News Analysis |
Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and its financial hub is witnessing massive turnout of voters in today’s elections. It presents an interesting picture as before, the MQM used to win at least 18 seats from the city through its control over local institutions and fear. Perhaps the greatest difference in this election will be its occurrence after the Ranger operation that cleansed the metropolis of the climate of fear & control generated by militant wings of several parties such as the MQM, PPP, ANP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Sunni Tehreek.
Also, it will be held after the introduction of new challengers such as the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik-Ya Rasulallah (TLYR). A resurgent PTI which bagged the second largest number of votes from the city in 2013 is also in the game. However, the most significant development would be the near dissolution of the city’s main representative party, the MQM.
The PML(N) too is in the race with its main candidate being Miftah Ismail as well as several candidates all over Karachi but local observers are not giving much thought to any of the candidate except for Miftah Ismail.
Another significant factor is the delimitation in Karachi. Before 2018, the whole of Karachi was considered a single electoral unit but now its districts have been turned into electoral units. The delimitation has caused the MQM influence to end in Malir and Landhi while Korangi and Central District have become MQM strongholds.
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The MQM is conspicuous for its lacklustre campaign as well as nigh disappearance from Karachi’s political scene. The party which once had the capability to vacate the streets of Pakistan’s largest city to fill its gatherings has been unable to provide a power show in this campaign. Analysts assert that the divorce of Altaf Hussain, the MQM’s supremo from the party, infighting among the party as well as lack of the funds generated by extortion and target killing has severely impacted the party’s fortunes.
The end of its militant wing’s brutal reign of terror has also given the populace the chance to elect freely in decades. The PPP is one of the main contenders in the campaign. It has won from the Sindhi and Baloch dominated pockets of the metropolis and usually squared off against the MQM. However, with the disappearance of the MQM, it was supposed to be the main beneficiary yet it too ran into hiccups.
A resurgent PTI which bagged the second largest number of votes from the city in 2013 is also in the game. However, the most significant development would be the near dissolution of the city’s main representative party, the MQM.
The Muhajir vote while separated from the MQM’s reign is still squared against the feudal rule of the PPP which is notorious for its corruption and mismanagement. The Party’s attempts to launch its leader Bilawal Zardari in its stronghold of Lyari faced a spectacular humiliation as they got stone pelted by angry former PPP voters. Furthermore, the PPP’s alliance with the formerly banned ASWJ has impacted badly on its progressive supporters.
The PSP has risen as a major contender. Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) is vying for the Mohajir vote against the MQM. The city’s District Central, comprising of New Karachi, Gulberg, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad and North Nazimabad, which have a large Urdu-speaking population, were known as the MQM’s stronghold are now being assaulted by the PSP.
The PTI seems to be in full gear to cash in on the number of disenchanted voters from both the MQM and PPP. According to MQM insiders, the PTI had won 8 seats in the last election but could only officially acquire 1 seat due to MQM’s interference in the electoral institutions. While Imran Khan enjoys popularity due to both his clean image as well as stand against corruption, the selection of candidate has led to many difficulties. In NA245, where PTI’s Aamir Liaquat is facing off against the MQM’s Farooq Sattar, many diehard PTI fans are torn between voting for the PTI or not.
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The PML(N) too is in the race with its main candidate being Miftah Ismail as well as several candidates all over Karachi but local observers are not giving much thought to any of the candidate except for Miftah Ismail. The TLYR seems to be the main dark horse in this race. Rizvi’s TLYR has ‘succeeded’ where others have failed with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in disarray. The party became the first to execute a Karachi-wide lockdown in November 2017. It is said the strong Barelvi following in Karachi may translate into some seats for the TLYR.
In the end, analysts estimate that the PTI will lead Karachi with a minimum 3 and maximum 7 seats followed by the PSP with 4. The PPP will take 3 to 4 and the MQM with similar chances. TLYR and the PML(N) are expected to get 1 to 2 seats each.