Odds are in Shehbaz’s favour for NA-249 seat as ANP and JUI-F put their weight behind him

Odds are in Shehbaz’s favour for NA-249 seat as ANP and JUI-F put their weight behind him

July 10, 2018

If there’s one National Assembly constituency in Karachi that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) can actually hope to win, it’s NA-249 (West-II). Former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, the current PML-N chief, himself is contesting for the seat and, to pave the way for his win, the party has reportedly already made some arrangements.

While the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have formally announced their support for Sharif in the constituency, reports suggest that the PML-N is in talks with other players as well.

If a major contender such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) also throws its weight behind Sharif, it may be enough for the PML-N to secure the seat because the party already has a considerable vote bank in the constituency.

New constituency

NA-249 is a new constituency, comprising the localities of Baldia Town, Ittehad Town, Rasheedabad and Mominabad, which previously fell under the adjoining constituencies of NA-239, NA-240, NA-241 and NA-242.

Despite the multi-ethnic composition of the constituency, the MQM has been winning this seat traditionally. With a population of 782,776, it is the third largest constituency in the city’s largest district.

However, the total number of registered voters here is 342,166, of whom 37 per cent are women.

Level playing field

According to journalist Ali Arqam, the disparity in the population and registered voters is because of a considerable Pashtun population that migrated from the north-western parts of the country in search of job opportunities and due to militancy and the subsequent crackdown on terrorists.

“So, either they have been unable to get their CNICs from Nadra, courtesy of its complex rules, or their vote is registered in their hometown,” said Arqam, adding that the issue has persisted since 2008, and the migrants have not cast a vote for all these years.

“Previously, this void has benefitted the MQM,” he said, adding that the new delimitation has made it difficult for any political party, especially for the traditional winner, to maintain this seat. It seems there’s a level playing field for everyone now, and the competition will be tough, he concluded.

Major players

Fifteen candidates, including six independents, are contesting for this seat. Besides Sharif, other prominent nominees include Faisal Vawda of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Syed Attaullah Shah of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Dr Fouzia Hameed of the Pak Sarzameen Party, Qadir Khan Mandokhail of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Aslam Shah of the MQM-P.

Moreover, a total of 61 candidates are vying for clinching the three provincial assembly constituencies that fall under NA-249, namely PS-115, PS-116 and PS-118.

Agreement with ANP

ANP Sindh General Secretary Younus Khan Buneri said Sharif had sought their support for the seat, adding that after a discussion, the ANP accepted his request and withdrew its candidate, former Baldia Town nazim Haji Aurangzeb.

He said that in exchange, the PML-N has also withdrawn its candidate for NA-250, Muhammad Munawar Raza, in favour of the ANP’s Shahi Syed. However, he added, the agreement doesn’t extend to provincial assembly seats.

Fighting an ‘alliance’

Regarding the prospects for the PML-N winning NA-249, party leader Asad Usmani said that soon another major candidate will withdraw in favour of Sharif. He said the party already has eight union committee chairpersons in the constituency and the locals support them.

MQM-P leader Aminul Haque refuted the reports that the party is supporting Sharif for the seat. He said that no such talks have been held between the two parties. “We shall win this seat as we always have.”

PTI candidate Vawda said he is practically competing against more or less an alliance of four political parties: the ANP, the MQM-P, the JUI-F and the PML-N. “But these parties are not as popular as the PTI in the area.”

He said Sharif doesn’t even know what problems the residents of this constituency face. “He just wants to gain political mileage by giving an impression that the people of Karachi have accepted him.”

Vawda will also be facing off his party colleague for the seat. Despite being a senior PTI member in the locality, Abdul Qayyum Khan Kundi was not awarded a party ticket for the general elections, so he is vying for NA-249 as an independent.

Political observers believe that Kundi’s disagreement with his party can divide the PTI’s vote bank in the constituency and help increase the PML-N’s chances of winning the seat.

Hoping for the best

Basharat Awan, a resident, spoke to The News about the problems that his district has been facing. He said District West has been braving the worst of the power and water crises than any other district of the city.

Awan said crime and unplanned development have also compounded the woes of the locals. While he wasn’t too confident if the next representatives of the district will be able to resolve these issues, he still hoped for the best, because “there is no other way”.