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May 2, 2021

NA-249 by-poll voters preferred civic issues to political narratives


May 2, 2021

Unlike the recent by-elections in Punjab that were dominated by political narratives, most of the voters of the NA-249 by-poll in Karachi held this past Thursday decided to focus on the resolution of civic issues, particularly the provision of water.

Keeping in view the severity of civic issues and particularly the scarcity of water in various neighbourhoods of the National Assembly constituency, the by-poll nominees of all the political parties made the water issue, which every resident has been facing for the past several decades, a prominent part of their electioneering.

But being Sindh’s ruling party that also oversees the municipality and district administration, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took full advantage of the opportunity and succeeded in improving its ranking from the sixth position in the 2018 general election to winning the April 29 by-poll.

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Saturday accepted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Miftah Ismail’s application for a recount, and scheduled the hearing for May 4 (Tuesday).

Political analysts and residents associate the increase in the PPP’s votes in NA-249 with local arrangements and promises the party’s leaders made with community elders in various Katchi Abadis (informal settlements).

One of these analysts, Tausif Ahmed Khan, said that unlike in the recent by-polls in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab’s Daska and Wazirabad, for most of the voters in NA-249 resolution of the civic issues in their areas mattered the most.

“Although the PPP managed to win the constituency by promising to resolve the civic issues, it also poses a challenge for the political party ruling the province for the past 13 years in its failure to resolve the basic problem of the city’s residents,” Khan, who closely monitors electoral politics in the city, told The News.

The prolonged war over power and resources has left the residents of Karachi in misery, as civic conditions of the city are getting worse with each passing day, he said.

The residents of the constituency corroborate Khan’s views. Syed Muhammad, a garment factory worker who lives in Gulshan-e-Ghazi, is a staunch supporter of the Awami National Party (ANP), which had announced supporting the PML-N’s Ismail in the by-election.

“Instead of the PML-N, ANP workers led by the party’s district leader Dr Murad campaigned and voted for the PPP’s [Qadir Khan] Mandokhel, because on the recommendation of the party’s leadership, the district administration installed water pipelines in our area within a day during the election drive,” Muhammad told The News.

“After laying down the pipelines, all the residents of our locality unanimously decided to vote for the PPP. Now we are waiting for the PPP to fulfil its promise of bringing us water though those pipelines.”

In some areas, such as Umar Farooq Colony, the district administration carpeted the broken roads, and in some localities installed water and sewerage lines, according to the residents.

To woo Kutchhi voters in some neighbourhoods that largely voted for the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan in the 2018 elections, PPP leaders announced meeting their demand of allotting them a piece of land for a graveyard for the community. Most of the areas in NA-249 lack all basic amenities like drinking water, proper roads and garbage disposal.

“During the electioneering we saw development work in our area for the first time in the past 15 years,” said Ashraf Ali, a resident of Muhammad Khan Colony. “We last saw the repairing of our roads and streets during the city mayorship of Naimatullah Khan in 2003.”