HYDERABAD: Around 1.43 million people are eligible to vote in the general elections today in five out of the six administrative divisions in Sindh, excluding Karachi. There are 40 seats of the National Assembly and 86 of the Sindh Assembly in the five divisions – Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Larkana and Sukkur- up for grabs.
As many as 4,737,657 people are registered voters in Hyderabad division, comprising nine districts, and 2,878,883 in Larkana division, consisting of five districts.
There are three districts in Nawabshah division which have a total of 2,483,775 registered voters. Sukkur and Mirpurkhas divisions also have three districts each and they have a total of 2,451,736 and 1,732,007 registered voters respectively.
Hyderabad division comprises Hyderabad, Matiari, Tando Allahyar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin, Jamshoro, Dadu, Thatta and Sujawal districts. There are 13 NA and 29 PS seats in the division.
Larkana, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Kamber-Shahdadkot and Shikarpur districts constitute Larkana division, which has a total of eight NA and 17 PS seats.
Sukkur division includes Sukkur, Ghotki and Khairpur districts. There are seven NA and 15 PS seats in the division.
The three districts constituting Nawabshah division are Shaheed Benazirabad, Naushero Feroz and Sanghar. The total NA and PS seats in the division are seven and 14 respectively.
Mirpurkhas division comprises Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar districts, which have a total of five NA and 11 PS seats.
In the 2013 general elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party swept the five divisions, clinching 31 out of total 41 NA seats back then and 64 out of 88 PS seats.
The political parties which contested on the platform of the 10-party alliance, which has been rebranded as the Grand Democratic Alliance in the current elections, bagged the second highest number of seats – eight NA and 15 PS – from the five divisions.
None of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate could win a single NA or PS seat in the last general elections from the five divisions.
Parties in the run
The PPP, which has won the last two elections in the province, has the highest stake in the five divisions. Except for a few seats, Karachi has never embraced the PPP and, hence, the party can only form its government again if it retains its support outside the provincial capital.
The GDA appears to be the greatest challenger to the PPP in the five other-than-Karachi divisions. Except for a few, all the anti-PPP forces in Sindh have united under the GDA umbrella to give the PPP a run for its money.
PTI Chairperson Imran Khan has held public meetings in several districts of Sindh since last year. However, his mobilisation could not apparently translate into electoral support as the party has even failed to field its own candidates in some of those districts that were visited by its chief.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party also seem to be enjoying considerable popularity in a few pockets of the five divisions. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal has also actively campaigned across Sindh.
Many political parties other than the PPP, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Noorani (JUP-N) and Tabdeeli Pasand Party (TPP), have carried out seat adjustments on several constituencies, which may shift the equilibrium against the PPP.
The PPP earlier looked invincible in Ghotki district but after the departure of some key leaders of Mahar clan to the GDA, including Ali Gohar Mahar, it has become hard to predict Ghotki results. The PPP still have loyalties of local powerful leaders such as Khalid Ahmed Lund.
In the two NA seats of Sukkur district, the PPP has fielded both the last winning candidates, Khursheed Shah and Nouman Islam Shaikh, again. According to analysts, the party is expected to retain Sukkur’s NA seats.
One of the toughest competitions in Sindh are to be expected in Khairpur district as key leaders of PPP and GDA have thrown down the gauntlet to each other. In NA-209, Pir Pagara’s brother Sadaruddin Shah Rashdi is contesting PPP’s Syed Fazal Shah Jilani, who belongs to Ranipur spiritual gaddi.
Close contest is expected between former federal minister Ghous Bux Mahar and PPP’s Zulfikar Kamario in NA-199 Shikarpur district.
The PPP appears strong in Larkana, Kamber-Shahdadkot, Kashmore and Jacobabad districts.
In Larkana, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is contesting from NA-200 where MMA candidate Rashid Mehmood Soomro will take on him. Soomro is also backed by the GDA. It would be one of the biggest upsets in the electoral history of Pakistan if Bilawal loses to Soomro in Larkana.
The ground seems set for the PPP’s win in the coastal districts of Thatta and Sujawal, which have two NA and five PS constituencies. The Makhdooms-dominated Matiari district and Syeds-dominated Tando Muhammad Khan district are also unlikely to witness a close competition.
However, the PPP might face candidates of other parties going neck and neck with its candidates in Badin, Hyderabad, Jamshoro and Dadu districts. Zulfiqar Mirza and his family seem for the party a thorn in the flesh in Badin. Public meetings of Mirzas were attended by more people in Badin than their rivals.
In the rural areas of Hyderabad district, a troika of the PTI, GDA and TPP has thrown a formidable challenge to the PPP. In NA-225, PTI’s Khawand Bux Jahejo is in the fray against Syed Tariq Hussain Shah. In PS-62 GDA’s Ayaz Latif Palijo against former local government minister Jam Khan Shoro and in PS-63 TPP’s Ali Qazi against incarcerated PPP leader Sharjeel Inam Memon.
On the other two NA and four PS seats in Hyderabad, MQM-P is defending its historic electoral sway against MMA, JUP-N, PPP, PTI and PSP.
A coalition dubbed Jamshoro Ittehad, led by Sindh United Party’s Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, has induced a strong contest in the district. Jalal is himself taking on former CM Murad Ali Shah pm PS-80.
In Dadu, the Jatoi family is expected to give a tough time to the PPP. The family has received support of the politically influential Mahesar family of former PPP MNA Talat Mahesar and several local communities which until 2013 were in the PPP’s camps.
The PPP swept five NA and nine PS seats from the division in 2013. But in the current elections, a coalition of the GDA, PTI, MQM-P and politically influential families like Syeds of Mirpurkhas and Arbabs of Tharparkar have made its win difficult if not impossible.
The party is confronted with its own former federal minister and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s associate Syed Ali Nawaz Shah and his son on three seats in Mirpurkhas. The Arbabs are contesting against the PPP on four seats of Tharparkar, two in Mirpurkhas and one in Umerkot.
PTI Vice-Chairperson Shah Mehmood Qureshi is also a candidate on two NA constituencies in Umerkot and Tharparkar.
The electoral battle which lasted for two months in Sanghar and Naushero Feroz districts is likely to produce results different from 2013. The GDA has thrown a stiff challenge to the PPP in the two districts with Pir Pagara’s candidates contesting in Sanghar and former federal minister Murtaza Jatoi’s in Naushero Feroz.
PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari is a candidate from his hometown in Benazirabad district on NA-213.
With additional reporting from our correspondent
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