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Karachi

July 16, 2018

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PTI in strong position to exploit weaknesses of opponents in NA-248

Amid the uncertainty prevailing in the race for Karachi’s National Assembly constituency NA-248 (West-I), only the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seems to have the upper hand.

Since 1988 the constituents of the then NA-239 have elected the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to represent them thrice, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) twice and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) once each, while the PTI emerged as another major political force here after it finished runner-up in the previous general elections.

Besides the Manora Cantonment, at least 11 union committees and four union councils of the city’s largest district, namely District West, fall in this constituency.

In the 2015 local government elections, the PML-N took the lead with 15 general councillors, the PTI came in second with nine and the PPP secured considerable seats only in the rural belt, where the fishing communities reside.

A population of 785,158 makes this constituency the second largest in the district. But like other localities in the city where a major chunk of people from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa live, it has one of the lowest numbers of registered voters: 303,258. Forty per cent of them are women.

In the north-west the constituency borders Balochistan, while the Arabian Sea covers it on the western and southern sides. Clockwise, it encompasses Keamari to Mochko through the coastal belt of Hawkesbay.

In between it covers Sher Shah, Ittehad Town, Naval Colony, Yousuf Goth, Mauripur, Baba Bhit, Machhar Colony, Bhutta Village, Gulshan-e-Sikandarabad, Sultanabad, Gabo Pat, Mawach Goth, Lal Bakhar and Mai Garhi.

Among the 12 contestants vying for the NA seat, the most prominent are Muhammad Yousaf of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Muhammad Salman Khan of the PML-N, Gull Muhammad Afridi of the MMA, Abdul Qadir Patel of the PPP, Sardar Aziz of the PTI and Afshan Qamber Ali of the MQM-Pakistan. The provincial assembly constituencies PS-112 and PS-113 as well as a small portion of PS-114 fall under this NA seat.

On the ground

Senior journalist Wakil Ur Rehman, who resides in the NA-248 constituency, said the situation on the ground is still unclear because the locals come from diverse backgrounds and have different take on almost everything, including the parties they are supporting.

Rehman said the voters used to support the PPP, which still has a large vote bank in Baloch, Kutchhi, Memon and Jadoon communities, adding that PPP candidate Abdul Qadir Patel himself belongs to the Kutchhi Memon community.

“But people believe Patel’s party had backed criminal gangs that mostly targeted Kutchhis, so the Kutchhi Memon community may prefer to support the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan instead of the PPP.”

Similarly, he said, the PPP has fielded a non-Jadoon for PS-113, which can weaken the party’s vote bank, because Pashtuns reside in large numbers in the constituency.

On the MMA’s position the journalist said their candidate Gull Muhammad Afridi is popular among labour organisations of the Karachi Port and the Bin Qasim Port, and most of their members live in NA-248.

“Besides their support, the MMA has its own vote bank in the constituency and can prove to be a tough competitor for the PPP. But Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP) candidate Hafiz Aurangzaib can divide the MMA’s Deobandi vote bank.”

Rehman believes that the PTI is in a strong position to exploit the weaknesses of its opponents in the constituency, as not only has it emerged as a widely popular party in the country, it probably also has the support of the Pashtuns living in NA-248, because most of them hail from KP.  

The Pashtun factor

Hoping to win NA-248 for the first time, PTI candidate Sardar Aziz said the MQM, the PML-N and the PPP never returned to ask after their voters after being elected. He said that despite being politically vibrant, the people in most localities of the constituency live below the poverty line.

Talking about the ethnic composition of NA-248, Aziz said the constituency is Pashtun-dominated and the people know full well what improvements the PTI has brought in their home province of KP. “I’m quite confident they’ll like to see the same changes here.”

Beyond ethnicity

PSP candidate Muhammad Yousaf, whose party is fighting an election for the first time since it was formed in 2016, said the constituents like them because PSP chief Mustafa Kamal developed Karachi a lot during his tenure as mayor and because his party talks beyond ethnicity and religion.

“The locals have witnessed killings in the name of ethnicity and religion by the very people who have been associated with their representatives. They won’t go for the same people again, and will choose someone better,” said Yousaf, adding that he believes odds are that the PSP will win.  

Unfulfilled promises

MMA candidate Gull Muhammad Afridi said that most of the constituents earn their livelihood from the sea and live in towns near the coast.

“Since the 70s they have supported the PPP, which was in power in the province for the past decade but did nothing for its voters. They’re still waiting for the promises about basic utilities to be fulfilled.”

He said the PPP’s alleged connection to criminal gangs and land grabbers has given it a bad name, and the people are fed up with politics of violence.

“Because of these crimes the city’s people have stopped visiting the beaches, affecting local businesses.”

He claimed that the MQM’s former MNA Salman Mujahid Baloch had won the seat only because of rigging and that he never came back to enquire after his voters.

Regarding the MMA’s win in the 2002 general elections, Afridi said religious parties have considerable votes in the constituency, and together their alliance is in a better position of securing the seat again.

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