Larkana bypolls: Wake-up call for PPP

The news from Larkana probably sent shockwaves through the PPP. The party has suffered a crushing setback, losing a by-election in its own stronghold where it was once considered invincible.

The Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) – a coalition of several opposition parties – emerged victorious. Its candidate, Moazzam Abbasi, reclaimed his seat. The politician won during the 2018 general election defeating the daughter of PPP stalwart Nisar Khuhro.

However, he was disqualified for failing to declare his assets but was allowed to contest once again.

The days when people voted on hollow sloganeering and rhetoric are long gone. Bilawal fielded his own political secretary for the election, a rather hasty decision to reward a loyalist. The PPP candidate, Jameel Soomro, lacked political experience and more suited to a party position.

Unable to accept the crushing defeat on its home turf, the PPP has decided to challenge the election result. The allegations are similar to every losing candidate; not being allowed in polling booths, voter harassment, slow polling, presence of law enforcers inside, and pressure from external forces. But the election serves as a reminder that Larkana no longer belongs to PPP.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto founded the PPP attracting supporters from across the nation. The popular jingoism swept across the middle classes as the country lacked a leader of national stature. His execution immortalised him in Pakistan’s history and the PPP continues resurrect him and his daughter for political gains. The once popular party has lost its glory and the new generation cannot relate to him.

It has been more than a decade since Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and the party cannot capitalise on using her legacy either. It received the sympathy votes in 2008 general elections, but got a drubbing in the next two polls and was merely confined to Sindh. It seems that PPP is also gradually losing influence in the province as well as other parties particularly the PTI and its allies are slowly making inroads.

The election should be an eye-opener to the Zardari-led party. PPP is facing a crisis as its co-chairman Asif Zardari is under custody, his influential sister is facing a corruption probe, and the chief minister in Sindh could be nabbed soon. Doubts are being raised whether Bilawal can steer the ship through the storm. The herculean task requires serious brainstorming to understand the root causes of this decline and make drastic measures to keep the party afloat.

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