THIS is Benazir Bhuttos third election campaign in than seven years. But it may beless her toughest test yet. The erosion in the PPP s support base has been considerable and has been evident at her rallies, especially in Karachi and urban areas of Punjab.
But her support base in interior Sindh, traditionally a PPP stronghold, appears to be intact. Despite the emotional appeal and the initial expectations, Ghinwa Bhutto and her Shaheed Bhutto faction of the PPP is unlikely to trouble Benazir and her party in Outside Sindh, Ghinwa has noSindh. chance.
With her petition challenging her also expected to be decid-eddismissal a couple of days before the tions, analysts feel Benazir cantelec- expect to return tothat power. If establishment wanted her back, shethe would never have been sacked. There has been a consolidation of the anti- PPP vote bank in the country. But in her election campaign Benazir is not showing any signs of nervousness. As in the past, she has drawn large crowds in interior Sindh Tando Allah Yar, Mirpurkhas, Shadadpur and Nowshero Feroze. But then, these have been her partys pocketboroughs.
Of course, Karachi, where the MQM rules the roost, is different. In fact, the rallies she addressed in Karachithree recently were nothing less than a disaster. Though the PPP has never had a strong votebank in this metropolis, it support in at least ruralhad areas of Karachi thethe Lyari seat has been a PPP stronghold for years.
When Benazir addressed a rally in Baldia locality in Karachi on January 17, people were more interested in the nearby pool club and playing snooker than listening to the former prime minister. "I dont care what she has to say. Where was she when the Rangers were killing people here? I dont believe her," said young Nadeem. Most of the the people attending her rally were Pakhtuns or people transported from Lyari, a Sindhi-Baluchi dominated area.
After speaking for about an hour, she left for Lyari, for a rally in the Agra Taj colony nearby. This being a traditional PPP stronghold, the response was much better. This time the PPP is banking on its local Waja Ahmed Dad,leader, to grab the seat whichKarim was contested by Benazir in 1988, and her husband Asif Zardari in 1990. Waja has lost a lot of support But and despite lofty promises, Lyari remains one of Karachis most neglected areas.
Said Khaliq Baloch, a die- hard PPP activist: "I am supporting the PPP because of Benazir. As for Waja or anyone else, I dont think they will do anything in the future as well. I dont believe in changing loyalties like many others who have joined the Shaheed Bhutto group (of Ghinwa Bhutto)." But at the rally Benazir was oblivious to the general disenchantment: "We water and power to these areas. have Weprovided have done for the of what no other government hadpeople done before."Lyari And Khaliq bowed his head with embarrassment.
It would be incorrect to write off the PPP , which is expected to match its earlier tally in Sindh. Said Deedar Solangi of Nawab shah at a PPP rally in Nowshero Feroze. "The PPP represents the aspirations of the Sindhi Though Benazir mostly travels bypeople." helicopter, a large number of follow her in their cars and busessupporters to attend public meetings in adja-Says one supporter: "If wascent removedcities. just to bring in a Punjabi Benazir prime minister, then it will be difficult to live under this federation. "
Benazir is exploiting these feelings. "If the prime minister of one province (Punjab) who was dismissed on the same charges can be restored by the Supreme Court, then the prime minister from another province should also be restored," she keeps reiterating.
So much so that when she is among the it looks as despite all accusations ofpeople, corruption andif mismanagement, Benazir is refusing to say die. With less than a week to go for elections, she hasnt ruled out her governments restoration as an option. But even if her hopes come to nothing, she will go on fighting.