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October 24, 2015

Emerging LB scenario in Sindh

Top Story

 
October 24, 2015

How important will be the forthcoming local bodies elections for Muttahida Qaumi Movement, MQM, particularly in the backdrop of the “Karachi Targeted Action?” What will be the most likely scenario in Sindh, after the completion of three phases, which will start on October 31st and end on December 5th? These elections attached more importance in the backdrop of the rising tension between the MQM and the rangers.
While the MQM believes that they are being victimized, rangers claims that the operation is not against any political party but against the alleged criminals. The arrest of PPP leader, Dr Asim Hussain and a few others also resulted in strong reaction from the PPP against rangers and the recent statement submitted by the Sindh government in the Sindh High Court has further intensified the tension.
This can escalate if the Sindh government decides to take up the issue about “rangers” in the Sindh Assembly. It all depends on the mood of the top PPP leadership which is dictating from Dubai. Will they go for a resolution or amendment in the powers of the rangers?
If that happens, the situation can create problems for the government and affect the fate of the local bodies elections. Perhaps, better sense will prevail and Sindh government may avoid taking situation to the point of no return.
For the MQM, the most important factor at present is to win the local bodies in urban Sindh.
There can be a win win situation for both to defuse tension between ranger and MQM.
If MQM win the top slot of mayor in the two major urban cities of the province, it could reaffirm its claim to be the sole representative of urban Sindh despite the operation. Its political standing may also improve at the national level. But at the same time it would also vindicate ranger’s claim that the operation is not against any party.
As far as PPP is concerned, it’s more worried about NAB and FIA, who often seek ranger’s assistance for arrest of alleged

accused persons. Thus, holding peaceful local bodies elections can provide answer to this kind of criticism on the law enforcement agencies.
The rangers have done their homework and the statement released after Karachi Corps Commander’s visit to rangers headquarters clearly showed that the operation may not only continue but can pick up the pace.
There are also reports that at the next meeting of the “Apex Committee,” the issue of the recently formed “Grievance and Redresses Committee” formed by the federal government and MQM, may also come up.
The committee, which has not yet started its work, would take up cases of “missing persons.” However, keeping the 2018 general elections in mind, these local bodies elections are also important for MQM’s political rivals particularly Jamaat-i-Islami, JI and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
While the PTI stands very little chances in the interior Sindh, where PPP position by and large remained unchanged, it has pinned all hopes on alliance with JI in Karachi in particular.
The stakes are also high for Jamaat, as it has not regained its lost popularity in urban Sindh, since the emergence of MQM and though in 2001, Naimatullah Khan became mayor, it was due to MQM’s boycott. Therefore, both the PTI and JI joined hands after both experienced defeat in the by-elections in NA-246 at the hands of MQM.
In an interesting development, both the parties have decided to contest on each other’s election symbol in select constituencies. The PTI is facing far more tough situation than the Jamaat, as they are short of Urdu speaking candidates in Urdu speaking constituencies.
As compare to PTI, its alley is more organised in the local bodies in particular.
The third force in Karachi will be Pakistan People’s Party, which still has its pockets in Karachi and in the past even had deputy mayor, more than once besides getting town nazims.
In the backdrop of the ongoing “Karachi operation,” and rising tension of the two parties with the “operational authorities,” the stakes of the two parties are high as they want to retain their positions and control over local bodies. Local bodies are considered nurseries for political parties in the absence of student unions, and both MQM and JI have many things in common.
Both represent the middle class, and leadership of both the parties by and large came from student unions and local bodies, and both had won top slot of mayor in Karachi twice.
MQM has to prove its critics wrong that in the past it has won the elections merely on “muscle power.” Its image had improved after NA-246.
So, if they win in the local bodies as well despite Karachi operation, it will strengthen its political standing in the next general elections.
But in case of any major upset the political scenario can change in Karachi, if not in other parts of Sindh, and MQM will have to work really hard for the next general elections.
So far MQM circles are optimistic about the outcome and in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and in constituencies, where they have also reached understanding with some other groups, where elections will be held in the second phase, next month. The crucial phase will be the last in December in Karachi.
If MQM can get better results in the first two phases, its impact will come in Karachi, as well.
Its closest rival, Jamaat-e-Islami, too has done its homework and its leadership is quite hopeful, too, after its alliance with PTI.
But, both MQM and JI leaders agree that it will be one of the toughest elections for them.
For PPP, the elections are important, as it wants “humiliating” defeat to former interior minister Zulfiqar Mirza, who has formed anti-PPP alliance with former chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim. Interesting alliances have emerged in both rural and urban Sindh, but all these alliances are either against PPP or against MQM. Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami coalition had swept polls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Political parties are in the first phase after its poor show in the by-elections particularly in Karachi and Hyderabad, though in interior Sindh, too, many heavyweights have joined hands against PPP.
Apparently, no major upset is expected in rural and urban Sindh, in the three phases of the local bodies elections, but an intelligence report that some banned organisations have also placed their candidates in different pockets of Karachi poses a big challenge to the law enforcement agencies and can make elections in the economic hub quite tense.
Political activities would be at the peak when elections will be held in the final phase in Karachi, as the result of the other cities would be known and hence will impact the elections in Karachi.
Political pundits are most interested in the political strength of MQM, after Karachi operation, as some felt they are no more as strong as in the past. The MQM has taken it as a challenge and is trying hard to regain the mayor’s slot in Karachi and Hyderabad in particular.
The PTI, which got over eight lakh votes in 2013 general elections could not capitalize the situation in its favor as an “alternative” force in Karachi as yet. Therefore, after by-election experience its local leadership now looked more dependent on JI. So, the emerging scenario in Sindh will have its impact on the political situation at center as well, where ruling PML-N looked under pressure from the PTI in Punjab.
Unlike in Sindh, where the situation by and large may remain unchanged, PML’s stakes are much higher as it wants to control the Municipal Corporation before next general elections. —The writer is the senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

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