Sher becomes more politically active after quitting politics


Contrary to his announcement that he is quitting politics, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader and former Sindh Home Minister, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza has become even more active in politics – this time not in his hometown Badin, where the rain-hit people of his constituency are in dire need of his attention in these difficult days, but in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, where he is trying to get popular due to his anti-Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) stance.
Mirza, who has posed himself as an anti-MQM leader because of his fiery press conferences against the party, received a warm welcome on his return from Badin to Karachi on Friday evening.
Activists and supporters of political parties having influence among Sindhi-, Balochi-, Pashto- and Punjabi-speaking communities were present from Gaghar Phattak to Malir on the National Highway and also from the airport to Lyari to welcome the “Sher”.
These political parties had also set up welcome camps with loud speakers and their party flags at different points along Dr Mirza’s route.
These parties included the Shahi Syed-led Awami National Party (ANP) Sindh, Ameer Banbhro-led Sindh National Party (SNP) and Irfanullah Marwat-led Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad. These parties enjoy the support of different ethnic communities living in the Karachi and are engaged in anti-MQM politics.
A number of Baloch youth were also seen in at two different locations in Malir to welcome Dr Mirza. Interestingly, they were the only ones without party flags.
Traditionally, the ruling PPP enjoys support in their areas, and perhaps they were party supporters, but not carrying its flags this time around.
Dr Mirza addressed a large gathering of people at Gaghar Phatak, which is an entry point to Karachi.
His caravan headed towards Lyari where the former minister was due to address another public gathering.
Lyari is a Baloch-dominated area and also the stronghold of the ruling PPP. The party’s chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will start his parliamentary politics from Lyari by contesting for a National Assembly seat of the area in the forthcoming general elections.
In a recent interview on TV, Dr Mirza had made it clear that on Bilawal’s arrival, he would he would act in the same manner as he did when Benazir Bhutto returned to the country on October 18, 2007.
Being a party leader and a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, he had supervised security arrangements on the arrival of Benazir Bhutto in Karachi.
President Zardari had said a few months earlier that Bilawal will take some political responsibilities in September.
The ruling PPP has completed around three and half years in the government and, according to political observers, now its main target are the Senate elections in March next year.
The party has already started preparing for the next general elections by making decisions in this context.
On the directives of president, the Sindh government had expedited development activities by releasing an extraordinary chunk of budgetary allocations at the start of the new financial year. It is, however, not yet clear whether the government would shift uplift funds towards the relief and rehabilitation of the rain-hit people like last year, as most of the province’s districts have been affected by rains during the current monsoon season.
Dr Mirza’s new role would help the PPP win back support in its stronghold Sindh, particularly the Baloch-dominated areas of Karachi, where the party had rapidly lost its credibility due to the neglecting attitude of its provincial government and leadership.
The Baloch population of the city had started openly criticising the PPP prior to Mirza’s announcement that he supports the People’s Amn Committee, a platform of the PPP operating parallel to the party.
Similarly, the party leadership is optimistic that Dr Mirza’s ‘new appearance’ would also benefit the PPP regain its popularity in the remaining areas of Sindh, especially among the Sindhi-speaking people, who have remained staunch supporters of the party.
The popularity graph of the party was severely affected in Sindh due to the poor performance of its government, and its most recent step of backtracking from commissionerate system under the MQM’s pressure.
The Sindhi-speaking community had strongly reacted against the PPP government on its U-turn on the local government system.
The nationalist groups of the province – traditionally opponents of the PPP – tried to take advantage of the situation and became active against the party on the issue.
It was for the first time during the PPP’s tenure that the entire Sindh demonstrated against the party and its government.
The strike call given by the nationalists was successful not only in other districts of the province, but also in Karachi, where they were supported by anti-MQM parties including the ANP and the Sunni Tehreek.
But now there is general support for Dr Mirza in Sindh. He is emerging as a nationalist leader in the province.
Generally, people criticise the PPP for its policies and poor performance but they support Dr Mirza during their private gatherings. The agitation started by nationalist parties on the issue of the local government system has stopped.
Now people are welcoming and listening to Dr Mirza wherever he goes.
He was in Hyderabad a day before Eid where he spoke at a press conference and made similar accusation against the MQM as he did in Karachi.
During the Eid holidays, he also spoke at a press conference in Badin where he again criticised the MQM.
In Karachi, the ANP and other anti-MQM parties have reservations about the PPP but they also support Dr Mirza.