March 31, 2015
Pakistan People’s Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari has taken it upon himself to salvage his party’s sinking ship in Karachi, especially focusing on the city’s Pakhtun vote bank.
On March 24, Zardari visited the Masan Road area of Keamari, a Pashtun-majority neighbourhood. There, he met with the city’s Pashtun elders at the residence of former provincial transport minister Akhtar Hussain Jadoon.
During the meeting, Zardari expressed his interest in not only restructuring the party in Karachi, but also making efforts to garner the support of citizens of all ethnicities in the city.
Interestingly, Zardari was accompanied by PPP central vice-president Sherry Rehman, his political secretary Qayyum Soomro and provincial minister Sharjeel Memon instead of the party’s Karachi leadership.
Dost Muhammad Khan, a Pashtun leader of the PPP who also attended the meeting, said Zardari had shown interest in meeting Karachi’s Pashtun leaders himself and instead of inviting them at the heavily-guarded Bilawal House, he preferred visiting them personally in Keamari, a relatively insecure neighbourhood.
Around 100 Pashtun leaders from different parts of the city attended the meeting and informed Zardari about the issues of their areas.
Khan said Zardari had directed party leaders, especially Jadoon, to start working on bringing the Pashtun community elders of the city into the party.
In the past
In the last two general elections, the PPP leadership had supported the Awami National Party in two Pashtun-majority neighbourhoods – SITE and Landhi Industrial Area.
“This distanced the Pasthun community from the PPP,” said a party leader in Karachi.
“And this is also the reason that after Taliban attacks weakened the ANP, the Pashtun vote bank in the 2013 general elections shifted towards the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.”
The PPP had withdrawn its candidates for the two constituencies in Karachi in the 2008 and 2013 elections in favour of the ANP and in return, the latter had supported its candidates in the rest of the city.
Sartaj Khan, a Karachi-based political analyst, believes that the emergence of the PTI in the city had compelled the PPP leadership to rethink its policy for the city.
“The PTI has disturbed the political equation of the city and secured significant votes in the last election in the very hearts of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the PPP, Azizabad and Lyari,” he added.
However, Shah Jahan Khan, the chief minister’s coordinator, thinks differently. “From the beginning, the PPP has focused on the development of Pashtun neighbourhoods,” he maintained. “Eight-five percent of the Pashtun government employees were recruited during the tenures of the PPP.”
PPP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leaders, including provincial president Khanzada Khan, had also visited Karachi’s Pashtun neighbourhoods in October last year on the request of the party’s central leadership to gain support for a public gathering. Many ANP Karachi leaders, including former MPA Amanullah Mehsud, Iqbal Kakar and Zaman Chargarzai, had also supported the PPP because of the efforts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leaders.
In February, the Jamaat-e-Islami too tried to fill the vacuum created by the ANP’s absence from the Pashtun-dominated areas of the city by forming a jirga.