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Mustafa Kamal faces tough contest in NA-253


July 11, 2018

An interesting competition is expected between the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in NA-253, Karachi Central-I, as the parties, having a considerable vote bank, have been campaigning tooth and nail here.

Winning this constituency seems like a matter of prestige for PSP as its chairman Mustafa Kamal is contesting two seats from here – the National Assembly and one provincial assembly seat. On the other hand, MQM-P is also set to dent its rival as much as it can with its candidate Usama Qadri, while the MMA, which has fielded Munim Zafar Khan, intends to take full advantage of the fight between the two other parties.

The constituency is drawn on the areas of New Karachi such as its Sector 5 and 11, which previously fell within the electoral groups then known as NA-244 and NA-245. With a population of 745,685, it makes the second largest constituency in District Central. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, 404,053 voters are registered here, of which 43 per cent are women. At least 268 polling stations have been notified across the constituency.

A total of 19 candidates, including five independents, are vying for the NA seat, while 42 are in the run for its two provincial assembly seats – PS-123 and PS-124. PSP’s Naila Munir, MQM-P’s Waseemuddin Qureshi and MMA’s Muhammad Yousaf are top contenders for PS-123, while PSP chief Mustafa Kamal, former Sindh lawmaker Khawaja Izharul Hasan of the MQM-P and Muhammad Khalid Siddiqui of the MMA are among the 22 candidates contesting PS-124.

The MQM has traditionally been winning this constituency while Jamaat-e-Islami has remained the runner-up. However, with an apparent level playing field and the split within the traditional winners, the MMA, an alliance of religio-political parties headed by Jamaat-e-Islami, can also emerge a winner.

The vote seekers

PSP Senior Vice-Chairman Waseem Aftab insisted that a majority of the constituents supported Kamal for his stance against the “mafia” that held the city hostage for three decades and for his development work across the city during his tenure as mayor.

“Within two years, PSP has emerged as the most popular political party in Karachi,” he claimed. “Unlike MQM, we have also set our feet in non-Mohajir localities like Kati Pahari and Lyari. This gives credence to our message of peace and harmony.”

According to Aftab, people will vote for PSP in the general election and it will emerge as the leading political party, at least in the urban centres of the province. Because MQM did nothing for the public, they were facing a backlash wherever they go among them to ask for vote, he said.

Hoping to maintain the party’s winning streak in NA-253, MQM-P coordination committee member Faisal Sabzwari said PSP had no political value for “it was engineered by certain quarters” in the country. He complained that his party workers were being harassed in the constituency and were not allowed to run their campaign.

“Our workers are being victimised by the law-enforcement agencies in the name of the so-called Karachi operation,” Sabzwari said. He asked the ECP to take notice of the situation and answer as to why all the action was against MQM workers when it had claimed to ensure fair elections.

According to Sabzwari, deputy commissioners were not allowing MQM-P to hold its corner meetings while PSP enjoyed a free hand. He said that despite these hurdles, MQM activists who joined PSP “under duress” were returning to the party and the public was supporting it.

JI’s Karachi Information Secretary Zahid Askari said that the tussle between the MQM-P and PSP will benefit the MMA to take the lead. He added that the same people who now have established their different camps have failed to serve the public and now it time for them to face the consequences.

“Though they have won from the areas previously, not to mention how, they were never seen in the public resolving people’s problems or raising a voice for them in the assemblies,” said Askari, taking a jibe at the MQM. “JI, on the other hand, has done the opposite of it. Despite losing the seat, the party devoted itself to public welfare,” he claimed.