While the Pakistan Peoples Party is busy devising a strategy against its political rivals ahead of the upcoming elections, a serious threat seems to be emerging in Sindh from an unlikely source – its coalition partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F).
Kingri House appears to be the centre of gravity for local politics and anti-PPP groups, with parties either entering into an electoral alliance or holding back-channel negotiations with the PML-F.
A majority of these politicians were earlier part of former president Pevez Musharraf’s camp and had won the elections from their constituencies.
Being a coalition partner of the ruling PPP, the leaders of the Functional League are not willing to disclose whether any rivals have formed an alliance with them, insisting that their interactions are merely courtesy meetings.
On Wednesday, PML-Likeminded members, led by former chief minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, met PML-F chief Pir Pagara Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi. At the end of the meeting, the Likeminded group claimed to have formed an alliance with the PML-F in Sindh. PML-F leaders, however, disputed the claim.
Sources said that during the meeting, Humayun Akhtar also told Pir Pagara that PML-N wished to join the PML-F’s electoral alliance.
Former senator Gaffar Qureshi of the Likeminded group said, “Dr Rahim had called on Pir Pagara and they had decided to form an alliance with the Functional League, the modalities of which will be decided soon.”
However, Imtiaz Shaikh of the PML-F blatantly denied making an alliance with the party.
Similarly, former provincial minister Syed Ali Bux Shah alias Pappu Shah recently held a meeting with Pir Pagara at the Kingri House, following which he announced to join the PML-F. Once again, the Functional League’s leaders refuted the claim. “Pappu Shah has approached us many times, requesting to join our party, but we are still considering his plea,” Shaikh said.
PPP members, allies
Even some PPP leaders themselves, as well as members from its coalition partners, are negotiating with the PML-F, according to sources.
They said a PPP MNA from the Ghotki district held frequent meetings with Pir Pagara at the Raja House and was willing to join the Functional League.
On the other hand, President Asif Ali Zardari is also trying to convince his coalition partners, especially the PML-Quaid and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, to contest the elections under an alliance. During his last visit to Karachi, President Zardari had held a meeting with Pir Pagara who did not give him a clear response on the issue.
Earlier, PML-Q leaders, including federal minister Ghous Bux Mahar, also held a meeting with Pir Pagara and decided to join the alliance.
“This is not an anti-PPP alliance,” said a PML-F leader, adding that the alliance will jointly contest the elections and negotiate with mainstream political parties to form the government.
He said his party has eight seats in the Sindh Assembly and five in the National Assembly, but the alliance will make a huge difference in local politics.
On the other hand, PPP leaders are of the view that their vote bank in Sindh will not be affected by the formation of the PML-F alliance. “We have seen many alliances in the past, but the people of Sindh have always supported the PPP,” said PPP leader Ayaz Soomro.
On Thursday, some members of the Talpur family of Mirpurkhas district, including Ejaz Ali Talpur and Mushtaque Talpur, also joined the PML-F after visiting the Raja House along with former MPA Syed Inayat Ali Shah.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2012.