The appointment of Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood as the Punjab governor is being interpreted here as a political blow to the nationalists and opposition parties led by PML-F and a challenge to the PML-N.

President Zardari’s new decision came within a few days after the huge meeting organised by PML-F near Hyderabad as a show of strength and a challenge to PPP. It was an impressive show which sent a strong message to PPP that it could face challenges in Sindh in the coming elections.

The PPP, however, wasted no time and counterattacked its opponents by appointing Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood from Rahim Yar Khan as the constitutional head of the Punjab. He is a maternal cousin of Pir Pagara Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashi1di. The decision took the wind out of the PML-F leader’s sails. His explanations that it was an individual decision of Ahmed Mehmood taken without his consent fell far short of convincing those who felt that Pir Pagara had been damaged.

Political analysts believe that the Hyderabad meeting of PML-F has helped PPP come out of the MQM’s pressure which the latter had mounted after the introduction of the Local Government Bill in Sindh.

The Hyderabad public meeting on the face of it looked as an anti-PPP gathering; however, strangely, within days after the event President Zardari made the first-ever contact with the senior PML-F leader in the Punjab and offered him governorship.

Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a cousin of both Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood and Pir Pagara, played an important role in bringing the two ‘parties’ closer. This also helped the former prime minister get closer to Zardari and improve his own image which was dented after he was disqualified for the office and his son was involved in the ephedrine case.

Now, both the PPP and PML-F are expected to close their ranks, a move which will benefit both the sides.

According to a report in a daily, PM-F Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah met Zardari and exchanged views on a variety of issues. It is being speculated that Muzaffar Shah has been offered gubernatorial office of Sindh during the meeting. Observers say the contacts between PPP and PML-F my lead to some kind of electoral understanding between them. The presence of Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood in the Governor's House, Lahore, will certainly benefit the PPP in the Seraiki belt and damage PML-N though the leaders of this party are taking all possible steps to strengthen their position in the region.

The observers further say PML-N, which is striving hard to get some political space in Sindh, is out of the political arena of the province after PML-F’s swing into action. The nationalists who claimed to be the second biggest force in Sindh are also out of the electoral politics.

They say PPP may try to win support of traditional politicians (feudalists) in the Punjab through Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood and his supporters. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi visited Karachi on Wednesday and met Pir Pagara. Keeping in view the emerging political situation, analysts do not rule out an alliance of PPP, PML-F and PML-Q.