When it comes to major surprises in terms of underperformance in the recent local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) appears to be the second most prominent case after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
With the extremely high number of hardcore Barelvis living in the city and no other party tapping their vote bank, the TLP was considered a major political force in various union committees (UCs) throughout the city. It had fielded more than 1,200 candidates only in the Karachi division, but of the 246 UCs in the city, it could only win one.
The party fared better in Hyderabad, winning two of the 160 UCs. After becoming a street power in terms of holding big and sometimes violent protests, the TLP suddenly burst into the scene before the 2018 general elections.
It participated in the polls countrywide but it was Karachi that gave the party two victories in the 2018 polls as its two candidates were elected to the Sindh Assembly from the city — Mohamad Qasim from PS-115 Karachi West-IV and Muhammad Younus Soomro from PS-107 Karachi South-I. Later, the party managed to get one more MPA, Sarwat Fatima, on the reserved seats of women. After the death of TLP founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi in November 2020, rifts surfaced within the party. This is why MPA Soomro has not been attending the Sindh Assembly sessions in protest against the party's high command.
Also, the party’s organisational structure in Karachi suffered significant damage when the PTI government banned the TLP in April 2021 after it staged violent protests demanding expulsion of the French ambassador.
Law enforcement agencies also raided the houses of radical TLP workers, as a result of which hundreds of its workers, including former Karachi TLP chief Razi Hussaini, distanced themselves from the party.
However, given the fact that the TLP still attracted the Barelvi vote bank, many analysts had predicted that it would win some UCs across the city, especially in underprivileged areas. Journalist Munir Ahmed Shah, who has extensively covered politico-religious parties, had predicted otherwise. According to him, the TLP was being overrated for winning the local body polls.
“Apart from a few areas, the party has no longer a strong structure in various areas of the city, especially after the party was banned by the federal government in 2021, due to which not only thousands of workers parted ways with the party but it also lost public contact on the street level,” the journalist said.
“The main reason of the TLP’s defeat in the local bodies polls was its broken organisational structure and depressed workers,” Shah said, adding that the party’s MPAs were unable to work in their constituencies and they had disconnected themselves from the public, due to which the party even lost the local government polls in the areas under the constituencies of its two MPAs.
Another journalist Faizullah Khan is also of the view that the TLP vote bank is still present in Karachi’s underdeveloped areas such as Korangi, Orangi, and North Karachi, but due to the weak organisational structure, it could not mobilise its supporters in the recent polls.
Khan also believes that the TLP’s donors have stopped providing funds to the party after facing pressure from law enforcement agencies. “The TLP did no groundwork to highlight the issues being faced by the people of Karachi,” he said. The journalist remarked that chanting emotional slogans and staging violent protests could not help the TLP win local government polls as it needed to be active on the street level and work for the well-being of the people.
He also mentioned rifts within the TLP’s ranks. He, however, added that if the TLP restructured itself, it would again damage the vote bank of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Karachi TLP spokesperson Ghulam Yaseen negated the impression that its organizational weaknesses contributed to its defeat. He blamed the TLP’s underperformance on rigging, stating that everyone knew that the Sindh government had rigged the polls in a well-planned manner.
The party had raised concerns over the pre-poll riggings but the Election Commission of Pakistan did not take measures to allay such concerns, Yaseen added. He said that thousands of TLP workers were active in Baldia Town, New Karachi and Korangi, but the results of the local government polls showed that the TLP had bagged only 10 to 20 votes in those UCs.
It means that district returning officers were hired by the Pakistan Peoples Party to hijack the TLP’s mandate, the spokesperson alleged. He also denied refits and differences within the party. He, however, added that MPA Soomro would be held accountable in the coming elections as he did not act according to the party’s policy.
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