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NA-243 hopefuls eye former MQM stronghold

Karachi

July 5, 2018

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Predominantly comprising the mighty Gulshan-e-Iqbal – a Karachi locality where living standards and literacy rates are relatively better, NA-243 has been in the limelight this election season as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is contesting from there.

Also read: Election 2018 coverage

With a population of 695,588, NA-243 is the least populated constituency in District East. A total of 15 candidates are contesting for the National Assembly seat, while 43 candidates are vying for the two provincial assembly seats – PS-101 and PS-102.

Elections exclusive: How will Pakistan vote?

Before this year’s delimitation, the constituency was known as NA-253 and has been a stronghold of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Its candidates Muzammil Qureshi and Haider Abbas Rizvi won the previous 2013 and 2008 elections from there, respectively. However, unlike previous elections, this time the competition seems to be a tough fight for MQM as all major parties have fielded their prominent leaders from the constituency for the NA seat.

NA aspirants

Muzammil Qureshi, who is now contesting NA-243 on the ticket of Pak Sarzameen Party, hopes that he will win the polls again because of his previous performance and the popularity of his new party. “Aside from my work, people admire the vision of my leader Mustafa Kamal who spent Rs300 billion in development works when he was nazim, but there is not even a single allegation of corruption against him,” he said.

According to Qureshi, people have seen Karachi developing during Kamal’s tenure and they believe that if given a chance he can do it even better. He said the other candidates may not make it to success because they are not the “real” representatives of the constituents as most of them don’t even live here.

Meanwhile, rival MQM-P has fielded Ali Raza Abidi, its tech-savvy leader who has a strong presence on social media and a history of defending his party and offending the PTI trolls on Twitter.

Abidi, who won the 2013 election from the former NA-251, said people will vote from him and his party because they are the natives and not the “parachuters” who just appear in the constituency to ask for votes.

“Despite hardships, we have been here among our people to be with them no matter what,” he said. “We have resolved their issues considerably, if not completely, by doing the work we were assigned by them.”

The reassembled religio-political parties’ alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which won from the area in 2002, has fielded Usama Razi. The MMA candidate is hopeful that history will repeat itself now because, he believes, residents of Gulshan-e-Iqbal and its adjoining areas traditionally favour religious parties. According to Razi, even in the times when MQM maintained a sway over the metropolis, the constituents voted for his primary party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

He claimed that despite not having the mandate in the past 10 years, his party has done all it could do to resolve the issues of the residents of the area. “We are hopeful that if we are elected to power, we will invest all our energies to serve the public,” he said.

The Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians has fielded veteran leader and former Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Shehla Raza for the national assembly seat. Despite repeated efforts, she could not be reached for comment by the time this report was filed.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan has not provided his contact details in his nomination form and the other leaders of his party were not available for comment on his bid for the NA seat.

PS hopefuls

Among the 43 candidates vying for the two provincial assembly seats from the constituency – PS-101 and PS-102 – is actor Ayub Khosa, who is contesting PS-101 on a PPPP ticket.

He said people should vote for his party because this time Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the young PPPP chairman, will himself look after the performance of its MNAs and MPAs.

“Bilawal is an energetic and promising leader who, following the legacy of her mother, Benazir Bhutto, wants to make whatever is mentioned in the manifesto happen.”

“Though, the mandate of urban centres was not with us previously but we hope that people will give us a chance because unlike previously we can exercise our democratic right to ask for vote by going door to door,” he said, claiming his party brought about the restoration of law and order in the city.

Arsalan Taj Ghumman, who is contesting PS-102 on a PTI ticket, said the people of Karachi have had enough of the notion that they should vote for the local party because despite voting for the same people for the past 30 years, their conditions remained unchanged.

“Karachi is the economic hub of the country so it needs a national level party which can address its issues at the top forums and make arrangements to resolve them,” Ghumman said. He claimed that PTI has higher chances to form a government at the Centre and its chairman is himself contesting the polls from the city. “It is the best opportunity for the people to elect a person who, like them, is struggling to bring a change in the traditional political scene.”

Others contesting PS-101 on prominent party tickets include, Babar Qamar Alam from MMA; Perveen Bashir from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz; Syed Firdous Shamim Naqvi from PTI and Syed Muhammad Kashif Ali from the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi. Moreover, Muhammad Salman is contesting on a PSP ticket and MQM-P has fielded Muhamamd Haroon Siddiqui.

From PS-102, PTI has nominated Arsalan Taj Hussain and MQM-H has nominated Syed Arifur Rehman, while Syed Qutub Ahmed is contesting on an MMA ticket. Moreover, Syed Farhan Ansari is vying for the seat on a PSP ticket; Sheikh Yasir Adeel on a PML-N ticket, Muhammad Arsalan Khan from MQM-P, Muhammad Ashfaq from the Grand Democratic Alliance and Muhammad Riaz from the PPPP, among the other candidates.

Civic facilities

All candidates interviewed for this report said the constituency faces the issues of water and power provision, sewerage and garbage disposal, overburdened road network, lack of public education and health facilities, and unplanned development.

They claimed that if elected to assemblies they would raise these issues on that forum for their constituents and ensure their grievances are addressed.

Residents told The News that the prevalence of crime is also a cause of concern. Jasim Rizvi, a resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Block 5, said it is one of the areas where such street crime and house robberies were worrisome for locals. “People feel unsafe when they go out,” he said.

Commenting on the lack of women contesting from the area, Fasahat Fatima, a resident of New Town vicinity, lamented that even though women make up 47 per cent of registered voters in the constituency, there is only one woman candidate among the 15 contesting – Shehla Raza of the PPPP.

“How can we expect them [political parties] to raise a voice for us in the assemblies when they don’t even consider giving us tickets to contest elections,” said Fatima.

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