Attention: Sindh is up for grabs

Published: May 21, 2011

Sindh is not as safely in the Pakistan Peoples Party’s column as might appear at first glance.

With all the national attention focused on the political battle over Punjab, it is worth pointing out that parties across the political spectrum would do well to realise that Sindh is not as safely in the Pakistan Peoples Party’s column as might appear at first glance.

Ever since the party was first launched in the late 1960s, Sindh has firmly stayed loyal to the Bhutto clan and one of the fundamental assumptions in Pakistani politics is that rural Sindh will always vote, by and large, for the PPP. In the 1980s, the MQM was able to peel away the urban part of the province, but not enough to form a majority in the Sindh Assembly.

Yet look closer and the PPP’s grip on Sindh is not quite as secure. Sindh initially jumped on the PPP bandwagon for the same reason the rest of Pakistan voted for the party: the raw charisma of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In later decades, the party was trusted in Sindh as the only guarantor of Sindhi rights at the federal level, particularly when Pakistan’s power structure was so heavily concentrated in Islamabad.

Sindh’s intellectual and emotional loyalty, however, has always belonged to the Sindhi nationalists. Go even into the heart of PPP’s stronghold in Larkana and you are likely to find more flags of the Sindhi nationalist parties than the PPP. Bhutto may get the vote, but GM Syed holds sway over people’s hearts.

The PPP keeps winning elections because the nationalists do not take part in electoral politics. But rural Sindhis seem to have had enough of the PPP’s poor governance record. And with the 18th Amendment to the constitution, Sindhis have less of a need for a party to protect their interests in Islamabad, since more decisions will be made in Karachi.

And then there is the interesting development: Sindhi nationalists seem to be somewhat more willing to make peace with urban based parties. What happens when Sindh’s intellectual leadership starts supporting a party other than the PPP? The answer is not as certain as it once was.


Farooq Tirmizi

The author is an investment analyst. He tweets as @FarooqTirmizi (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Tribune Reader

    Farooq Tirmizi for president !!!!!!!Recommend

  • Sheikh

    Does the support for Sindh nationalism mean that Sindh wants independence, just as the Baloch?Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    i think if you read carefully enough it tells you its quite opposite.“Sindhi nationalists seem to be somewhat more willing to make peace with urban based parties.” I like your blogs Farooq TirmiziRecommend

  • Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    Although the PPPs hold is weaker now compared to what it once was, your analysis are not as sound as it may seem.
    As I have earlier written in a blog for Express Tribune, the politics of Urban and Rural areas is quite different with Urban dependent upon party-based politics while Rural areas dependent upon Personality-based politics. G.M.Syed hold sway on just a fraction of population in Sindh because, lets face it, even in interior (or call it Rural) Sindh, the native Sindhis form barely 40% of population and rest are from different areas from Pakistan now settled in Sindh (although they are included in Sindhi-speaking population and thus considered brethren, a stark contrast with the Urban population that MQM managed to peel away from both PPP and Jamiat).
    Unless the local leaders leave PPP and join Sindh Nationalist parties, the latter will still suffer from low voter-support since they do not have popularity and neither do they have charismatic leaders in their midst who would provide alternate leadership options compared to PPP.Recommend

  • Maleeha Khan

    m shocked!!!! sindh wants independance ….!! ???Recommend

  • Z. Akbar

    Sindhi Nationalists don’t necessarily mean separatists.

    With the PPP, undermining Sindh’s development especially post flood, there seems to be a disillusionment with the PPP. Sindhi’s assumed that since a Sindhi was in power, their rights would be upheld more but that hasn’t been the case. Therefore the disillusionment.

    I went to Nawabshah which is Zardari’s hometown, people there want the MQM in Power, and I am talking about worker level people, quite a bit of popularity in that area for the MQM.

    In the next election, my prediction is

    Balochistan: Probably go to the BNP or some part of PPP.
    South Punjab: PML Q
    North Punjab: PML-N and Tehrik-e-Insaaf.
    K-P with tribal belt: ANP and Tehrik e Insaaf
    Sindh: Majority for MQM and Rest for PPP

    I even think Musharraf might win a couple of seats, you never know. The political dimension is unpredictable.

    It will be more or less a hung parliament. With the Army and ISI as usual making the playing field.

    Thats my prediction. Please anybody else!!Recommend

  • Hassan

    This article is true in most aspects except one- People dont vote for Sindhi nationalist parties! Maybe it will be different this time I do not know. Also some Sindhi nationalists like STPP of Qadir Magsi and AT of the Palijos spew venom against urban Sindh parties and hold them equally(if not more) responsible for Sindhs problems.

    However Nawaz Sharifs visit to interior Sindh and his meeting with Magsi and Palijo has created rifts between different Sindhi nationalists with some accusing Magsi and Palijo of ‘selling out’. These two with some other nationalist parties had formed an alliance to contest the next elections, However that looks destined to break up now Recommend

  • Hassan


    MQM has always enjoyed support in urban Nawabshah. They had a MPA from here in 1995( i think). Recommend

  • Soomro

    I think that if PTI pays a little more attention towards Balochistan, then it can have a share of the seats from there as well.

    Balochistan: BNP, PPP, PTI
    South Punjab: PML Q, PTI
    North Punjab: PML N, PTI
    KP and Tribal: PTI, ANP (in that order)
    Sindh: PPP, MQM, PTI

    I would strongly say that PTI will probably have its most successful elections this time around as the party, whether you agree with Imran’s politics or not, is making inroads in the political arena and is making itself present through the media and might be able to pull off a pleasant surprise.Recommend

  • Hassan

    @ Soomro

    PTI is almost non-existent in Sindh. They will not be able to get more than 2000 votes in seats they stand on. If they do manage to win a seat here, it will seriously call into question the legality of the elections and the rumors that Imran is supported by the ISI will turn out to be true.

    PTI wont get more than 10 seats if elections are fair and freeRecommend

  • AamirRaz

    @Maleeha Khan:
    Well, you didn’t know that? Don’t tell me!

    Khair, these links might clear the idea:


  • Mirza

    I have been a keen observer of Pakistani election results since 1970. It may surprise many people but whenever there were fair elections only one party won and that is the only party which can claim to be a national party. Whether one likes it or not it is the PPP. It has won no matter who was its leader or whether its name was forced to be PPPP or its symbol was changed to arrow. Not only that many people have left the PPP and died their political death. The most any PPP deserter could do was to win his/her one seat in national or provincial assembly.
    At the height of his popularity and charm, Imran Khan could not win much in any election. Not only the election results have always been just about the same but there have been safe districts for some parties and candidates. Even during the peak days of Mush (2004) PPPP won the majority of seats in the parliament despite all odds. It took ISI and Mush to bribe every PPPP member from lower Punjab to form Patriot group. Still Mush’s PM won by a single vote in the parliament.
    PPP has been dominant in Sind natives and lower Punjab. PML-N still would take majority of votes in the upper Punjab and large cities there. Be that as it may, PPP has become shrewder this time. They never contested election as the ruling party and the other parties were supported by ISI and usually united against PPP. With the seat adjustments with ANP in KPK, and PML-Q in Punjab, and possibly with MQM on some seats, it would be the first time that they would turn the tables on opposition.
    The only chance that TI would have would be from the Hazara area, if they can compete with PML-Q candidates supported by PPP. With Sharif burning bridges with most major parties, their alliance with TI would only show desperation on both parties. Last but not the least, Mush’s party on its own would not be able to win a single seat in Pakistan. His only chance would be to beg a safe seat from MQM, but it would be tough because it is allied with PPP. Recommend