Long-standing differences within the rank and file of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Sindh chapter surfaced on Thursday when Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh resigned from his post as senior vice president of the party.
Haleem Adil Sheikh had been appointed to the role by Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs and Provincial PTI President Syed Ali Haider Zaidi on Wednesday, but Mr Sheik reportedly ‘flatly refused’ the assignment due to differences with Mr Zaidi.
“I will continue to work as an Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly and as a committed and loyal worker of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” Mr Sheikh was quoted as saying in a brief statement following his resignation.
Close friend to Mr Sheikh, Ali Junejo, who is an advisor to Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, also reportedly declined a role as the junior vice president of the party in the province, as was announced by Mr Zaidi.
Reports from Mirpur Khas claimed that close friends of Mr Shiekh there also refused to work for PTI under Mr Zaidi and had tendered their resignations. Prominent among them is Akbar Ali Palli from Mirpur Khas, who resigned as general secretary of PTI’s Mirpur Khas chapter.
On Friday, four more PTI leaders reportedly resigned, including Tahir Shah who had contested elections against Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah in Sukkur in 2018.
“More such refusals are expected to pour in during the coming days from the areas where Mr Sheikh has influence,” added a source close to the PTI party in Sindh.
Credible sources confided to the Friday Times that Mr Sheikh, who had been at the forefront of party affairs as acting president and general secretary of PTI in Sindh, was reportedly not happy with the appointment of Ali Haider Zaidi as the new president of PTI Sindh. Instead, he wanted someone from interior Sindh who spoke Sindhi to run party affairs in the province, to ‘effectively counter PPP’.
“Mr Sheikh and his close aides believe that a Karachi-based, Urdu speaking member, with the responsibility of a federal ministry, cannot handle provincial matters, especially at a time when high-ups of the party including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi are trying to further strengthen the party in rural areas of Sindh,” the source further claimed on the condition of anonymity.
On the other hand, Mr Sheikh reportedly has not given due response and respect to most of his fellow MPAs, leading many members to slowly distance themselves from his political activities. Party insiders said that there are as many as five such groups among the MPAs, most of whom were elected from Karachi. The same source claimed that Mr Zaidi and close aides also wanted to replace Mr Shiekh with another PTI MPA from Karachi as the Opposition Leader in the Assembly before the annual budget sessions.
Sources within the party claimed that PTI in Sindh had already split into multiple groups. MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi was removed as Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly and Mr Haleem Adil Sheikh was assigned to replace him in the role, as well as serving as senior vice president.
Mr Shiekh was given the senior vice president role after Ameer Buksh Khan Bhutto had resigned some two years back due to differences between his late father Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto and top party leadership. Mr Sheikh, who was then the general secretary of PTI Sindh, was asked to continue as the acting president until the party leaders and members found a suitable replacement for Mr Bhutto.
Sources also said that former Chief Minister Sindh Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who after joining the party was made Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SPAM) on Sindh affairs, had distanced himself from the party. Sources close to Dr Rahim said that his passion to strengthen the PTI in Sindh started dissipating after a demonstration he held with several hundred of his supporters in Mithi town of Tharparkar two months ago in protest of the alleged political victimization of his supporters. Dr Rahim, who led the massive protest, had expected support from PTI leadership but no prominent PTI leader turned up to show solidarity.
Dr Rahim and his close aides from Tharparkar called-off their sit-in after Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Mirpur Khas reportedly promised to form a committee to probe the cases registered against Dr Rahim’s supporters. No such committee has yet been formed.
Insiders also claimed that Dr Rahim believed Haleem Adil Sheikh had tried to dilute his influence in the party. Both exchanged harsh words during a party meeting a few weeks back. Dr Rahim, who was given the task of inviting ‘electables’ to join PTI from Sindh had also reportedly failed the assignment after he apparently got no response from old companions, who kept silence over the prevailing political situations in Sindh.
Political analysts observed that the apparent refusal of Mr Shiekh to work under Mr Zaidi would have far reaching consequences on the party in the interior parts of Sindh, especially after PTI MPA Sardar Mir Shaharyar Khan Shar from Ghotki district had already announced to quit the party.
Furthermore, MPA from Jacobabad Mohammad Aslam Abro and seasoned politician Liaqat Ali Jatoi were reportedly again in contact with top PPP leadership to make their place in that party.
Analysts said that in the present circumstance, PTI would likely face a weakened position in some districts in Sindh, where PTI candidates had managed to poll thousands of votes against PPP candidates, although they could not win a seat. They claimed that like Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leadership, Imran Khan was creating much more space for PPP at a time when its only rival alliance, the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), was likely to face disintegration due to the political interests of powerful people like the Mehars of Ghotki and Shikarpur districts, the Jatois of Naushahro Feroze, and Syed Nawaz Shah, the sitting MNA from Mirpur Khas.
Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Ms Faryal Talpur, along with close aides, had already started their campaign against the Mirzas of Badin and a few other individuals, which could create further trouble for them in rural parts of Sindh during the next general elections.