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Winds of change

Opinion

May 5, 2021

Karachi’s demographic features are multicultural, which is why it is called mini-Pakistan. The city comprises multiple ethnic pockets and almost all the political parties in the country have a footprint in this metropolitan city.

Unfortunately, post the 1980s the rigging factor took a rise in the city, after the MQM gained traction in the previously peaceful and progressive city. But today the MQM factor is gone, and all the parties have a level playing field. The creation of the MQM and PPI in the mid-80s was a deliberate attempt to stop the PPP from getting an absolute majority in Sindh but this mechanism turned out to be futile as Karachi became a victim of regional and ethnic politics for three decades.

In the NA-249 by-election in Karachi, after the PTI’s Faisal Vawda resigned from his seat was a pyrrhic victory for Vawda and the PTI as this decision exposed the myth of the PTI’s supposed support base in Karachi. The nailbiting by-election garnered the attention of the entire nation and the media. This by-election was considered a litmus test for the upcoming local bodies and general elections in Karachi, gauging the strength and weakness of all the parties flexing their muscles. In the end, the PPP brilliantly gained the seat leaving all those parties and analysts in shock who were underestimating its presence and roots among the public.

Most people are unaware of the fact that the PPP had a strong vote bank in this constituency. My father Abdullah Baloch, founder leader of the PPP, won this seat in 1970 and 1977; during that period, the PPP provided electricity, gas, water and lease to the people of Baldia Town and areas nearby.

In the 2008 general elections again as the PPP candidate my father bagged 61,000 votes from NA-240 which included Baldia Town, an area that is today in NA-249 after the delimitation exercise. Despite rigging and the support to the MQM from Musharraf who was the president at that time, the PPP gathered record votes but was still deprived of the seat.

Today, after 13 years, when the PPP has managed to gain back its lost seat critics are unreasonably questioning its victory. The demographics of NA-249 show Pashtun and Punjabi voters mainly who were earlier considered as the vote bank of the PTI and PMLN. However, this myth has been broken by the PPP in this by-election. The voter turnout was predictably low because of multiple factors like extreme hot weather, Covid-19 and Ramazan but the PPP still managed to secure the number one position.

The people of Baldia Town rejected the PTI because their MNA Faisal Vawda did not even bother to visit the constituency in the past three years and, despite being minister for water and power, failed to provide water to the people of this constituency. The other major factor behind the PTI’s defeat was the rising inflation and poor governance of the PTI, and PM Khan’s negligence towards Karachi. This will bring a domino effect in Karachi’s politics as the voters after getting ditched by MQM and then by the PTI seek hope in the PPP and its young leadership Bilawal Bhutto who has shown utmost maturity in the hostile political environment of ‘tabdeeli’.

At the same time, the immature response from Maryam Nawaz on this by-election result was certainly in bad taste as no major discrepancy was reported throughout polling day. The confused policy of the PML-N, of resigning from parliament and at the same time contesting by-elections, is beyond any logical sense. Rather than celebrating the opposition's victory against the ruling party, the party is busy creating an unnecessary feud within the opposition.

The result also shows that Karachi is distancing itself from the ethno-regional parties that kept voters hostage for the past 30 years. Today, Karachi is trusting a national party like the PPP so that they can get their due share and legitimate ownership from the centre. Had Imran Khan not bagged crucial seats from Karachi in the 2018 general elections he wouldn't have been able to form his government in the center. But he miserably failed to reciprocate through deliverance as the issues of Karachi are far more complex.

The result of this by-election is a clarion call for the PTI that it has lost the confidence the people of Karachi had reposed in them – and that is a mighty fall. This domino effect will not just end here in NA-249; this wave will shatter the PTI in all the districts of Karachi. After the heavy disappointment from the PTI, Karachi’s voters are keen to give the PPP a chance.

The PPP happens to be a national party with a track record of past performances and so it can better address the core issues of the city. If the PPP becomes the representative party of Karachi then the urban-rural divide and polarization within Sindh will come to an end too, which will be an end to all such political ills.

The writer is a columnist and social activist.

Twitter: @MustafaBaloch_