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PPP losing grip in Larkana

Umar Farooq

This writer is a Senior Journalist And Analyst

The city of Larkana was considered the fortress for the PPP but now the stronghold has been slipping away from their hands. JUI-F’s young leader and activist Rashid Mehmood Soomro is active in their own bastion and is gradually posing as a strong challenge for the party.

Not just Larkana but he has started a politics of confrontation across Sindh to tackle the party which has been ruling the province for the past twelve years head-on. He is highly popular across Sindh and draws huge crowds. I witnessed this at the Municipal Stadium in Larkana when I travelled more than 1300-kilometres from Islamabad to attend their event.

The stadium was packed with highly enthusiastic and cheering crowds and a sea of people has converged to the event. It was 11 PM and the stadium was already overflowing as the Ansar-ul-Islam volunteer force struggled to control crowds.I was sitting on stage with JUI-F Rawalpindi leader Mufti Mussarat Iqbal as we eagerly heard speeches by party leaders while the crowds trickled in till sunset.

The ‘Shuhada-e-Islam’ conference had been organized in the memory of his father Khalid Mehmood Soomro who served as JUI-F Sindh General-Secretary for 24 years. He served as a senator from 2006 to 2012. He contested elections against Benazir Bhutto to a nail-biting finish on two occasions.

On November 29, 2014, Khalid Mehmood Soomro was assassinated when he was offering Fajar prayers at a mosque adjacent to the Madrassah Haqania in Sukkur. His sons – Rashid and Nasir Mehmood – are still fighting for justice for their martyred father. There have been more than 220 court hearings but there has been no headway while the hearing has been pushed to a new date over 150 times. 

Aside from bringing their father’s killers to justice, both sons are continuing his mission. Rashid Mehmood has been on the forefront on a wide range of issues such as the educational reforms and introduction of curriculum in madrassahs. He recently successfully fought the case for the mosque razed on the pretext of encroachment. He stood up against the local administration and the court ruled against razing down any mosques.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also addressed the conference stating the Islamic and ideological foundations of Pakistan are gradually eroding. He expressed disappointment that Pakistan has lost its status and Islam’s beautiful image is being tarnished in these unusual times. He said we cannot lives like slaves in our own homeland and our future generation should live to see the fruits of out sacrifices. After the conference, I got the opportunity to see Khalid Mehmood’s impressive seminary. I met MPA Moazzam Abbasi who defeated PPP on two different occasions. He won the 2018 general election but was eventually disqualified and was eventually reelected in a by-election.

For a long time, Larkana has contributed to Pakistan’s politics right from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto. The politics of ideology and confrontation which was once the hallmark of the PPP is being gradually taken away.

While heading to Larkana from Sukkur, I saw many cars with JUI-F flags when I asked my host Ashfaq Bhutto if we arrived. He told they have reached GarhiKhudaBukhsh Bhutto where several JUI-F activists are offering their prayers at the shrine of the Bhutto family.

I visited the upper portion of the shrine but later I saw the pitiful condition of Naudero and pondered why Larkana was unable to develop despite being the PPP’s stronghold. The people of Sindh were deeply attached to the PPP only during the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Although Bilawal is making efforts, he is unlikely to ever reach the exalted status of his illustrious grandfather.

Now young leaders like Rashid Mehmood are rising to the occasion and are immensely popular among youth. Both Bilawal, aged 33, and Rashid, aged 37, are from the same generation but the difference is Rashid stands with the people of Larkana and is working tirelessly to serve them while Bilawal seldom visits the area. He secured 50,000 votes in the previous elections against Bilawal in the previous elections posing a grave threat to Bilawal’s political career.