While the Pak Sarzameen Party is nothing short of jubilant over the victory of the panel it backed in the Karachi University’s Employees Welfare Association Elections 2017-19 held on Thursday, varsity staffers seem nothing but skeptical over the win bringing any positive change in the university’s affairs.
“These [the winners this time] are the same people who have been elected repeatedly over the past 17 years,” said Muhammad Kashif, president of the ‘Quaid-e-Awam’ panel. “The only difference is that these people had always been affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement but, this time, they were with the PSP.”
Kashif, whose panel competed without backing from any political force, was highly critical of the employees contesting the elections on the basis of their political affiliations.
Sitting with handful of supporters at his camp set up near the varsity’s admin block, Kashif said the MQM had over the years used this election to hold sway over the university management in recruitments and admissions.
“They [the MQM] made sure their workers got jobs at KU and that their cadre was not denied admissions. Now, since it is the same people being elected under a rival party’s banner, we do not expect anything different of the PSP.”
At the next camp was writer Huma Siddqiui who too had very few employees to support her apolitical panel, the ‘Movement of Rights for Employees’. “Despite having a master’s degree from the KU’s political sciences department, I’m still working as a clerk-cum-typist at the varsity’s hostel for girls,” she lamented.
“We are only participating in these elections as a show of defiance to the interference of political parties in KU’s affairs,” she said. “Instead of working for the betterment and well being of the employees, this platform has always been used as a tool for political recruitments and out-of-turn promotions.”
PSP vs PPP
As far as the polls were concerned, the real contest was between the PSP-backed panel, ‘Mulazmeen Ittehad’, and the ‘Peoples United Group’ supported by the Pakistan Peoples Party.
“All groups who were backed by mainstream political forces, including the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, voted for the Peoples United Group. However, our numbers still proved greater,” said Muhammad Farhan Khan of the PSP-backed panel who secured 934 votes to win the president’s seat.
His main opponent, Zahid Hussain of the ‘Peoples United Group’, stood second with 849 votes. Around 24,000 employees voted in the elections and all top positions were secured by the PSP-backed group.
Khan, who was earlier in the MQM and had secured the president’s slot in the 2014 elections, was picked by the Sindh Rangers in the latter half of that year.
“It was [PSP chief] Mustafa Kamal’s vision that convinced me to leave the MQM for his party. As he says, it is better to focus on somebody’s present instead of probing his or her past,” said Khan.
PSP in, MQM out?
Following the ‘Mulazmeen Ittehad’ panel’s victory, PSP chief Mustafa Kamal issued a press statement on Friday hailing the triumph as a success that would pave the way for his party’s success across Sindh in the next general elections.
Congratulating activists of his party’s student wing, the Students Federation of Pakistan (SFP), and the victorious KU employees, Kamal said they had laid the foundation of the PSP’s future successes.
MQM-Pakistan (MQM-P) central leader Syed Aminul Haque, though, did not buy his opponent’s argument. “It is quite far-fetched to think that winning a varsity election could guarantee success in tougher electoral challenges. That too winning an election in which we [MQM-P] did not even partake,” he said, explaining that the MQM-P had decided to stay away from employees’ elections in all universities.
“[Sindh Assembly Opposition Leader] Khawaja Izharul Hasan and I recently met the KU VC and requested him to not let political parties influence the employees’ elections,” he said. “We have learnt with experience that undue influence from political forces deprives deserving professionals and students of jobs and admissions.”
Haque said they had urged the VC to pay no heed to political influence, be it from people using the MQM-P’s name or the CM House, in the recruitment and admissions process.
However, SFP President Tauseef Ejaz saw the MQM-P’s changed narrative as a result of the PSP’s rising popularity. “Since PSP’s student wing was launched on December 16 last year, a sizeable number of students from all parties have joined our ranks. The MQM’s student wing, in particular, has virtually disappeared from the scene.”
“As for the elections, it is our right to support the people we know to be honest and committed workers. The winning candidates can and will make a difference for both the staffers and the students.”