Smaller political and main religious parties have formed alliances to grab their share in the election after the mainstream Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have announced contesting polls independently. The PTI hopes to win the next election with majority, but still religious and regional parties will play a vital role in the formation of the next government.
The PTI has changed the dynamics of Sindh politics after it forged an alliance with the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), led by Pir Pagara. Under the agreement, the family of the late Makhdoom Amin Fahim has dissociated itself from the PPP and announced contesting the election independently. It is a big blow to the PPP as the Makhdooms of Hala have left the party after a 51-year-long association. The Makhdooms, who are spiritual leaders of the Sarwari Jamaat, not only have great influence in Hala in Matiari district, which is their hometown, but also in other districts of Sindh. Makhdoom Talibul Maula, who was also a famous Sindhi poet, was one of founding members of the PPP. His association with the party started in 1967 and his son Amin Fahim stood by the party till his death, though his relations with Asif Ali Zardari had strained after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The family has decided to field its own candidates against the PPP. The Makhdoom family had bagged one National Assembly and three Sindh Assembly seats in the last general elections. It is expected to perform even better after entering into an alliance with likeminded parties against the PPP. It has great influence in Matiari, Sanghar, Tharparkar, Umerkot and Khairpur districts.
According to reports, PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi will contest the election in NA-229, Tharparkar, where Arbab Ghulam Rahim and the Makhdoom family have a considerable vote bank. Makhdoom Naimatullah, son of Fahim, had also won the provincial assembly seat PS-55, which is part of NA-229. In return, Qureshi will support Makhdoom Saeed, another son of Fahim, who is expected to contest the elections from a constituency of Umerkot. The Pagara-led Hurr Jamaat is also likely to support him. In another development, former Sindh Home Minister Dr. Zulfikar Ali Mirza and his wife and former National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza have parted ways with the PPP and announced that they would contest the elections on the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) platform. The alliance can harm PPP’s bid for re-election in the province.
The PPP could face a possible alliance of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP) in Karachi and a coalition of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and other parties in other parts of Sindh. Though an alliance of the MQM and the PSP has broken, yet they can join hands against the PPP before the election. There are still chances of the merger of the two parties under a new name. It is difficult for the MQM to continue its politics in the name of its founder. However, if it merges with the PSP once again, it will be hard for them to woo voters, who have traditionally voted for the MQM. In the situation, the PPP and the PTI will have better chances of winning more seats from Karachi and Hyderabad. On the other hand, if the MQM and the PSP contest elections independently, the PPP and the PTI can win even more seats in Karachi than the last election.
On the other hand, the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) of Shujaat Hussain have also joined hands. They agreed to bring all likeminded parties and individuals, including disgruntled leaders of the PML-N, on the platform to make a formidable political entity ahead of elections. The alliance was formed a couple of days after a group of PML-N MNAs and MPAs parted ways with the Sharif brothers and launched the South Punjab Province Front for the creation of a new province. The GDA is also in talks with the newly revived Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The PML-Q is also part of an alliance of four parties in the Punjab. The Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Sunni Ittehad Council and Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen are its members. The party of Shujaat Hussain is also in contact with the PTI, which is not willing to form an alliance with any party before elections. However, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) of Dr. Tahirul Qadri, PML-Q and the PTI have a long association.
Five religious parties of the country have also revived an old alliance in the name of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), with the manifesto of the protection of the Islamic identity of the country, its safety and democratic stability, 10 years after it was dissolved over differences following its golden period in the Musharraf era. The future of the alliance appears to be uncertain as it no longer enjoys the backing of the establishment and it will be a great achievement if it bags more than one dozen seats of the National Assembly in the election. One party of the past alliance, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam of Maulana Samiul Haq, is not part of it, which has weakened it considerably, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which have been merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The MMA fancied its chances in the election after religious parties performed well in by-polls in Lahore and Peshawar. However, it was Brelvi Tehreek-i-Labbaik, headed by a firebrand Khadim Rizvi, that had outperformed other religious parties and it is also not part of the alliance. The MMA aims to target Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Like the past, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be its prime target. To counter it, the PTI has forged an electoral alliance with the JUI-S of Maulana Samiul Haq, who is a staunch opponent of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. In the situation, the alliance is not expected to repeat its past performance.
Most analysts believe the PTI is in a strong position to win the election with an absolute majority as it has fielded over 100 electables for the National Assembly. Most of independents will also join it after winning the election. However, if the PTI failed to obtain an absolute majority, it will have to form a coalition government with the help of other parties.