Wednesday October 04, 2023

MQM’s landslide defeat in AJK polls strips it of national-party status

July 23, 2016

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s landslide defeat in Thursday’s elections for two Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly seats reserved for the Kashmiris living in Sindh has seemingly stripped it of its national-level party status.

There are two AJK legislative assembly seats – LA-30 and LA-36 - reserved for the Kashmiri Diaspora living in Sindh and some parts of other provinces.

The MQM had won these constituencies in the last two polls in 2006 and 2011 with a great margin. However, the party could not retain the two seats for a third time, denting its struggle to become a national-level party from an urban Sindh-based one.

The LA-30 (Jammu- I) is a constituency reserved for Kashmiris from AJK and comprises the entire Sindh province and five divisions of Punjab.

 In the last polls held in July 2011, MQM candidate Tahir Khokhar had won the LA-30 by bagging 30,620 votes, defeating the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Abdul Rasheed Mirza, who had secured 18,301 votes.

The LA-36 (Kashmir Valley –I) is a constituency reserved for Kashmiri from the Indian-occupied Kashmir who had migrated in 1940s and 1950s.  MQM candidate Saleem Butt had won the seat in the last polls by bagging 4,633 votes.

After forming the government in AJK with the Pakistan People’s Party, Khokhar and Butt were given the ministries of transport and sports, youth and culture respectively.

However, troubles for the MQM started in the AJK assembly in August when its prime minister, Chaudary Abdul Majeed, sacked the two ministers for the MQM chief allegedly insulting the Pakistan Army in his speech.

In current polls, the MQM awarded its ticket to senior party members Muhammad Mansha and Abdul Rehman Gassi for LA-30 and LA-36 respectively.  But the party suffered a massive worst defeat in the polls held on Thursday.

In the LA-30, Mansha could only fetch 494 votes while Gassi, the party’s candidate for LA-36, secured merely 175 votes.  Pakistan Muslim-League-Nawaz candidate Nasir Dar, who is based in Lahore, won LA-30 by bagging 5,688 of the total 26,198 votes.  Pakistan Teheek-e-Insaf candidate Sardar Maqsood Zaman ranked second by bagging 1,816 votes while Pakistan People’s Party’s Chaudary Mir Haider, who is the Sindh zone president of the PPP AJK, received 1,068 votes.

In LA-36, PPP’ candidate Sardar Aamir Ghaffar Lone bagged 1,320 out the total 4,385 to emerge as the winner.

PML-N candidate Muhammad Naeem Khan Advocate, who is also the Sindh zone president of the PML-N AJK, secured 507 votes.  Independent candidate Tahir Ali Wani and PTI candidate Syed Rizwan Javed Shah fetched 379 and 170 votes respectively.

The MQM alleged that thousands of voters were omitted from lists as part of a conspiracy to defeat the party in the polls.

The MQM coordination committee, in a statement issued on Thursday, said the tampering with the AJK voter lists in Karachi and Hyderabad was pre-poll rigging and responsible for the party’s defeat.

“There are over 1,00,000 voters of AJK in Karachi and Hyderabad and for current polls, 20,000 more were registered. But there were only 8,000 voters in the final list,” the committee said in the statement.

The MQM said thousands of Kashmiri voters in Karachi and Hyderabad were excluded from the lists and those in the rest of the country were registered in large numbers only to prevent the party from winning in the AJK polls.

However, the Election Commission of Pakistan officials and Kashmiri leaders hold a different view.

An ECP official involved in preparing the voter lists of the Kashmiri Diaspora in Sindh said two committees were formed for the two constituencies to make and verify the lists and representatives of all parties and community elders were part of these bodies.

“We had received thousands of complaints about fake votes and a State Subject Rule Certificate, a domicile-like document issued by the AJK administration, was made compulsory for registering voters,” the ECP official told The News.  He said over 25,000 unauthentic votes were removed from Karachi and Hyderabad districts after checking and verification.

Abdul Jabbar Nasir, a Karachi-based journalist who has been covering AJK polls, said because of the omission of thousands of voters from Karachi and Hyderabad, PML-N’s Dar easily won LA-30 by receiving most of the votes from the Punjab districts which were included in the constituency.

In Karachi, PTI’s Zaman bagged the highest number of votes for LA-30. “It’s because of Zaman’s own personal clout, not that of the PTI,” Nasir told The News.

“His father Haji Muhammad Zaman had won the seat several times.”  Similarly, PPP candidate Lone emerged victorious in the LA-36 polls because his father Abdul Ghaffar Lone had also won the seat in the past, he maintained.