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Karachi

July 21, 2018

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Irfanullah Marwat, Saeed Ghani in a neck-and-neck fight in PS-104

Saeed Ghani (left) and Irfanullah Marwat-File photo

After almost a year, the provincial constituency of PS-104, one of the toughest and most sensitive constituencies of the metropolis, has again been witnessing heightened electioneering for the July 25 general elections.

Irfanullah Marwat, a politician who won the seat in past several polls, has been working hard to regain the seat, which was won by Pakistan Peoples Party Karachi president Saeed Ghani in a by-poll in July last year.

In the PS-104 constituency, which was PS-114 before the delimitation, Marwat and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had fought election battles neck and neck in the past several polls, but last year Ghani emerged as a new stakeholder by winning the constituency in the absence of Marwat.

The constituency comprises Mehmoodabad No 1 to Mehmoodabad No 6, Chanesar Goth, Manzoor Colony, Akhtar Colony, Azam Basti, Kashmir Colony, Defence View and other localities.

Marwat factor

In the past three general elections, Marwat won PS-114 twice and, according to analysts, it is mainly because of his personal clout, and not because of the political parties he has been associated with. This time, he is in the run under the banner of the Grand Democratic Alliance, an electoral alliance formed under the leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-Functional chief Pir Pagara mainly to counter the PPP in rural Sindh.

Marwat won the constituency in the 2013 general elections on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ticket, but his victory was declared void by an election tribunal in July 2014.

On May 11, 2017, the Supreme Court ordered re-polling for PS-114, dismissing Marwat’s appeal challenging the tribunal’s decision. The seat fell vacant after the top court’s verdict unseated Marwat. However, Marwat did not take part in the by-poll.

“I have been serving the residents of the constituency for the past several decades. It is the reason that they love and vote for me,” Marwat told The News after his return from the funeral of his son-of-law, Haroon Bilour, an Awami National Party candidate who was killed in a suicide attack on July 10 in Peshawar.

Residents of the constituency organised a condolence gathering on Azam Basti Road, where hundreds of people gathered to condole with him.

Locally, Marwat has made a seat adjustment with the PML-N, which has a solid vote bank having from 6,000 to 10,000 votes, mainly from various Punjabi communities. According to the alliance, Marwat will support former finance minster Miftah Ismail, the PML-N candidate for National Assembly constituency NA-244, while for the provincial assembly seat, the PML-N will support Marwat. Also, the ANP and the proscribed ASWJ have also announced support for Marwat.

PPP a new stakeholder

Despite Ghani and other leaders residing in the constituency, the PPP could not become a significant stakeholder in the area in the past three general elections since 2002. In the 2013 polls, Marwat won the seat with 37,130 votes, defeating the MQM’s Rauf Siddiqui, who secured 30,305 votes, the PTI’s Israr Abbasi, who bagged 13,807 votes, and the PPP’s Sajjad Ahmed Pappi, who got only 3,827 votes.

However, in last year’s by-poll, he emerged as an influential contester in the electoral battle by winning the seat, bagging 23,797 votes, defeating the MQM’s Kamran Tessori, who secured 18,000 votes.

The PPP is confident that it would win the by-poll because Ghani is a local of the constituency, the development work he carried out in his eight months’ tenure and has a good reputation. He was elected the nazim of the Chanesar Goth union council in 2001 and his brother, Farhan Ghani, was elected chairman for the neighbourhood in the December 2015 local government polls.

Keep in mind that the Christian votes in the constituency can play a decisively role, Ghani has successfully established a support base among the community. According to Christian activists in the area, because of Ghani, the PPP for the first time in Sindh has sent a Christian to the Senate and nominated two community members for reserved seats for minorities.

“Residents will vote for me on the basis of my eight- month performance and development work in the constituency,” Ghani told The News. However, he alleged that certain police officers residing in the area and recruited by Marwat when he was advisor on home affairs in the 1990s had been threatening his supporters. “I demand to declare all polling stations in the constituency and army and Rangers should be deputed there on the election day,” he said. However, Marwat denies Ghani’s allegations.

Test for MQM-P

Satisfied with the results of the July by-poll last year by bagging 18,000 votes, the MQM believes that it is still a potent political force in the city’s Urdu-speaking localities in the constituency, and the votes are likely to be divided in the non-Mohajir areas among the GDA, the PPP, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal.

The MQM in the past fielded Rauf Siddiqui in the constituency and in the by-poll it filed Kamran Tessori, but this time it has fielded Khurram Shahzad. Tessori is also contesting in the constituency as an independent candidate, while the Pak Sarzameen Party, a party formed by former MQM leaders, has given the ticket to Shuakhat Zaman Khan.

The PTI has fielded District South’s vice-chairman Mansoor Ahmed Shaikh in the constituency, while the MMA has fielded Zahoor ul Haq, who is a former UC nazim. Keeping in view the incidents of the past polls in the constituency, local analysts believe that supporters of various candidates can create a law and order situation there.

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