The defeat of Ashraf Jabbar Qureshi, a founding member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf who had been declared a mayoral candidate of the party for Karachi, in both the union committees he was contesting is one of the major setbacks the PTI suffered in the recent local government elections in the city.
However, for Qureshi, this was just another loss. Before the last local government elections, the resilient Qureshi lost various elections in the city seven times. Even though the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf emerged in the 2018 general elections as the largest political party of Karachi by securing 14 of the 21 National Assembly seats of the city along with a large number of Sindh Assembly seats, Qureshi could not secure victory.
He has served as the PTI Karachi president in the past and is currently serving as the divisional secretary general. In the recent local government elections, he tried his luck in UC-1 Paposh Colony and UC-6 Khamosh Colony of North Nazimabad Town. He contested for the post of chairman in both the UCs, but as there was a wave for the Jamaat-e-Islami in District Central this time, the JI candidates secured both the UCs.
Qureshi has been a regular PTI candidate for by-polls in Karachi. He had also filed nomination papers as a covering candidate for PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a recent by-poll in Karachi. He contested a by-poll in 2019 for PS-94 District Korangi but lost to Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) Syed Hashmi Raza. He was the runner-up with 9,223 votes, but the MQM-P’s Raza bagged 21,728 votes.
In the 2018 general elections, he contested from NA-253 District Central comprising New Karachi and adjoining areas but lost to MQM-P’s Usama Qadri with a margin of over 13,000 votes.
Following the general elections, the PTI chairman decided to vacate one of NA seats from Karachi as he had won from multiple cities. The constituency was NA-243 consisting of Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Gulistan-e-Jauhar areas. Qureshi was again an aspirant for the by-poll but his candidature was resisted by another aspirant Alamgir Khan.
The party eventually decided to give its ticket to Alamgir who won the by-election with a comfortable margin. The 1997 general elections were the first polls in which the PTI had participated. Being a founding member, Qureshi also contested the polls from Karachi. None of the PTI candidates, including Qureshi, could win those elections. He was defeated by MQM’s Hasan Masna Alvi who won the seat by securing more than 100,000 votes.
In the 2001 local government polls, the PTI fielded Qureshi as a candidate for the city Nazim against the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Niamatullah Khan. He last the election as Niamatullah was elected as the Nazim.
In the 2002 general elections, Qureshi contested from District East’s then PS-118 but lost to the MQM’s Faisal Subzwari who won the seat by bagging 15,204 votes. Qureshi ranked four in that contest with just 2,999 votes.
As the PTI boycotted the 2008 elections, Qureshi did not contest polls then. However, in the 2013 general polls, he contested from District East’s NA-253 and ranked second by securing more than 61,000 votes. He again lost to MQM candidate Muzammil Qureshi who won the seat by bagging more than 100,000 votes.
Party insiders and journalists who cover the PTI extensively believe that Qureshi is one of the party’s old guard but the current leadership has largely ignored him.
Even after he was announced as the PTI’s candidate for the Karachi mayor, another party leader Khurrum Sher Zaman became a contender for the post, after which the party announced that its chairman would decide the final mayoral candidate of the party. Interestingly, Zaman also lost the local government elections.
According to a PTI’s founding member, Qureshi joined the party since its formation in 1996 and served as party’s Karachi coordination secretary and member of the central executive committee. Later, he was made Sindh president of the party’s youth wing. In 2007, Qureshi was made the Karachi president of the PTI.
Munir Ahmed Shah, a journalist who covers political parties, said that after the rise of the party’s popularity in 2012, Qureshi and other veteran leaders were sidelined by the party’s central leaders who were close to Imran Khan. “That is the reason the party leadership did not give him a ticket from a safe seat in the 2018 general polls,” Shah told The News.
Qureshi is known for openly criticising the party leadership in Sindh. In 2016, he along with other like-minded leaders formed ‘PTI Bachao Tehreek’ which he announced during a press conference outside the party’s Karachi office.
He claimed that the PTI had been hijacked by a gang of four people – Arif Alvi, Ali Zaidi, Imran Ismail and Firdous Shamim Naqvi.
Even in the December 2015 local government polls, Qureshi announced that he was forming the Imran Tiger Panel for the elections and said that Alvi and Zaidi had sold the party to the Jamaat-e-Islami. Before the PTI, Qureshi was part of the Pasban-e-Pakistan.
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