Lyari remains a PPP stronghold

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KARACHI: As the general elections 2018 are nearing, Lyari— the oldest of the Karachi settlements and a bastion of political and social movements since the colonial era and from where the scion of the Bhutto family, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, is launching his political career— is the talk of the town again.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and other parties have alleged that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has cherry-picked different localities of its traditional support base for NA-246 —one of the two constituencies in the district south and comprising Lyari and adjacent localities, including Garden West, Ranchod Lane, Dhobi Ghat and others—to ensure a convenient victory in the elections.

However, PPP denies the allegations, saying since the whole delimitation plan in Karachi has followed the district boundaries, two constituencies could be carved out of the district south, hence an old constituency where MQM-P’s Dr Farooq Sattar has been contesting elections for last many years, was slashed and the localities were made part of the NA-246 and NA-247, two of the district south constituencies.

Since 1970, the PPP candidates have won from Lyari and adjacent localities.

Abdus Sattar Gabol, the founding member of the PPP won from here in the 1970 elections, and served in the cabinet of the PPP government. He won it again in the 1977 elections, though, the political agitation by the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) culminated in General Zia’s rule.

In the non-party elections of 1985 under Zia, PPP boycotted the polls and the constituency fell into the lap of a little-known candidate Ghulam Muhammad Chishti, who surprisingly defeated Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart Abdus Sattar Afghani, who was serving as the mayor of Karachi for the second consecutive term. The people of Lyari voted against Afghani because he was a JI candidate and whose role in the PNA against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was well known.

In the 1988 elections, PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto herself contested from Lyari, and defeated her opponent by a huge margin. The only time, the PPP opponents had come any closer in the contest was 1997 when Waja Karimdad won by a thin margin of 300 votes against PML-N candidate Yousuf Baloch.

In the general elections of 2002 and 2008, former Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Nabil Gabol had convenient victories.

However, in 2013, the gang violence in Lyari resulted in the downfall of the PPP as the party lost dozen of workers, including former member National Assembly (MNA) Waja Karimdad, former Lyari Naib Town Nazim Malik Muhammad Khan and many other party veterans to the violence.

In those tumultuous years, warring gangs, some of them linked to the PPP local leadership, targeted political workers, members of Baloch nationalist groups, social workers and scores of traders and businessmen. A strategy, initially adopted by the PPP local leadership against the MQM militant wings, went wrong as the gangs turned against the PPP when operations were initiated.

The situation led to the PPP bowing to Uzair Jan Baloch, one of the strongest gang leaders, as his handpicked candidates in the PPP ranks were given tickets in the 2013 general elections. Later, a video of PPP candidates from Lyari taking an oath of allegiance to Uzair Jan surfaced on the social media.

Nabil Gabol’s displeasure with the party’s decisions in Lyari led him to join the MQM. The PPP local circles alleged that Gabol, himself, was backing one of the gangs in Lyari. MQM awarded ticket to Gabol for the party stronghold of Azizabad (NA-246 in the previous delimitations). Gabol won, and became a MQM lawmaker. Gabol later quit MQM and re-joined PPP.

Following the footsteps of his mother, who had contested her first general elections from Lyari in 1988, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has decided to contest elections from the same area in the 2018 general elections. The tickets on the provincial assembly constituencies from Lyari, PS-107 and PS-108, have been awarded to former MPA Javed Nagori and Haji Abdul Majeed Baloch, respectively.

In case Bilawal, who is contesting elections from two other constituencies in Larkana and Malakand, wins the election from Lyari, he is likely to vacate the seat for Nabil Gabol.

PPP dissidents opposed the award of ticket to Javed Nagori, claiming that he had never visited the constituency after getting elected. The protest led to an attack on Bilawal’s rally and stones were pelted at their vehicles. Though, local sources have alleged that the attack was perpetrated by members of the Katchi Rabita Committee (KRC). The police have lodged an FIR [First Information Report] against the protesters; however, the PPP has distanced itself from it.

The PPP chairman is contesting elections against Saleem Zia of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Mehfooz Yar Khan of the MQM-P, Abdul Shakoor Shad of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Ejaz Baloch of Pak Sarzameen Party and Maulana Noorul Haq of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.