‘Smooth sailing’ for PPP in Shaheed Benazirabad – Pakistan

PTI-backed Sardar Sher Muhammad Rind is contesting against PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari on NA-207.

NAWABSHAH: A general disinterest of voters towards imminent polls, lack of adequate electioneering by candidates of rival parties and Pakistan Peoples Party’s ability to lure in or silence with favours all meaningful opposition have made electoral contest an easy sail for the former ruling party in Shaheed Benazirabad district.

The traditional enthusiasm among voters, which is a hallmark of elections worldwide, is eerily missing ahead of general elections 2024.

Only PPP candidates are seen holding corner meetings while Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan’s chief Allama Saad Rizvi did manage to create some stir in the town by addressing a public gathering to kick start his party’s election campaign but other contestants like Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are conspicuously absent from the electoral arena.

Shaheed Benazirabad (formerly Nawabshah) district, hometown of former president and co-chairman of PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, has remained a stronghold of the party, which has so far maintained its winning streak on all seats in the district — two National Assembly seats, NA-207 and NA-208, and four provincial assembly seats, PS-36, PS-37, PS-38 and PS-39 — in the general elections of 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018.

PPP lures in all rivals

The PPP has played smartly in the district’s politics over the last decade by luring in old rivals with favours, which has ended almost all meaningful opposition to the party. The successfully encroached upon the traditional vote bank of MQM in the city by winning over influential members of Urdu-speaking community with important positions in local governments.

The party has again awarded ticket for the city’s provincial seat to Punjabi community which has managed to retain it in last four elections, making the contest much tougher for the MQM. In addition, PTI, GDA and PML-N have very poor or almost no party network and political activity on ground, which too will hugely benefit PPP.

Above all, PPP has had the opportunity to deepen its roots in all public and private areas during its 15-year rule, by providing employment and carrying out development works in the district.

13 in the run on NA-207

NA-207 (Nawabshah-I), which comprised Nawabshah and Daur talukas with 496,037 registered voters, is the most important seat in the district as it is being fought by none other than PPP-Parliamentarian president Asif Ali Zardari himself. He has 12 candidates to contend with.

Mr Zardari had won the seat in 2018 elections and in 2002, 2008 and 2013 polls his elder sister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho had easily clinched it thrice in a row.

The PPP has faced minimal opposition in this constituency over the past two decades but the party can have a semblance of a fight in this election from PTI’s Sardar Sher Mohammad Rind who is, like his colleagues all over the country, contesting with his electoral symbol of ‘charpoy’ after his party was deprived of ‘bat’.

Mr Rind had put up quite a fight to Mr Zardari in 2018 elections which he had fought on GDA’s ticket and managed to grab a decent number of 54,346 against 101,370 polled for Mr Zardari.

The other contestants for the seat are: Syed Ghulam Mohiyuddin Shah of PML-N, who is contesting as independent after he failed to get the party’s ticket; Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah Taqvi of MQM, who also filed nomination papers but failed to submit the party’s ticket, and Syed Zahid Hussain Shah of GDA for whom PML-N and MQM had quit the race but he withdrew his candidature at the 11th hour.

Zardari’s sister sees easy win on PS-37

Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah of PPP and Syed Zainulabidin Shah of GDA are in the run for NA-208.

There are two provincial assembly (PA) seats that fall within the NA-207 constituency — PS-36 (Daur taluka, SBA-I) and PS-37 (Nawabshah taluka, SBA-II) — and both were won by PPP in 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 general elections.

Mr Zardari’s elder sister Dr Pechuho retained the seat in 2018 by defeating GDA’s Syed Bagh Ali Shah by a big margin. She is once again poised to clinch the seat from PTI’s Bahawal Khan Rind contesting as independent like his father Sardar Sher Mohammad Rind, MQM’s Azam Khan, Maulana Abdul Razzaq Sher of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Arif Ali of TLP and others.

The PPP’s position in the constituency appears to have improved further by recent visits of Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, youngest sister of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, however the party can still face some meaningful resistance from PTI’s Bahawal Rind due to numbers and influence of his community in the area.

The PS-37, too, has been retained by PPP in past four elections. The party’s Chaudhry Tariq Masood Arain won the seat in 2002 and retained it in 2008, 2013 and 2018 election.

This time, he managed to get the party ticket for his younger brother Chaudhry Javed Iqbal Arain. Chaudhry wields considerable influence in Punjabi community in the constituency, which covers Nawabshah city.

There are a total of 24 contestants for this seat, who include MQM’s Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah, TLP’s Mohammed Arif, PTI’s Inayat Ali Rind, JUI-F’s Zakir Hussain Jamali and others.

For PPP the only opponent to reckon with is MQM which had given a tough time to the party in past and won the seat twice in 1990 and 1997 election but afterwards suffered defeats by a large margin in last four elections.

The party’s position has since weakened after its members and influential business community went over to PPP. Understandably, the MQM has not yet started its election campaign in the constituency, allowing PPP to retain the seat for the fifth time in a row.

PPP man to face SUP chief, others on NA-208

On NA-208 (Nawabshah-II, previously NA-214), which was consecutively by PPP’s Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah also known as Syed Mir Shah in 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections, there are 19 contestants in the fray including Syed Zainulabidin Shah of Sindh United Party, Gul Mohammed Rind of PTI, Ashique Hussain of TLP, Ms Aneela of JUI-F, Mohammad Anwar Khan of Jamaat-i-Islami, Ms Najma of MQM and Ghulam Rasool Unnar of PML-N.

Though SUP appears to have made some inroads in the constituency the party’s chief Zain Shah (grandson of G.M. Syed) had suffered defeat at the hands of PPP in 2018 grabbing 54,697 votes against PPP’s 110,921 votes.

Ghulam Rasool Unnar, who recently rejoined PML-N had twice remained MPA in 1993 and 1997 on the tickets of PPP and PML-N, respectively, is contesting the NA-208 as independent after failing to get the PML-N ticket.

PTI’s Gul Mohammad Rind, a retired senior bureaucrat and brother of former chief secretary Sindh K.B Rind, enjoys good reputation in the area and may grab a fair number of votes. However, the real contest is expected between PPP’s Ghulam Mustafa Shah and GDA’s Zain Shah who are both influential landlords and political figures of the constituency.

Two PA seats — PS-38 (Sakrand taluka) and PS-39 (Qazi Ahmed Taluka) — fall within the NA-208 constituency. The PS-38 has been retained by PPP stalwart Ghulam Qadir Chandio since 2002 and he seems to face little threat from 19 rivals, including GDA’s Zain Shah, Sikandar Hayat Rind, son of K.B Rind, a disgruntled local PPP leader who was contesting as independent after developing differences with the party leadership, Mohammad Shahbaz of MQM-P, Imran Qureshi of TLP and Syed Aqeel Iqbal of JI. Only Zain Shah appears to put up some fight to the PPP rival.

The PS-39 constituency had also remained a PPP forte as the party won the seat four times in a row in 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections. There are 20 candidates in the race, including Arif Niaz Arain of GDA, Khursheed of JUI-F, Ms Maria of MQM-P, Mohammad Khan Kubar of TLP and Mukhtiar Naz of PML-N.

The seat has been won for PPP by Dahiris and Unnars, two rival influential groups of the area, in turns. Sardar Khan Mohammad Dahiri, once strong opponent of PPP who fought against Ms Faryal Talpur and ended a runner-up in the election for Zila Nazim, eventually joined the party ahead of 2018 elections and managed to obtain the party ticket for the PA seat.

The party has in this election awarded the ticket to Khan Mohammad Dahiri’s, cousin and former MPA Dr Bahadur Dahiri. He faces Ismail Dahiri, a close aide of Mr Zardari and rival of Khan Mohammad Dahiri’s family, who refused to withdraw his papers and remains in the fray as independent.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2024

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