Since the death of the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27 2007, the Pakistan People’s Party has put her family back in the forefront. It is likely to emerge victorious.
Election campaign posters and passers-by
Lyari is a PPP stronghold. It is the oldest part of Karachi -- Pakistan’s largest city. Lyari, where mostly workers and traders live, is rundown. Only a few streets are asphalted. The crime rate is high.
There are Pakistan People’s Party flags all over the yard at the local police quarters. Plaster flakes off the police building walls and a massive puddle in the entranceway means there’s no way of entering or leaving the place without getting soaked unless one has a car. The stench of sewage is overpowering.
Habib Jan is the local PPP candidate. He has called for better conditions for low-ranking police officers as part of his election campaign:
“There is so much space here. We could build 15 high-rises with lifts so the police officers could live and do their job in peace. But now they have to do other jobs on the side and some of them are forced to become corrupt. Who’s guilty? The government!”
Party for the underprivileged
Ever since the time of Benazir’s father Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, the People’s Party has presented itself as the party of the underprivileged. But it is clear that in Lyari words are not always translated into action.
The PPP is clearly campaigning against President Musharraf and his allies, whom they blame for the death of Benazir. Habib Jan simply doesn’t believe the Taliban killed Benazir, as the government has claimed:
“There are about 10 groups being scapegoated -- al-Qaeda, the Taliban -- they can all be blamed. If the Taliban did it why have they not targeted the government’s rallies? The government stormed the Red Mosque and killed the boys and girls, after all,” Habib Jan said.
PPP to emerge victorious
According to most of the polls and analysts, the People’s Party will be the most important party in Parliament after the elections. The sympathy vote for Benazir is one reason -- the other is that the party is the only one to be organised nation-wide.
The question, however, is what will happen next. A government will have to be formed -- probably with coalition partners. To co-operate with President Musharraf would be contentious.
Then there’s also the question of whether the party will stick behind Bhutto’s controversial widower, Asif Zardari.
“I think that for now, the People’s Party ranks are very much intact as far as the election campaign is concerned, and they are doing very well,” said Ashraf Khan, the head of an international news agency in Karachi.
“The real question is the crisis of leadership. They have resolved it for now and Zardari is leading the party. But in future, I think this crisis will emerge with all of its intensity.”Few experts believe the PPP can win a majority. The partners it chooses to form a coalition government with will be crucial in deciding the party’s future and that of Pakistan as a whole.