dilemma is that it got this upset at a time when Benazir Bhutto’s youngest daughter cast her first vote in Tando Allahyar and dedicated it to her late mother. It is for the first time that all the three children of any Bhutto family have registered their votes in three different cities. Bilawal registered his vote in Larkana and Bakhtawar in Benazirabad or old Nawabshah.
In the post-election scenario, interesting would be an alliance between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Mirza group. Imran Khan was so excited with his win that as soon as he heard Mir group won he picked up the phone and congratulated him. The two agree to meet for possible cooperation, but Imran intends to request his and the family to join PTI.
What is so common between the two? Perhaps, aggression, anti-Zardari, anti-MQM factor and both enjoyed “media hype.” Imran needs someone like him in Sindh particularly after PTI’s back to back defeat in the two phases. But, like in Lodhran, was it “call” in haste without realizing its possible impact on the party’s chances in Karachi on December 5th.
Let’s first have a look into the possible reasons for this biggest upset in Sindh :-
(1) Mirza’s decades long hold in Badin and his personal influence on workers, (2) weak PPP leadership in Badin, which more or less pick and chose of Mirza himself, (3) possible betrayal within PPP and silent support from some PPP leaders. (4) long absence of Mr Zardari from Pakistan

since his strain relationship with the establishment, (5) role of PPP, MNA Dr Fahmida Mirza and her son, MPA, Hasnain Mirza, (6) PPP’s failure to launch an aggressive campaign which its rival did, (7) united anti-PPP vote which Mirza succeeded in exploiting in his favor, (8) Mirza’s anti-MQM stance, something which easily sell in interior Sindh, (9) lack of administrative control of Sindh government, which on Polling Day, was in the hands of rangers, and, (10) Mirza family emerged as “mazloom,” within PPP and among Badin voters.
Although, PPP had performed exceptionally well in the second phase too and caused upset to Sherazis in Thatta and Arbab in Tharparkar, Umerkot and other adjacent areas, which it often lost in the past, it was Badin’s election, which must have hurt Zardari, most.
This defeat may bring changes in the PPP, Sindh particularly in Badin. Some ministers may also lose their portfolios. It was also the first major defeat for Bilawal, who was expecting a better result after his visit.
PPP has a big task ahead in the next two years, before next general elections. Already struggling to regain lost popularity in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, now they have few worries ahead in Sindh as well.
How far Mirza factor can affect PPP in Sindh, depend on his political moves and temperament. Can he translate his fiery spell into a real political challenge beyond Badin, is still premature to say, but the emerging scenario for the PPP, is not very encouraging either despite its overall clean sweep in the Province.
If PPP top leadership faced serious cases of corruption and terrorism, goes to jail, chances of any protest movement looks quite bleak in the present circumstances
But, PPP top leadership should blame themselves for this defeat as they created confusion in Badin, by neither going for patch-up with Mirza nor taking any disciplinary action against his wife and former Speaker National Assembly and her son Hasnain. If the PPP MNA and MPA from the same constituency led campaign against the party leadership, why Mr Zardari expected other party leaders to do? Mrs Mirza continued her attack on the leadership even from the floor of NA in the presence of Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah and others, who did not stop her.
All this created confusion among the common PPP workers, whose fear was that if tomorrow they reached a compromise where would they stand and could face problems. So, they either stayed home or sided with Mirza.
There are also reasons to believe why this particular election was so important for Mr Zardari, who must have taken it as his personal defeat from someone who since their school days had never even challenged his ex-friend’s arguments.
Mirza even suffered financially after he parted ways with Mr Zardari, and at times he even mentioned the loss he got in his sugarcane business.
Therefore, it was more than a political battle between the two. It was personal and the real reasons for their differences may always remain secret.
Mirza, who in his personal life inspired with famous Bollywood character, “John Rambo,” became famous during his brief tenure as Home Minister Sindh during the PPP’s last tenure.
Zardari knew his temperament and yet he assigned him the task to use his muscle to put some pressure on MQM. But, what he did had almost brought Karachi on verge of “civil war” after Mirza used Lyari Gang War, main character, Uzair Baloch to counter the alleged militancy of the MQM and issued over 150,000 arms licenses and was accused of providing them sophisticated weapons.
The only PPP leader, who tried to stop Mr Zardari, from playing with the fire was its MNA from Lyari Nabil Gabol. Initially, his argument was rejected but when law and order went out of control and it became an ethnic issue between “Muhajirs and Baloch,” he asked Mirza to stop.
Prior to this conflict, the two communities never had any problem or conflict even in the worst ethnic strife.
PPP paid a heavy political price in its stronghold, Lyari, which went in complete hold of Uzair Baloch and his group. Till this day, PPP could not recover and once the most political area of the city has now been completely de-politicized.
By the time Mirza was asked to stop and resign as Home Minister, he became the “darling of the media,” with his fiery speeches, aggressive tone and everything which got channels, good rating.
Because of the media hype and his anti-MQM posture, Mirza became popular in interior of Sindh and even within the PPP Sindh.
Sources said, Mirza was not happy the manner he was “used” and later thrown away like a tissue paper. The man, who is also a chronic high blood pressure patient, felt that his old friend had damaged his political career.
So, when he started speaking against Zardari, the former president went to his Karachi residence in 2014 and had a very long meeting in which Mrs Fahmida Mirza was also present. The meeting remained inconclusive.
This was followed by financial crisis, which Mirza blamed on him as his sugar mills came on the verge of collapse.
When Dr Fahmida Mirza developed a serious disease and returned after treatment abroad, Mr Zardari visited her to enquire after her. Although tension eased to some extent and PPP decided not to take any action against the PPP MNA and her MPA son, Mirza continued to suffer.
The PPP suffered the most due to this politics of Mr Zardari in Sindh. On the one hand, its stronghold of Lyari was completely depoliticized and now it has lost its another stronghold — Badin.
The PPP, today, finding difficulty in running its campaign in Lyari, has lost one of its loyalist Nabil Gabol, who got elected on party ticket several time. He later joined MQM and became its MNA, but later resigned from MQM too. His political career also came to a halt as he could not decide where to go from here.
Apparently, it looked mere a symbolic loss for the PPP and Mr Zardari, but if Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza played his card well and managed to create dents in the PPP’s rank and file as several other PPP leaders are also not happy with rising influence of Ms Farryal Talpur, he can create split in interior Sindh’s mandate.
But, who knows better than Mirza, how his old friend can boons back, provided he came out from the present crisis that has emerged after “Karachi operation,” when his another college friend, Dr Asim Hussain is facing investigation of alleged links with “al-Qaeda,” terror financing and serious corruption charges. If not, difficult time ahead for the PPP and things not look good.
The dilemma is for the children of Benazir and particularly for Bilawal, who is now the Chairman of the party. Can he reform PPP and win back Badin?
The writer is the senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News or Jang

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