Shift in Islamabad’s policy on Sindh

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Analysis by Sohail Sangi

The PTI members in Sindh Assembly did not vote to the Pakistan Muslim League Functional chief and a leader of Grand Democratic Alliance Pir Saddruddin Shah Rashdi in the Senate elections.

GDA is ally of the ruling party PTI and it has six MPAs in the Sindh Assembly. The only ruling alliance party which was not given share in Senate election and so also in the power.

This is for the first time that a non-PPP government has left PMLF and Pagara out of the power corridors.

Though the GDA wrote a letter to Prme Minister, demanding action against PTI members who did not vote to GDA candidate.

However, this letter was not responded, told a PMLF leader.

GDA members in Sindh Assembly claimed that according to understanding reached seven PTI MPAs names were given, who would vote to the Pir Saddaruddin Shah. Of them only one MPA voted while six did not vote to GDA candidate. They claimed they have evidence for not voting their candidates.

In Sindh, Pir Pagara’s Muslim League-Functional has been an important political group. After Gen Zia Martial Law, in non PPP set up at Sindh as well as at centre PMLF have remained an important position. Until 2007, the Functional League was the second largest party in parliamentary politics. Later, the party began to shrink. The results of the last two general elections, as well as the last local elections, further made situation clear. Though PMLF had been on third position, but by forming GDA or some other alliance, Pagara somehow retained its second position in the parliamentary politics of Sindh.

The 2018 elections further changed the political scenario. MQM remained divided, PTI bagged seats from Karachi and three seats from Sindh rural areas. The PTI stood second, and MQM on third position, while PMLF was pushed to fourth position despite uniting influential individuals and groups.

The Functional League has its network, but it is not political, rather it consists of followers of Pir Pagara. It influences Sanghar and Khairpur, and in some parts of Umerkot and Thar.

During last two general elections Pagara tried to win the popular support by getting his party close to nationalists. This did not affected the election results.

In Senate election, PPP obtained six more votes. While Saddaruddin Shah got six less votes. On the other hand PTI and MQM the ally’s parties candidates got all the votes of PTI allied parties. PMLF considers this a deliberate act, which left PMLF away from power structure. PMLF believes that no single party can break the PPP. Observers believe that there is shift in Islamabad’s policy towards Sindh. Islamabad is relying less on Pagara, and will be trying to formulate some other option for anti-PPP forces in this province.