On the face of it, it does not seem that the replacement of Qaim Ali Shah as Sindh Chief Minister by Murad Ali Shah represents a transition from the Asif Zardari era to the Bilawal Zardari Bhutto era, though it does represent a generational change. At 54, Murad Ali Shah is closer in age to Zardari than Bilawal, but as Qaim Ali Shah is 87, Murad represents a generational step. He is nine years younger than Zardari, and a whole 26 years older than Bilawal, thus actually being closer in age to the father than to the son. Murad is in fact still younger than the age at which Qaim first became CM, back in 1988, when he was already 60.

Their experience has also been wildly different. Not only does Qaim remember comfortably an undivided India, but he would well remember the era of princely states, having grown up in Khairpur, one of them. He would even remember from childhood Sindh being part of the Bombay Presidency.

Politics is definitely an old man’s game. Qaim was made to leave in February 1990, and replaced by Aftab Shaban Mirani, who held office for the six months that the Assemblies lasted until August that year. Mirani is himself the MNA for his Shikarpur constituency. When the PPP returned to office in 1993, the re-elected Benazir Bhutto picked Abdullah Shah to become Chief Minister of her home province. His son Murad Ali was then 31, and had completed his studies at Stanford, where he had followed up his civil engineering degree at NED. Murad thus is the first son of a Chief Minister to have succeeded to the office, and an office that involves a jettisoning in midterm.

Qaim has experienced this twice, not just in 1990, but now, in 2016, when he had held office by virtue of winning re-election in 2013. The Sindh CM emerging after a general election has tended to be replaced in mid-term: elected in 2002, Ali Muhammad Mahar was replaced by Arbab Ghulam Rahim in 2004; Liaquat Jatoi was dismissed and replaced by Ghaus Ali Shah as Governor’s Adviser. Jam Sadiq Ali, the CM emerging after the 1990 election died in office, and Syed Muzaffar Shah replaced him.

Qaim Ali Shah entered politics in the local bodies, but was elected to the National Assembly in 1970, and became PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Kashmir Affairs Minister. Becoming Sinch CM was in fact the first time he had been a member of the Sindh Assembly. He is thus one of the last of Bhutto’s colleagues still in active politics. His journey was a little like that of the Bhutto-era Sindh CM Mustafa Jatoi, who moved down from the federal cabinet to take the job. Therefore, while Benazir and Asif turned to someone of Zulfikar Ali’s generation to head Sindh, Bilawal has turned to Murad Ali Shah, someone of his father’s generation. Will Murad Ali Shah last as long as Qaim Ali Shah? He has already reached an age where being alive is not a given. Jam Sadiq, too, was a Bhutto contemporary, just like the fathers of Asif Zardari and Murad Shah, neither of whom are now alive. Among the sons of previous CMs he is the only one to have become a CM, though

Is Murad Ali Shah the product of panic in the PPP? He might well be. A midterm replacement is indicative of the next general election, which is now at the most about two years away. The PPP is feeling some heat from the fact that the Qaim government was not running the province all that well. A Murad government might deliver, but that will serve to improve its performance, not change it. For a change, the PTI probably represents the best alternative, though there is no indication that it has received as much support as it has done in Punjab. Interestingly, while in Punjab it has drawn heavily on the PPP votebank to become the second largest party in the province, in Sindh it has not so emerged.

One problem that Murad Shah faces is that the MQM will not form part of his government. Qaim was supposed to handle it well, using his greater age to refer to his MQM ministers as the ‘larka-log’ while more or less accepting whatever they demanded. Though both PPP and the PML-N have formed governments since 1988 in coalition with the MQM, .on every occasion it was despite the MQM not being needed, at least not in terms of their numbers. In 2013, for the first time, a party with a working majority, but without any representation in Hyderabad or Karachi cities (except the latter’s Lyari area), formed the government alone. This is the majority that Murad Shah inherits, and the exclusion of the MQM means that he has no need for the handling skills of Qaim Ali Shah, that did not stop the MQM from leaving his government during the last term.

The Muhajir question dovetails with another reason given for Qaim’s replacement, the Rangers operation in Karachi. It is true that Qaim did not extend the period of the Rangers’ stay in Karachi, while Murad did, but that does not seem to be the main reason for his replacement. It does give an insight into the tight control over the province still exerted by ex-President Zardari, that the replacement of the Sindh CM was in his hands. Apart from everything else, the Rangers’ operation also affected Dr Asim Hussain. Dr Asim, a classmate of Zardari’s, now stands for the corrupt old PPP. Murad too should, for though he is a new face as CM, he had previously been Qaim’s Finance Minister, a post which gave him an overview of all departments. However, he has the advantage of new-ness, which will only fade after he acts.

Murad Shah may also be seen as a counter to Imran Khan and the PTI. Imran appeals to the youth vote, even though he is Zardari’s age. Shah is younger than him. Shah is Karachi-born and schooled, though he sits for a Jamshoro constituency, and thus is positioned to tackle both the MQM as well as the PTI, which is also trying to make inroads in Karachi. The PPP may well have given up on Karachi, leaving Shah as potentially dealing with the Pak Sarzameen Party of Mustafa Kamal and other MQM dissidents.

It was useful that a Syed was available for the Sindh Chief Ministry. There is a division within Sindhis of Sammaat and Baluch, the former being true sons of the soil, the latter migrants. Bhuttos are Sammaat, Zardaris Baluch. Syeds, on the other hand, are above the fray, being neither Baluch nor Sammaat, and usually Pirs or of Pir origin. Qaim is a Jeelani, while Murad is a Rashidi (while not descended from a Pir Pagaro, he shares a common ancestor in Lakhi Shah). Though Sindh has now got two successive pir-origin CMs, the only previous ones were Murad’s father Abdullah and Peerzada Abdus Sattar, whose own son Hafeez was basically a federal politician.