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April 20, 2015

‘Mohajir card’ – all key parties contesting by-polls using it


April 20, 2015

All key political parties contesting the by-polls for NA-246 - a constituency heavily dominated by the Urdu-speaking community or Mohajirs - claim that they are against linguistic politics, but political analysts believe that they have started using the “Mohajir card” to attract voters.
In the by-elections scheduled to be held on April 23, the main contest is expected to be between Mutahida Qaumi Movement’s Kunwar Naveed Jamil, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Ismail and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Rashid Naseem.
Usman Moazaam, a leader of Pasban, a breakaway group of the JI, is also contesting the by-polls but analysts do not consider him a “serious” contender.
The constituency covers a large area with Liaquatabad and Azizabad areas in its heart abd 82 percent of the residents belonging to the Urdu-speaking community. Besides a significant Shia vote bank, there are also the Ismaili and Memon communities whose hearts need to be won.
Analysts who observe the electoral politics of the city are of the view that even national-level political parties are compelled to use the Mohajir card in the by-polls because of the ethnic demography of the constituency.

The Mohajir factor
The MQM, the strongest political party in the constituency that has been winning the seat since 1988, started using the Mohajir card by saying that “outsiders” have been trying to “conquer” Mohajir neighbourhoods after the raid on Nine Zero, the party’s headquarters in Azizabad, the arrest of its activists and the chain of events that followed.
MQM leaders and activists say that a conspiracy has again been hatched against the Mohajirs and this time, the PTI is being used for this purpose.
Addressing a public gathering on April 18, MQM chief Altaf Hussain said he had earned respect for Mohajirs and given them courage and today nobody had the courage to lay a hand on them.
“It is the MQM which has always raised the voice against injustice

and atrocities against the Mohajir community,” he said in another telephonic speech to party activists.
The PTI, after closely analysing the ethnic demographic reality of NA-246, started playing the same Mohajir card as well.
“I am myself half Mohajir,” said Imran Khan, the PTI chief, told reporters on April 8 in Karachi, maintaining that his family had also migrated to Pakistan. He also announced that he would offer prayers at the MQM’s “martyrs’ monument” in Azizabad.
“Many good cricket and hockey players and bureaucrats were Mohajirs. But the gun politics that started in Karachi after 1985 in the name of Mohajirs pushed the community back,” Khan said at a public gathering on Sunday.
After Khan described himself as half Mohajir, Moazzam, the Pasban candidate, demanded that Karachi should be given the status of a province and also organised a rally on Sunday for this purpose.
The JI leaders too have said several times that the voters of the constituency would reject the “outsiders”. Sources within the JI said the party’s Urdu-speaking Karachi leaders had resisted the pressure of the central leadership to withdraw its candidate in favour of the PTI.

Not a new trend
Political analysts say that it is not new for political parties that claim to be national parties to use ethnic or regional cards to attract voters.
“It’s not for the first time. We have seen such examples in the past,” said Dr Tausif Ahmed Khan, a Karachi-based political observer.
“The PPP, despite being a federalist party, used the ‘Sindh card’ to get votes in the rural areas there while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz similarly uses the ‘Punjab card’ to attract voters in that province,” he added.
As NA-246 is considered to be an MQM stronghold where any non-Urdu-speaking candidate has won only with the party’s backing, the party has tried to portray itself as a national party rather than a regional one by fielding non-Mohajir candidates for the constituency.
In the last three elections – two general and one by-poll - the MQM fielded Azizullah Brohi, Nisar Ahmed Panhwar and Nabil Gabol for NA-246.
The PTI is also using its Urdu-speaking leaders – Ismail, Arif Alvi, Firdous Shamim Naqvi and others – in the election campaign for the constituency.
“We are not outsiders and also belong to the Mohajir community. It is a fact that the city has an Urdu-speaking majority and we have a substitute Urdu-speaking leadership that can save the community from violence and isolation,” commented a central leader of the PTI.