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January 1, 2019

2018 left Karachi’s political landscape transformed

Karachi

January 1, 2019

At the end of 2018, mainstream political equation for Karachi appeared as: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is greater than the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which is greater than the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) which is greater than the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which is greater than the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

If the number of National and Sindh Assembly seats is a good measure of how much stake political parties have in the provincial capital inhabited by people of various lingual, cultural and religious backgrounds, it is these five political parties – PTI, MQM-P, PPP, TLP and MMA – which are currently the largest stakeholders of the city.

PTI’s surprise and challenges

On the eve of July 25, the city was in a shocking surprise. The PTI was leading the polls and people were witnessing the fall of once-formidable local force, the MQM. Despite there were allegations of rigging – as usual, the inclination of people towards a change, motivated by the countrywide wave of the PTI or by local reasons, could not be denied.

As the PTI won 14 of 21 National Assembly seats from the city, some thought Karachi was breathing again while for others, the city had again been put on oxygen. One thing was certain though that the ‘land of opportunities’ offered chances to all. The PTI stood its chance and now residents of the city expect it to deliver.

Hosting over 20 million people with whatever resources could be made out of it, the city is being threatened with a waning ecosystem. Here, water has been becoming an expensive and rare commodity, power is already pricey and the value of land is sky-high. All these factors have increased the cost of living, making it hard for those, who earn less than the already-insufficient minimum wage, to afford a proper meal every day.

Before becoming the prime minister, PTI chief Imran Khan had claimed on several occasions that Karachi would be made the ‘city of lights’ again if his party came into power. Now it is the time for him to fulfil those promises and bring some relief to people of the city who have lately been experiencing violence, crime, inflation, scarcity of water and lack of transport facilities.

Most of the people who voted for the PTI in the July 25 general elections were the young generation who were disappointed by the overall performance of the MQM between 2002 and 2018, when it represented the city in the assemblies. They thought of Khan’s party, which exhibits a mix of liberal and rightist viewpoints, as a better option to get rid of the fascist tendencies of the MQM.

MQM-P’s crisis and hopes

The last year was definitely not a good one for the MQM-P. The party was already struggling in maintaining its support base after disassociating itself from its founder Altaf Hussain, when in February, it further split into two factions – PIB and Bahadurabad – spearheaded by Farooq Sattar and Amir Khan respectively.

In the elections in July, it lost its sway of Karachi of almost 30 years to the PTI and was reduced to number two on the urban populace’s representation table.

The internal rift has cost the MQM-P a considerable workforce. While many workers chose sides with either of the PIB and Bahadurabad factions, a significant number of workers distanced themselves from both the groups and became politically inactive. Some of the workers have lost interest in politics as they are annoyed with the party’s policies and practices while others have been struggling to perform due to ineffective infrastructure of the party since it was brought down by the security agencies.

If the party does not repeat the same mistakes, it is confident that it will again become the largest party of the city. Having joined the PTI-led federal government, the MQM-P enjoys two federal ministries, those of IT and telecommunication, and law and justice, and expects to meet expectations of the people of Karachi.

The MQM-P is trying to utilise the available resources for the benefit of party workers, voters and supporters to convince them that the party cares for them. Leaders of the party believe that in the current situation they have no option but to deliver to the people who supported it on the elections day, lest the MQM-P would lose them too. Though the party’s Mohajir narrative is still relevant in the political scenario of Karachi, many people are reluctant to buy it anymore as they perceive that previous actions of the party have proved that the narrative was merely a bait to get votes.

PPP flexes muscles

Though the PPP has never been able to appear prominent on the city’s political map but it maintains power here being in the provincial government. With the MQM-P in disarray, the PPP tried to cash in on the former’s party workers by inviting them to join ranks with it. However, its efforts were not successful enough.

The party was able to get some of its candidates elected to the National and provincial assemblies from Karachi, mainly from constituencies comprising the city’s suburbs.

TLP causes tension

Basing its politics on religious sentiments, the TLP managed to secure two provincial assembly seats from Karachi – its only general seats in the Sindh Assembly – and one reserved seat for women. However, many fear that if the party continued the similar politics, it might raise intolerance in society, which is already volatile.

MMA

With only one provincial assembly seat, the MMA, like the TLP, is representing the right wing mindsets in the city. Pinning hope on the ‘level playing field’ that was said to be given in 2018 to all political actors, with a few exceptions, the MMA had fielded its candidates across the city. However, the polling reflected that their narrative was not of much use for the people of the city.

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