Why did “Go-MehdiShah-Go” echo at Lahore party convention?

By Waqar Taimur 

Syed Mehdi Shah, the President of PPPP for Gilgit-Baltistan and the region’s Chief Minister, was left red-faced at the party convention recently held in Lahore.

In the presence of the party’s Co-Charmain, former President, Asif Ali Zardari and other senior leaders, PPP Jiayals from Gilgit-Baltistan suddenly took out placards inscribed with slogans against Mehdi Shah and also chanted “Go-MehdiShah-Go”.They did not let the Mehdi Shah complete his speech during the convention, chanting slogans against him and booing him for a long period. Efforts to calm the workers down failed, despite of attempts by key party leaders. Later, they handed over a memorandum that explains the party’s abysmal performance in Gilgit-Baltistan to Syed Khurshid Shah, central PPP leader and opposition leader in the national assembly.

The PPP workers condemned the party’s regional leadership and accused them for failing to use their period in the government to win hearts and minds of people.The workers, instead, said that the party’s regional government promoted corruption at all levels, by selling jobs of teachers and indulging in financial embezzlement.

Mehdi Shah, talking to the media, tried to turn down the agitation by saying that the “hooliganism” at the party convention was the work of a few people who have no value in Gilgit-Baltistan. He also said that the sloganeers were not ideologically affiliated with the party.

It is pertinent to note the PPP’s position has Gilgit-Baltistan has dwindled during the last five years, despite of the party being in power. The reasons for this downward growth, in addition to the government’s inability to maintain law and order and provide basic facilities to the people are that key cabinet minister advisors and the chief minister himself were throughout the governance period accused of taking bribes, making illegal appointments, selling jobs and obstructing justice by protecting their favorite bureaucrats. Many of these allegations were also proven through investigations conducted by different bodies, but the powerful party leaders and cabinet members reportedly created hurdles for dispensation of justice.

The murder of two IDPs in Hunza Valley and the government’s failure to provide justice to the victims also played a key role in lessening acceptance for the party in that region. The murder of protesters in Chilas and the murder of a youth during the election campaign in Sherqilla (Punial) also added fuel to the fire of angst, mistrust and disappointment

The party’s co-chairman and other key central leaders were left startled by the agitation of party workers during the convention. And there are reports that Zardari has promised to make changes in the party’s regional leadership.

Another key reason for the party’s failures, according to some workers, is that the PPP leadership was unable to mobilize its party’s various cadres during the last five years. In many areas, including Gilgit city, the party’s secretariat had to be closed down due to non-payment of rent. The performance of the PPP women wing, particularly, was below average. Apart from some statements in the news papers and photo sessions, nothing was practically done by the women wing’s leader Sadia Danish, who is also the Information, Culture Sports and Tourism Minister!

Due to the failures of PPP, religious and sectarian groups are again gaining political power and have also accumulated critical mass, capitalizing on the fear, insecurity and mistrust created by the attacks on passengers on the KKH and several other violent incidents.

A lot of water has passed below the bridge and, despite of some sane voices within the party calling for reflection, Mehdi Shah’s solo flight with a coterie of some personal favorite has thrown the party to the abyss of popularity. Only a miracle can help the party win against the Mullahs and their backers in the next general elections.

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