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Increase in Karachi seats pits anti-PPP allies against each other

October 03, 2023

The recent increase announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the number of the National and Sindh assembly constituencies of Karachi at the expense of Khairpur and Sanghar seems to have already pitted the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), which have hinted at contesting the coming general elections together against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), against each other.

Based on the last census results, the ECP has announced that Karachi’s District South will have three instead of two National Assembly (NA) constituencies in the coming general elections while the number of NA constituencies in Sanghar has decreased from three to two. After this change, the total number of NA constituencies from Karachi has increased from 21 to 22.

Likewise, the number of Sindh Assembly constituencies in Karachi have been increased from 44 to 47 with District Central, East and Malir each getting one extra provincial assembly seat. Against this increase, one each Sindh Assembly constituency has been decreased in Khaipur, Sanghar and Thatta districts.

Whereas the MQM-P has welcomed the change in the number of constituencies and claimed the credit for the increase in the number of Karachi’s constituencies, the GDA is upset because its major party Pakistan Muslim League-Functional led by Pir Pagara has a strong presence in Khairpur and Sanghar districts, and the decrease in the number of their constituencies would affect its election results.

Talking to The News, GDA spokesperson Akbar Jafri said the alliance was a strong force in Khairpur and Sanghar whose provincial seats had been shifted to Karachi. “We believe these were our seats,” he maintained.

He added that if the GDA’s concerns were not addressed, the alliance would not only protest but submit objections to the preliminary delimitations.

Commenting on the matter, MQM-P leader and former federal minister Syed Aminul Haque said the people of Karachi had not initially been properly enumerated in the census, but due to the MQM-P’s struggle, a part of Karachi’s missing population was counted, which translated into the increase in one NA and three PS seats of Karachi.

He said the MQM-P welcomed the ECP’s decision and hoped that the commission would carry out transparent delimitations of new constituencies. He alleged that the last PPP government in Sindh had resorted to gerrymandering in the local bodies elections and if that repeated before the general elections, the MQM-P would not accept it. About the GDA’s concerns, he said the GDA and MQM-P had agreed to make an alliance against the PPP. “The GDA’s concerns over shifting of seats to Karachi won’t affect our working relations.”

JI’s stance

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which is a political opponent of both the PPP and MQM-P, believes that the increase of just one National Assembly seat and three provincial assembly seats could not be termed a success.

The party is of the view that had the census been conducted properly, the National Assembly seats in Karachi would have increased to 32 instead of 22 and its provincial assembly seats would have jumped to 65. In a written reply to queries of The News, a spokesperson for the JI said the population of Karachi, which would provide the basis for new delimitations, was not less than 35 million by any means and it could be verified through the surveys and statistics in connection with wheat and rice consumption in the city, the National Database and Registration Authority’s data as well as number of electricity meters and amount of gas consumed here.

“The JI totally rejects this injustice and demands those in the corridors of power to rectify the statistics,” he said. Journalist Jabbar Nasir who extensively covered the census and its related issues said the addition of new seats to the electorate of Karachi was certainly in favour of the parties that were considered strong in the urban centres.

He said the MQM-P could win the newly added NA seat in District South as it would include areas such as Civil Lines, Karachi Cantonment, and Saddar and Aram Bagh subdivisions. He, however, added that only once the delimitations of new provincial assembly seats in Karachi were done, one could comment which party was the biggest beneficiary there.