Saturday September 25, 2021

Tehreek-e-Labbaik makes entry into Sindh Assembly with two wins in Karachi

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a recently formed political organisation of radical Barelvis that highlighted the blasphemy issue across the country, has won two Sindh Assembly seats from Karachi in the 2018 general elections.

According to the unofficial results hitherto released, the TLP has managed to bag most of the votes cast in PS-115 and PS-107. The party has attracted religious voters as well as benefited from the division in the vote bank of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

Political observers believe that the MQM-London’s call for boycotting the elections had affected the Urdu-speaking progressive vote bank in these constituencies, while the TLP mobilised its own voters to cast their ballots on the polling day to have an additional edge on the MQM-P.

PS-115 (West-IV), Baldia Town, was considered a stronghold of the MQM-P, but the TLP’s Mufti Mohammad Qasim Fakhri bagged more than 21,000 votes to win the seat, while the MQM-P’s candidate finished runner-up with over 16,000 votes.

The TLP’s Mohammad Younus Soomro secured more than 26,000 votes to win the PS-107 (South-I) seat, while Mohammad Asghar of the PTI finished runner-up with almost 16,000 votes.

Barelvi vote bank

Journalist and election observer Ali Arqam said the TLP’s victory in PS-107 and PS-115 seems logical, as both the constituencies boast of a Barelvi vote bank, which appears to have helped them win these seats.

He claimed that the people in these constituencies voted for the TLP in order to punish the MQM-P and the Pakistan Peoples Party. He said that it is not about their narrative, but the parties not paying heed to the supporters while allotting party tickets.  

Media blackout

“Despite the TLP having a substantial vote bank in the city, the media has blacked out our party,” said Mufti Abid Mubarak, whom the TLP had fielded in NA-249 (West-II). He said he would challenge the result of the National Assembly constituency.

“I was the winning candidate, but the result was later changed by the ECP officials assigned to the polling stations,” he claimed, adding that Baldia Town has been the home ground of Sunni Barelvis since their involvement in politics.  

MQM still rules

Political journalist Munir Ahmed Shah, however, said the MQM-P remains the dominant party in Baldia Town. The MQM had won the seat in the previous elections, but this is the first time that it has lost it.

In 1990 Muhammad Saleem Qadri had founded the Sunni Tehreek that gathered Barelvis on a single political platform. Qadri was also a resident of Saeedabad in Baldia Town.  

PS situation

In PS-95 (Korangi-IV), the TLP’s Muhammad Mehboobur Rehman secured 11,643 votes to finish runner-up behind the MQM-P’s Muhammad Jawed Hanif Khan, who bagged 21,524 votes. In PS-96 (Korangi-V), the MQM-P’s Ghulam Jellani secured 19,863 votes, while the TLP’s Muhammad Abu Bakar finished runner-up with 18,962 votes.

According to the unofficial results for PS-109 (South-III), the TLP’s Ahmed finished runner-up with 19,913 votes behind the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Ramzan, who led with 25,345 votes.  

NA position

The unofficial results for NA-241 (Korangi-III) showed that the TLP’s Tahir Iqbal finished runner-up with 19,184 votes behind the PTI’s Faheem Khan, who led with 26,706 votes. In NA-246 (South-I), the TLP’s Ahmed finished runner-up with 42,345 votes behind the PTI’s Abdul Shakoor Shaad, who secured 52,750 votes.

In NA-247 (South-II), the TLP’s Syed Zaman Ali Jaffery finished runner-up with 24,680 votes behind the PTI’s Dr Arifur Rehman Alvi, who bagged 91,020 votes to win the seat for a second time.

Electoral front

The TLP is an electoral front of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY), a Barelvi group with extreme views that was formed to run a campaign for the release of Mumtaz Qadri, who was convicted and executed for the murder of the then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

The TLP and its aggressive stance on blasphemy issues have attracted a significant number of like-minded people to the group. After succeeding in finding popularity among Barelvis, the group turned its focus on Karachi’s electoral politics with the hope to become an influential stakeholder.

Analysts had believed that in some of the city’s localities, such as the old city area, Lyari, Keamari, Mehmoodabad, Korangi, Liaquatabad and New Karachi, the group had been emerging as a challenger to the MQM, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, and was likely to dent their respective vote banks.

The TLP had fielded candidates in all 21 national and 44 provincial assembly constituencies, but the group’s leaders had been mainly focusing on the constituencies containing lower-income Mohajir areas of Liaquatabad and Korangi as well as the affluent Memon and Kutchhi communities.

“The PPP has a support base within the Baloch community in Lyari, but we have been focusing on the congested and populated narrow lanes of the old city area, where the number of votes are higher than Lyari,” the TLP’s Hamid Memon had said.

As for Mufti Abid Mubarak, Barelvi leaders said he is a well-known cleric who has enjoyed popularity for his harsh stance on blasphemy issues and for playing a key role in fighting Deobandi groups, especially the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, over occupation of mosques in the city.

The Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan, a Barelvi party, had won three of the seven NA seats in Karachi in the 1970 elections with a total vote share in the province of 7.4 per cent and three of the 11 in the controversial 1977 polls under the Pakistan National Alliance. However, after the emergence of the MQM in 1978, the JUP lost its considerable vote bank.

After the emergence of the TLY, Barelvi groups and local Milad committees have been supporting the outfit, considering an opportunity to revive the “Barelvi influence” in the city.

Traditionally, most of the Barelvi groups, except the ST, enjoyed a reputation of moderation and non-violence as followers of Sufism. But in recent years, especially after Taseer’s murder, Barelvi groups, especially the TLY, have become more violent on blasphemy-related issues and are gaining political and street power within their community.