In Sindh, S Punjab everything in politics belongs to pirs

KARACHI - Political parties do not always rely on ideologies, manifestos and slogans to attract the illiterate and poor during elections but use influential pirs, sajjada nasheens (caretakers of shrines) and spiritual leaders to influence the rural voters.
In the rural areas of this agro based country, the illiterate and ignorant voters mostly rely on superstitions and they believe in spiritual influence and personalities.
Sindh and southern Punjab have scores of spiritual leaders who can affect the outcome of any election.
Apart from the influence of jageerdars, chaudhrys and waderas, pirs and sajjada nasheens wield strong influence on voters in Sindh and Southern Punjab and they have constantly dominated elections in the region.
Pir Pagara and Makhdoom of Hala in Sindh are the most influential spiritual leaders in the region. There are number of small pirs with good political influence such as Jilani of Mirpurkhas, Pir of Ranipur, Pir of Bharchundi. However, pirs and sajjada nasheens in the southern Punjab have outnumbered any other region of the country and these leaders are electable irrespective of their political affiliation.
Whether they stand with the leftists or rightists, their vote bank always remained intact and their poor and ignorant disciples vote them into power again and again.
Unlike his father, chief of PML-F Pir Sahib Pagara, Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, is holding rallies, sharing the stage with all kinds of political leaders who in the past could not even dream of sitting with the old Pir Pagara on the same sofa as the late Pir Pagara kept respectable distance with all nationalist leaders. But the incumbent Pir Pagara along with nationalist forces and his new found ally Nawaz Sharif wishes to play role at the centre.
The caretaker of Ghousia Jamaat, Multan is second in command in PTI after Imran Khan. The other Pir of Multan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Makhdoom Amin Fahim of Hala, Sindh are with the PPP.
For some time Makhdoom Amin Fahim had remained in the race of premiership.
Besides, these four, a dozen pirs are the part and parcel of power politics and running in the electoral race.
In Khairpur, the family members of Pir Pagara are in electoral run for national and provincial assembly seats and the followers of Hur Jamaat will cast their votes to the nominees of Pir Sahib in Sanghar, Umerkot and Tharparkar.
Pir Fazal Shah of Ranipur is a PPP candidate. His father Pir Abdul Qadir Shah Jilani and his sons have been elected and made ministers in different political eras.
The family of Pir Ghulam Shah Jilani was in the electoral politics for the last half a century and the late Pir himself had won assembly seats and remained part of the government during Ayub Khan and Z A Bhutto era.
After his demise, his sons Pir Aftab Shah Jilani and Pir Amjad Hussain Shah Jilani had served as ministers during PPP government. Pir Shafqat Hussain, another son of Pir Ghulam Hussain Shah Jilani was elected district nazim of Mirpurkhas. They are PPP ticket holders in this election.
The whole district of Matiari is under the influence of Makhdoom Amin family and the PPP allotted three tickets to Makhdoom family. Not only this, PPP has given a provincial assembly seat in Tharparkar as a gift to Makhdoom family.
The shrine of Makhdoom Sarwar Nooh of Hala, known as the Naulakhi Gaddi, has spiritual influence and disciples in Sanghar, Badin, Tharparkar and Umerkot districts.
The caretaker of Ghousia Jamaat, Shah Mehmood is contesting election from Umerkot. This is for the first time that a pir from Multan is contesting election from Sindh and asking his disciples for votes.
In the earlier election the pir from Multan had asked his followers in Umerkot to support his candidate.
The Pir of Naing Sharif, Pir Ghulam Jilani is contesting elections from Kherthar, district Dadu.
The family of Pir Ali Bahadur Shah of Badin is in the electoral politics for last half century. His son Pir Amjad Shah was a member of Sindh Assembly.
Pir of Dargah Bharchundi Sharif, Abdul Haq Mian Mitho of Ghotki/Mirpur Mathelo has contested elections several times on the tickets of different parties. He hit headlines in the Hindu girl Rinkle Kumari kidnapping and conversion case.
Pir rarely contest against each other, rather they supplement and complement each others’ efforts to win the polls.
Pir Pagara, the spiritual leader of the Hur Jamaat, has decided to support Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Ghousia Jamaat leader, on two National Assembly seats – NA-228 of Umerkot and NA-230 of Tharparkar.  The PML-F has decided not to field candidates from NA-228 and NA-230, confirmed Imtiaz Sheikh, the party’s secretary general.
Former Sindh chief minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim is also contesting from NA-230. Pir Pagara’s decision indicates that there will be no alliance between the PML-F and the former chief minister.
It can be inferred that Dadu, Khairpur, Sanghar, Umerkot, Tharparkar and Matiari are the districts where the spiritual leaders and caretakers of shrines are main contestants. There are others five districts where the vote of followers of different pirs will play decisive role.

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