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Journey to the PPP heartland

by Tony Cross

Article published on the 2008-05-11 Latest update 2008-12-31 15:26 TU

Main street, Thatta(photo: Tony Cross)

Main street, Thatta
(photo: Tony Cross)

Report: Politics as usual in interior Sindh

31/12/2008 by Tony Cross

Thatta, Pakistan, 22 February 2008

Buses honk, motorised rickshaws putter and cars and lorries rattle through the centre of Thatta. Mechanics hammer and weld in small workshops. A shopkeeper struggles to open a metal shutter and start business for the day.

Modernity has brought its noise and its pollution to interior Sindh, the rural heartland of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

But Thatta has kept its traditions, too. Street-vendor Soomar stands in a side-road ladelling milk from large churns to small ones, ready to carry it around town on his skinny shoulders.

Street-vendor Soomar, Thatta, Sindh.(Photo: Tony Cross)

Street-vendor Soomar, Thatta, Sindh.
(Photo: Tony Cross)

Another tradition here, as in much of Pakistan, is a fractious political scene. The 2008 election took place four days ago. While there were no major bombings, as feared, about 20 people were killed throughout the country.

One of them was Thatta’s assistant presiding officer. He was shot by a police officer. The crime doesn’t seem to have been politically motivated: the officer of the Islamic republic is reported to have been drunk.

Another death, yesterday, was political. PPP workers who were celebrating victory in one of the Thatta seats clashed with supporters of the losers, the PML-Q. One PPP member was killed.

On the busy main road, a group of PPP supporters say the shoot-out was an unwarranted attack. In his party’s local headquarters, which are almost deserted today, Safraz Shah Shirazi, a former PML-Q National Assembly member, claims that the PPP men provoked the attack by noisily bursting into the homes of his party members. 

He adds that he condemns the violence that has taken place during the election.

Shirazi didn’t run in this election, but his brothers stood for the two Thatta National Assembly seats, one successfully, the other was the loser in the constituency where yesterday’s confrontation took place.

Three other Shirazis stood for the Provincial Assembly and the top district official, the nazim, is also a relation.

So another Pakistani tradition is alive and well in Thatta: a tendency for one or two families to dominate a district’s political life.

Click to continue: The PPP triumphant