Mixed results likely as Karachi sees toughest LB polls today

  • Although MQM has lion’s share in city it is expected to face tough contest from PTI-JI alliance, other parties

The sprawling metropolis of Karachi will undergo its history’s toughest local bodies (LB) elections with expected variations in the results today.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which enjoys the lion’s share in the city is expected to face a tough contest from the electoral alliance of the Paksistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and new entrants to politics.

Although the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Haqqiqi (MQM-H), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) did not fielded their candidates in most of the constituencies, all these parties are expected to give a tough fight to the MQM.

The Muttahida has its stronghold in Karachi’s District Central and District East but it would have to face formidable opponents in the four districts where Sindhis, Punjabis, Pakhtoons and Balochs are in majority. Like every election, LB polls in Karachi would also be contested on ethnic grounds this time.

The MQM has played the Mohajir card in almost every election, but fresh delimitations may fail the very tactic this time. Entrance of the MQM-Haqqiqi in Urdu-speaking majority areas makes it difficult for the MQM to collect all the Mohajir vote-bank which enables other parties to take benefit of this vote-break.

District West:

Karachi’s District West is comprised of four former towns: Kemari, Orangi, Baldia and SITE area. The district has a major population of Pakhtoons followed by Urdu-speaking people.

Although Kemari is a stronghold of the PML-N, public support for the PPP and PTI cannot be ruled out here. The MQM is the major stakeholder in Orangi and Baldia towns. However, it will get a neck-to-neck contest from the PTI-JI alliance. In Pakhtoon-dominated SITE Town, an interesting match is likely between the PTI-JI alliance and tri-party alliance of the ANP, PPP and JUI-F.

As per records, the District West has the highest number of candidates, ie, 1,412 for 104 seats of chairmen and vice chairmen and 208 seats of general councillors. This district is divided into 46 union committees and six union councils – meant for rural areas.

Thirteen candidates have been elected unopposed as general councillors in District West’s seven union councils. Also, chairman and vice chairman in ward no 20 of UC-20 have been elected unopposed. All of these candidates belong to the MQM, except one general councilor from UC-41, an independent. There are a total of 1,530,579 registered voters of which 600,210 are female voters.

District Malir:

Karachi’s District Malir is one of the biggest district of the city as compared to its area, but has the lowest number of voters. It is comprised of three former towns: Bin Qasim, Gadap and Malir, and mostly consists of rural population. The ethnic division of this district comprises mainly of Sindhis and Balochi people living in Gadap and Malir along with a mixed population of Pashtun and Urdu-speaking community in Bin Qasim and Malir.

It has a total number of 641,148 voters – 378,704 male and 262444 female – registered in 45 union councils, spanning from Ibrahim Hyderi to Gulshan-e-Hadeed, Memon Goth and Gadap area. In Bin Qasim area, the PTI-JI coalition had nominated separate candidates who have the support of Pakhtoons and Hazara communities living in the area. The Pakistan Steel Mills society and Gulshan-e-Hadeed area also come under the constituency and is likely to be won by this coalition. The PPP had entered an alliance with the ANP and JUI-F in the area, making a strong position. The PPP had also allied with the Raah-e-Haq party.

The PPP has a strong position in Malir and Gadap areas, as it had won a provincial assembly seat here. However, the PPP is challenged by a seven-party alliance of the PML-N and other groups supporting independents contesting on the election symbol of goat.

The MQM and MQM-Haqqiqi also have a strong presence in Malir district. At least 1,114 candidates from different political parties and independent groups are in the run in 13 union committees and 32 union councils for rural areas of Malir district. Only six candidates have been elected unopposed.

District Central:

Karachi’s District Central is the largest district of Karachi with a total of 51 union councils that will play a key role for the political parties in fetching the slot for the next mayor. According to the 1998 census, the total population of this district is 2,27,931 from which about 73 per cent are Urdu-speaking, eight per cent Punjabi-speaking, four per cent Pakhtoons and two per cent minorities.

It comprises of five sub-divisions, Gulbahar, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, New Karachi and North Nazimabad. A total number of registered voters in the district is 1,735,219, of which 964,585 are male and 70,634 female.

Over 200 candidates from the various political parties and independents are contesting for the 102 seats of chairman and vice chairman though 584 candidates are in run for 186 slots of general councillors. Eighteen MQM candidates have already been elected unopposed against general councillor slots.

This district is quite significant due to the presence of the MQM headquarters – Nine-Zero – in the area. The MQM is the only party that is contesting for all seats in the district. However it may get a tough resistance from the JI-PTI coalition with analysts predicting 27 seats for the MQM and 13 seats for the latter. The JUP and its faction JUP-Noorani are also likely to give a tough time in some of the constituencies to their opponents.

Prominent leaders of political parties contesting elections from this district include JI leaders Naeemur Rehman, Muslim Pervez, Farooq Naimatullah Khan, PTI’s Jamal Khan Sherwani, MQM’s Nadeem Hidayat Hashmi, former MPA Anwar Alam, JUP central leader Siddique  Rathore, JUP Secretary Information Mustaqeem Noorani and Pakistan Raah-e-Haq’s Sahibzada Shoaib Nadeem.

District Korangi:

The newly-created District Korangi’s areas Model Colony, Kalaboard, Saudabad, Khokarapar, Shah Faisal Colony, Drigh Road, Landhi and Sharafi Goth were earlier part of District East. Apart from urban and rural centres this district also includes the industrial area of Korangi. Furthermore, the district contains a mixed population or Urdu-speaking, Punjabi, Balochi, Pakhtoons and Sindhis along with small pockets of Bengalis and Burmese.

According to the ECP, the total number of registered voters is 1,183,536, of which 507,947 are female. As many as 237 candidates affiliated with various political parties and independents are in the run for 74 seats of chairman and vice chairman. About 74 candidates are contesting for 222 slots of general councillors. The district is likely to witness a close contest as no candidate has been elected unopposed.

The MQM claims to have a strong vote bank in the district and believes that change in boundaries will not affect its vote bank whereas the Muttahida dominance in the district was shaken in the year 1992 when a faction, MQM-Haqqiqi, began edging out and remained the same domain till 2003.

The scenario had once again seemed to have changed with re-emergence of MQM-Haqqiqi in Korangi, Landhi, Shah Faial and Malir areas.

District East:

District East comprises of former Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Jamshaid Town and has a total of 186,901 voters with 658,616 male and 528,285 female. The areas of Shah Faisal Colony and Malir, Landhi and Korangi were earlier included in this district. Now it consists of Ferozabad, Jamshaid Quarters, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulzar-e-Hijri and Gulistan-e-Jauhar areas. The area mainly populated by Urdu-speaking community.

The major contest in the areas is between the MQM and the PTI-JI alliance. The PPP that in coalition with the JUI-F and ANP has also fielded its candidates and has chances of winning the areas dominated by Sindhi and Pakhtoons. On 31 union committees in the District East, 817 candidates from political parties and independents are contesting the elections. Two candidates have been elected unopposed from this district.

District South:

Karachi’s District South consists of former towns of Saddar and Lyari and has the second lowest number of voters. In a total of 31 union committees, there are 805,683 voters, of which 475, 928 are male and 347,755 female. The area is ethnically divided between Baloch and Urdu-speaking communities and has some pockets of Sindhi, Gujrati and other communities.

The Lyari Town had remained a stronghold of the PPP while the Saddar Town is the stronghold of the MQM. However, in Lyari the PPP was unable to field candidates for the slots of chairman and vice chairman in four union councils and 26 ward councillors. The PPP was facing a challenge from the PTI and JI that have fielded separate candidates in the area.

The PML-N and independents supported by former PPP and MQM leader Sardar Nabeel Gabol is also vying for seats in 15 union councils. The MQM had not fielded its candidate in the area, citing security fears due to the presence of gang war elements.

In former Saddar Town, the MQM and PTI-JI alliance are likely to have a tough contest. About 617 candidates are contesting elections on 31 union committees in this district. Nine candidates have been elected unopposed from this district.