In a bid to loosen the Pakistan People’s Party’s firm grip on Sindh in the upcoming local government elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan visited the northern districts of the province where the first phase of the polls is scheduled, but political analysts describe his trip as unsuccessful, saying that the “Kaptaan” was unable to achieve the desired results.
In the first phase, the polls will conducted in Khairpur, Sukkur, Ghotki, Larkana, Shikarpur, Qamber Shahdadkot, Jacobabad and Kashmore on October 31.
Khan visited Sukkur, Ghotki, Shikarpur and Kashmore on September 2 and 3.
“Imran Khan’s North Sindh visit saw tremendous response,” tweeted Arif Alvi, the PTI provincial organiser, on September 3.
“All of Shikarpur came out to see Imran. Hordes of people. Then all along the way to Kashmore. In every village hundreds came out on the road,” he wrote in his next tweet.
At party gatherings organised in many towns, Khan criticised the PPP and the the Muttahida Qaumi Movement leaderships for their narrow-minded ethnic politics, poor governance and the law and order problems in the province.
Zulfiqar Halepoto, the PTI Sindh deputy information secretary, said his party was the only option for Sindhis for bringing about socio-economic development in the rural parts of the province.
“Imran and the PTI are clear when it comes to the main concerns of Sindh including the province’s control over its natural resources, its territorial safety and unbiased development,” Halepoto told The News.
PTI leaders in northern Sindh said the party was planning to organise several visits of Khan to their areas during the campaign for the local government polls.
“Many well-known and clean political figures joined the PTI during Imran’s visit,” said a party leader in Sukkur.
“We have been contacted by many politicians, but the party is accepting them after properly scrutinising their background to ensure that they weren’t involved in corruption in the past,” he added. However, political analysts said the party was unable to bring any well-known politicians into the party’s fold.
“Only disgruntled parliamentarians of the PPP including Mian Abdul Khaliq alias Mian Mithu, Sardar Muhammad Khan Lund, Pappu Khan Chachar and others met Imran but they haven’t announced joining the party yet,” said a journalist in Shikarpur.
The PTI has faced heavy criticism, both from inside and outside, especially from the Hindu community, when Khan met Mithu, who is believed to be playing an instrumental role in the forced conversion of Hindu girls, and invited him to join the party. But the party leadership claimed that Khan had only visited him to offer his condolences.
A section of political analysts also believe that Khan was mainly focusing on taking on board influential landlords, who could guarantee electoral success, instead of organising the party in the districts.
Journalists who covered Khan’s trip said there was some hope for the PTI in northern Sindh, the PPP’s stronghold, but as the party lacked a proper organisational set-up there, it was unable to make its chief’s gatherings there successful.
“Unlike Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi, we did not see a huge public participation and fervour in Imran’s rallies in northern Sindh,” said a journalist.
He also maintained that the PTI was unable to find strong candidates, who could pose a challenge to the PPP.
“It’s not necessary to find powerful tribal chieftains for winning the local bodies polls. A new political leader with clean background and a proper organisational set-up in a district can help the party to win,” the journalist added.
Ishak Soomro, a political analyst, said Khan visited northern Sindh after meeting a delegation of the province’s intellectuals and civil society activists at his residence in Bani Gala. However, Soomro added, the PTI, instead of organising the party on the grass-roots level by engaging new and young political activists, had been trying to recruit influential landlords without taking their reputation in their constituencies into consideration.
“After the failure of Imran’s visit, the high hopes that the PTI can replace the PPP in Sindh have ended with great disappointment,” he said.
“Whether it’s Imran or Nawaz Sharif, Sindhi people don’t accept any outsider and the PPP keeps exploiting these sentiments and has been winning elections in the province since the 1970s.”
A PTI leader in Sukkur, who is dissatisfied with his provincial leadership, said Karachi-based leaders, who were not even properly aware of their areas, had “hijacked” the party in the province and instead of consulting local leaders, were directly recruiting corrupt politicians at their residences in the city.
“The PTI has been following in the footsteps of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and focusing on Punjab, where there the majority of the National Assembly seats are,” he added.
The PTI had secured one National Assembly seat and three Sindh Assembly seats in Karachi in the 2013general elections. Its candidates in the rest of the province were unable to bag any constituency.
Analysts said the PPP might win the majority of seats in rural Sindh as there was no strong alliance against it.
“We expect many PPP candidates to be elected unopposed as rival parties, including the PTI, are finding it difficult to find candidates to field against them,” Soomro said.