The PPP needs to look at its second consecutive defeat in PS-11 Larkana, in a larger context as why they have been constantly losing since 2013.
In the last elections they had lost its undefeated constituency of Lyari in 2018. The party should take it as another wake-up call and should revisit its politics and policies in the post-Benazir Bhutto era.
No doubt PS-11 by-election was just another election of PS seat, where the party had lost in the past too, but, what happened in Lyari six years ago when even PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto could not make a strong debut like his mother or grandfather. Lyari was the turning point and defeat in Larkana is nothing short of a warning for the PPP and Bilawal. Had the PPP thoroughly probed causes into back-to-back defeat in the general and by-elections beyond the allegations of rigging from Lahore to Lyari and now Larkana, it could have averted defeat in the recently held by-election of PS-11, which was given hype by none other than the party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari himself.
Interestingly, the candidate Moazzam Abbasi, who has defeated PPP’s Jamil Somroo, once a spokesman of Bilawal Bhutto, belongs to a family of a veteran PPP leader and former deputy speaker of the National Assembly of the 70s, late Dr Ashraf Abbasi. She and her family remained associated with the PPP till the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. In the post-BB’s era they developed differences with former president Asif Ali Zardari and the family parted ways. In the last general elections he defeated the daughter of PPP Sindh president Nisar Khuhro after latter was disqualified.
Bilawal Bhutto has a long way to go but the fact remains that the PPP after Benazir, did not recover. The way they were wiped out from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2013, was unprecedented.
The PPP and Bilawal need to come with an alternate politics to challenge the PTI in Punjab and the only way they could do it is by setting good examples in Sindh, where they are in power since 2008. Besides, they have to do something different in both central and Southern Punjab to regain some ground. On the contrary, they are now facing challenges in Sindh, where they still have firm grip but they should not ignore some results in its strong constituencies. For Moazzam Abbasi, who was de-seated for not showing his assets in the declaration got re-elected and this in itself is a real boost for Abbasi family and PTI-GDA alliance. The JUI-F factor also cannot be ignored as led by Rasheed Somroo he too has a strong vote bank.
In the past, the PPP had also lost the same seat with Murtaza Bhutto, when the late Begum Nusrat Bhutto campaigned for her son against the PPP candidate. Thus, it was never a safe seat for the PPP, but the way PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and sister Aseefa campaigned for the party candidate Jamil Somroo gave extra hype to otherwise small election.
Many within the PPP believe that first Somroo perhaps was not best of the choice under the circumstance as seat was tough from day one and secondly Opposition celebrated it as a defeat to Bhuttos in its hometown Larkana, which might not be true but it was certainly another wake up call.
While the PPP decided to challenge the results in the election tribunal, which is right of every candidate and the report of independent observer group FAFEN also gave them some hope; it is still better for the party to look to the challenges ahead including the deteriorating conditions of roads, sewerage, health and governance issues, considering they are in power constantly since 2008.
It is a dilemma of our political culture that no one accepts defeat with grace. Instead they take shelter by blaming opponent or hidden forces for the result. It is true that elections in Pakistan are often ‘managed’ but there are other more serious factors as well within these parties.
One of the reasons why the PPP lost in Lyari has lot to do with the decision of former president Asif Ali Zardari and the then home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza to hand over the area to notorious Uzair Baloch and fully armed them to counter the MQM militants. In the process, Uzair got complete control of the area and got some 100,000 arms licences (as claimed by Mirza himself) in 2011).
The move badly damaged the PPP in the area and the political cadre of the party got annoyed to an extent that the former MNA Nabil Gabol, who had won many elections from here, quit the party and joined the MQM, as he feared Uzair’s gang could kill him. Prior to leaving the party he requested Zardari to review his policy.
Another factor was the rising religious extremism and the result in Lyari showed that Tehreek-e-Labbaik came second. In Larkana too, the JUI-F was considered as the second decisive factor and its vote bank is on constant rise.
So Bilawal and PPP have a challenge ahead and they still have time to improve party position by setting some good examples. Issues of governance and strong narrative could not only help them in Sindh but could also have its impact in Punjab and KP. They have to do something more than mere raising slogans or criticizing the PTI government.
Courtesy: Mazhar Abbas
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.