Irshad Salim — With Altaf Hussain (self-exiled MQM supremo based in London) declared anti-state, and Farooq Sattar (MQM’s registered leader in Pakistan) still painted being former’s shadow boxer in politics of Karachi –the capital of Sindh, Pakistan’s largest party PML-N which rules in the center and in Punjab — the country’s largest province, eyes for the crown jewel on the Arabian Seashore — several hundred miles east of Gwadar port – gateway for the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor which is expected to make the entire south as rich and sought-after as Hong Kong, Dubai or Singapore.
Having calculated this as well as the ‘gap/vacuum’ in the political dynamics of the Paris of the East — thanks to the National Action Plan which required lots of arm-twisting in Sindh and its capital, PM Nawaz Sharif’s party Thursday announced it shall make alliance to come to Sindh –meaning, it has already realized it needs a bridge to make the landing. The announcement is a significant move with potential of dicing up multi-faceted far-reaching consequences.
Only a week ago Sindh’s anti-PPP forces announced they have joined hands to challenge Bhutto’s party (now in control of Asif Ali Zardari) in its traditional stronghold, and seeks to make foray in the mega city also.
While PTI, Jamaat, Pak Sar Zameen, ANP — all are busy digging foxholes to challenge MQM in the city as the next election nears, Noon League has upped the ante and comes on the heels of anti-PPP forces get-together under Pir Pagara and the nationalist leader Ayaz Latif Palijo.
Both developments are concurrent — they seem to be mutually inclusive, and therefore a matter which could lead to geometric progression towards breaking the mould in Sindh differently than in its capital Karachi where the politics of mutually exclusive priorities have drawn down the Sufi belt into a fiefdom-like region in the age of globalization propelled by connectivity.
Few years back it would have been hard to imagine a Punjab-centric party led by non-jagirdars and waderas (read business class) make waves in Sindh — ruled by PPP with a huge vote bank in the rural belt and backed by landlords and their cohorts.
For the last one year, the country’s dysfunctional financial center has witnessed a constellation of political wannabes’ entry and their quixotic battles for the turf – however, PM Sharif’s party is a heavyweight loaded with assets and political capital to cash in on across the country (Panamagate notwithstanding), and therefore willing to take a chance to capitalize on the financial capital’s changing loyalties and a shaken community of educated middle class.
Thus, Noon League’s announcement via a press conference by its information secretary at the Karachi Press Club (to make sure national media hears it) by no other personality than Sharif’s closest, trusted daredevil Sen. Mushahidullah cannot be discounted. His ability to challenge MQM’s (already split into 3 or 4 groups) bastion of power and take on PTI in a pincer-attack is well known – many have witnessed it already in talk shows. Whether Mushahidullah can take them on the streets politically is a no-brainer.
Witty, literature-loving Mushahidullah with an uncanny skill to swing blow hot and cold, grew up in the alleys of the port-city, became a firebrand union labor leader, and matured his political acumen as a respected Jamaat Islami rukn managing its Air League in PIA – the national carrier until he crossed floor and joined Nawaz League.
Backing Mushahidullah’s move is a troika — they hold key positions in the government and the state, therefore the ability and wherewithal to swing Karachi politics in PML-N’s favor — with alliance of course.
The president of the country, a seasoned Noon Leaguer, belongs to Karachi and is well-respected in the business community; then comes the recently-installed Sindh Governor, a savvy professional and Noon Leaguer having given the mandate (and has the capability to deliver), to influence the metropolis business community with his strength — privatization, financial giveaways, and a most lethal weapon — he’s brother of PTI’s Asad Umar — PML-N’s nemesis. On the apex is Shahbaz Sharif — Nawaz younger brother who has offered more than once to help improve the lot in Sindh and its capital just the way he claims he has done so in Punjab and its capital Lahore.
The recently conducted Census — after a gap of two decades, will undoubtedly create new space due to adds and deducts of the demography and subsequent review of size and locales of constituencies in every province. Sindh is no exception as days of gerrymandering may be non-negotiable if the judiciary and other pillars of the state maintain their buoyancy in the face of inter-party ‘give and takes’ and ‘seat adjustments’ — an inconvenient truth the nation has to tolerate in its caravan for continuance of civil governance albeit democracy.
Political parties across the board are scurrying for relevancy within their strongholds given fresh new attributes of national cohesion and development – hallmark of a changing society, and are seeking new turfs. Recently, PPP announced it will seek to capture attention in Punjab — Sharif’s happy-hunting ground and Imran Khan’s Karachi II.
Mushahidullah’s no-holds barred presser is therefore important to note: His broadside was predictable with a strong message for PPP and MQM Pakistan and handing out an olive branch for the rest — particularly for the anti-PPP forces’ formal grouping in the offing. While PML-N has no interest this time in courting PPP, it does have traditional interest in blinking at MQM Pakistan — the latter needs a shoulder to cry on while holding on to the biggest ballot-winning group in the city.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an industrial revolution which will bring prosperity in the region (Sindh) the Senator said. “Asif Ali Zardari claims that he has initiated CPEC project, tomorrow he would claim the One-Belt One-Road (OBOR) was also initiated by his grandfather”, he added.
He alleged that PPP and MQM are responsible for the privatization of K-Electric (China state-owned company now owns it). They privatized it for their self-centered interests, he claimed. Many of their party workers are at good posts in K-E department, he commented.
“We reduced 20- hour load shedding (in the city) to 4-hour”. We are giving 2600 Megawatt electricity to the provinces,” Mushahidullah said while recounting some of his party’s ‘giveaways’ to the city.
The senator went on to ask “Where are those who made tall-claims and bombastic speeches for development in the last election? “Where is development?”, adding that we have developed Punjab and would develop other provinces as well. People have come to know and they would vote for us in the coming election.
Taking a swipe at Sindh’s largest party, he said “Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will sit in opposition in the coming elections. They can no longer fool the public as people are better aware of the politics” now. They have failed to fulfill their promises and could not beat us on political ground, h said. “Therefore they are making fruitless efforts to degrade PML-N as it has worked for the people. You cannot beat PML-N and we will reply them in the coming election.”
According to the senator, Zardari levels allegations of corruption against Nawaz Sharif “but who is not aware about the corruption of PPP?, he asked” An amount of at least RS.91 billion Rupees in the development work of Larkana has gone into the pockets of the black sheep, he claimed. Many Ministers of PPP including Sharjeel Memon and Dr. Asim Hussain have been involved in cases of corruption, he claimed. “They have established bungalows in posh areas of the country and possess other properties also,” he alleged.
To a question on the verdict of jury about Panamagate scandal, he said that the three judges are right who kept silence over the issue and did not disclose their verdict before the right time.
On changing loyalty of party workers of PML-N, he said that it made no difference as horse-trading is part of politics and people come and go in the party. “We shall make alliance to come in Sindh”, he announced. “We have a list of 11 to 12 good workers of PPP who would join us in coming days,” he claimed. “Terrorism is uprooted in the city and development projects are developed in each PML-N rule”, he added.
Mushahidullah has been tasked with reorganizing the party in Sindh, specially in Karachi. “I’m well aware of the dynamics here and Nawaz Sharif has ambitious development plans for the port city,” the Senator said. When I asked him if his task has milestones with deliverables, the Senator said, “They will be announced at the right time.”
Mushahidullah holds the record of having given up two things: Minister of Climate Change, and smoking electronic cigarette. (But) he won’t give up this (difficult) task given to him by the PM, Mushahidullah said.