KARACHI  - Lyari has been a political fortress of the PPP and no serious threat or challenge is visible for the party’s candidate on NA-248 in the forthcoming elections. But there is difference in the present scenario as the party’s grip is slipping in the area, where its leadership had no choice to go against its dissident group, the People’s Amn Committee, for selecting the candidates for a National and two Sindh Assembly seats of Lyari. It seemed there is no big challenge for the PPP candidates contesting for one National Assemble seat (NA-248) and two Sindh Assembly seats (PS-108 and PS-109).Lyari is one of the oldest as well as most multi-ethnic and multi-cultural areas of the city, hosting a huge population of labourers and working class. Lyari’s constituencies so far have been the safest seats for the PPP over the decades. Though, about 13 candidates are in the run for NA-248 Lyari, but the real contest is among PPP’s Shah Jahan Baloch, MQM’s Nabeel Gabol and PPP-SB leader Ghinwa Bhutto. JUI-F’s Maulana Shirin Muhammad, PTI’s Subhan Ali and independent candidates including Jan Muhammad, Shabbir Khan, Khursheed Ahmed Memon, Muhammad Rafiq, Muhammad Saleem, Muhammad Ali, Maulvi Abdul Majeed Sarbazi and Muhammad Ashfaq are also contesting for the seat. NA-248 encompasses Chakiwara, Kalakot, Agra Taj Colony, Daryabad, Nawabad, Khadda Memon Society, Baghdadi, Shah Beg Lane, Bihar Colony, Rangiwara, Singoo Lane and Allama Iqbal Colony areas. Besides, some parts of other adjoining areas also come in this constituency. In 2008 elections, population of Lyari was estimated at 607,992 which included various linguistic, cultural and ethnic communities such as Baloch, Sindhis, Lasis, Katchhis and Memons. Besides, Punjabis, Pathans, Niazis and Hazarawalas are also settled in the area since 70’s. A small population of the Urdu-speaking people, migrated from India after 1947, is also living in the area.Talking to TheNation, a social worker of the area said that Lyari has been a centre point of all struggles for democracy and human rights. He said the people who don’t want to see Lyari’s development, deliberately given shelters to criminals and gangs.Though, political opponents of the PPP have always alleged that the party sheltered criminal elements of the People’s Amn Committee, being led by Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch. But, the area people wanted their Sardar to lead them for development of Lyari. Former Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza during his tenure had openly owned the Peoples Amn Committee. But after expressing tirade and allegations against the MQM chief Altaf Hussain, PPP’s influential minister and Zardari’s close aide Mirza opted for silence. Later, former Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik and PPP’s Sindh government declared the People’s Amn Committee as criminals’ gang and banned it. The party’s decision ignited anger among its dissidents and the people of Lyari denied entry of then PPP MNA Nabeel Gabol in the area. Later, the PPP leadership formed a committee to initiate dialogue process with dissident group of the People’s Amn Committee, which brought both sides close and decided to accommodate each other. However, party’s old guards and senior workers told TheNation that the PPP leadership had no choice for selecting the candidates in Lyari as it followed the recommendations of the banned People’s Amn Committee. People’s Amn Committee chief Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch nominated his close aide Shahjahan Baloch as party candidate for NA-248 Lyari, Sanya Naz Baloch for PS-109 and Javaid Nagori for PS-108. Senior workers and political analysts are of the view the PPP is virtually at the mercy of People’s Amn Committee, which was banned by the party’s last government. The lack of PPP’s role could be gauged from the candidates’ corner meetings, in which they are still criticising the party’s past decisions and promising their loyalty with Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch instead the party. Despite addressing press conferences with the PPP against extremists, the MQM is repeatedly accusing the PPP and its workers of snatching of identity cards of the people to rig the electoral process in Lyari.Nabeel Gabol, who was elected as MNA twice and MPA for one time on PPP ticket from Lyari, has left the party and is contesting election from the same constituency on the MQM ticket.  Gabol has recently filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, requesting for deployment of Army personnel on NA-248 polling stations due to the precarious security situation in the constituency.Late Benazir Bhutto had won the Lyari seat in 1988. The situation was similar in the 1990 elections when Benazir Bhutto’s spouse, Asif Ali Zardari, contested as the PDA candidate from Lyari and won the seat securing 54,308 votes. However, in 1997 elections, the PPP’s Waja Ahmed Karimdad defeated PML-N’s Yousuf Baloch with narrow margin.  PPP’s Nabeel Gabol retained the Lyari seat in 2002 elections held under the military rule of Pervez Musharraf. Gabol again won the seat by securing 84, 217 votes in 2008 elections.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 06-May-2013 here.