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July 25, 2018

Karachi to give surprise results


July 25, 2018

Election-2018 will produce surprise results in Karachi for the first time in almost 30 years of its history. No one knows even 24 hours before the polling day which party will get majority seats out of 21 National Assembly and 43 Sindh Assembly seats. However, the main contestant parties are five, i.e. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pak-Sarzameen Party (PSP).

Therefore, the result of July-25 will be a mix of all these parties, beside some upsets on one or two seats. The election campaign in Karachi has remained a low-key affairs, or was kept so. The MQM-P and PSP could be directly affected in case a boycott call from London makes any impact on the Urdu-speaking voters, the benefit of which will go to the MMA and the PTI.

The election will not be a walkover for all of the three party heads: Bilawal Bhutto, Imran Khan and Shahbaz Sharif. They are all facing tough fight from their rival candidates.

Any party among the five would be satisfied if they get six to eight NA seats, and more will be a bonus for them.

Other parties that can produce surprise results include Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Ahle Sunnat Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), who are confident of winning few seats in NA or PS.

ASWJ leader Aurangzeb Farooqui's position is strong after getting support from the PML-N, PTI and PPP's former leader, Muzzafar Ali Shijra in NA-238.

But, this election is the toughest one for the MQM-P, which had won 18 out of 20 NA seats in 2013. It would be wrong to judge the present MQM with the one in 2013.

It will be an uphill task for the MQM-P to retain that figure in view of the variety of reasons including split in the party one after another, the London factor, non-political pressure etc.

However, in the last two weeks, it has improved its position and is confident of giving surprises to all those political pundits who had ruled out MQM chances beyond three to four seats. "We will surprise many, although we are contesting elections against all odds,” MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari told the writer.

In fact, the MQM is contesting elections after suffering from three splits in the last three years, which has added to the confusion among its voters. Many have also switched their loyalties to parties like the PSP and PTI. In 2002, even the united MQM had lost six seats to MMA, an alliance of Jammat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), besides some other religious parties.

The MQM has fielded some experienced candidates in the elections. They include Dr Farooq Sattar, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Ms Kishwar Zehra and Aminul Haq, Rauf Siddiqui, Iqbal Mohammad Khan alias Deputy Iqbal beside others.

MQM-P’s key rival PSP is even more confident of winning almost all MQM seats of 2013, as claimed by its chairman, Mustafa Kamal, who himself may face a tough fight against the MQM old worker and former MPA Osama Qadri. Kamal is also contesting on PS seat from the same constituency against MQM central leader Khwaja Izharul Hasan. The PSP has put up mixture of former MQM legislators and new candidates including former PTI founding member Fouzia Kasuri.

The MMA, on the other hand, has also fielded some experienced candidates and is confident of giving few surprises in a bid to regain its 2002 position. These include Mohammad Hussain Mehnti, Dr Merajul Huda Siddiqui, Asadullah Bhutto, Hafiz Naim, Laiq Ahmad, Zahid Saeed and Saifuddin. The alliance may cause upset on three to four seats as a result of split vote between the MQM and PSP.

One party, which surprised many in 2013 election, was the PTI, when it won one NA and three PS seats in direct elections and pulled some eight lakh votes. The difference which the PTI made was its support in MQM's strong constituencies. It even made inroads into the families of MQM workers and supporters.

The PTI surprise depends on its repeat performance, new voters and families. Although party chairman, Imran Khan had once contested the election from here in 1997, when the party was not even one-year old and lost is now contesting from the tough seat of NA-243 against MQM-P, PSP and MMA candidates.

The PTI has fielded a mix of experienced and new candidates including Dr Arif Alvi, who had also won in 2013, Amir Liaquat Hussain (former MQM leader), Ali Zaidi, Faisal Wada and others. They too are confident of improving their position in the forthcoming elections and they stand a fair chance.

This election is also a test for the PPP as to how much party has improved its position in Karachi where, in the past, it never won more than two or three seats. This time, delimitation of constituencies in many areas can help the parties like Malir, which has now been divided into three NA seats and PPP could win at least two.

Thus, PPP Karachi President Saeed Ghani is confident of giving surprise to many by winning five to six NA seats. But, the big test is for the PPP, which would have to ensure that Bilawal Bhutto not only wins from Lyari, in his first election but also with big margin. The PPP strong candidates include former MNAs, Hakim Baloch, Qadir Patel and Abdul Aziz Memon.

This will also be a big election for the PML-N, as its president, Shahbaz Sharif, is contesting from NA-249 and party is confident that he will win in view of party's performance in the last local bodies elections as they won few UCs from this constituency. Therefore, the party considered it as a risk worth taking.

Beside Shahbaz, the party has fielded PML-N Sindh President Saleem Zia against PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto from NA-246. Zia is confident of causing an upset, but not many people in the area shared this view, though the PML-N has a vote bank in some parts of Lyari.

Thus, the election in Karachi is wide open with all kinds of surprise results for 21 NA and 43 PS seats.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The NEWS and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO