Unpacking local politics: alliances and rivalries

October 23, 2022

Local politics in various Karachi districts is shaped by ethnicity, community identity and political parties

Unpacking local politics: alliances and rivalries


he News on Sunday takes a look at various Karachi districts, their population make-up, political inclinations and popular issues; and how these shape local politics in Pakistan’s biggest metropolitan.

District South

In Karachi’s District South, there are two towns: Saddar Town and Lyari. The political situation in Saddar remains unclear as voters are divided among various parties including the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan and the Sunni Tehreek. However, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Peoples Party are also holding events more actively to attract the voters.

A majority of the candidates belongs to Urdu-speaking communities. But voters hail from Bohra, Ismaili and Cutchi Memon communities in some union committees of Saddar Town. A few contestants belonging to these communities are contesting as well. Contestants from four major political parties, namely the PPP, the PTI, the JI, and the TLP, may give a tough time to one another in the elections.

The PPP has fielded more candidates in Lyari Town than other parties. However, its estranged workers may create some problems for them. The JI candidates could exploit such a divide in the PPP’s vote bank. An interesting contest is likely in Lyari’s UC-5 as former District Municipal Corporation chairman Malik Riaz, who belongs to the PPP, is in the run. However, other political parties including the JI, the JUI-F and the PTI could give him a tough time.

A majority of the candidates from Lyari Town are Baloch or Cutchi. However, Pashtun and Urdu-speaking candidates are also contesting some UCs of the town where voters include Cutchi, Baloch, Pashtun and Urdu-speaking people.

The TLP candidate, Mohammad Younus Soomro, who had won PS-107 in the 2018 general elections, rarely visits his constituency. This has compromised TLP’s position against other parties.

The PTI candidates are also divided in two groups in Lyari. One is supported by the alienated PTI MNA Shakoor Shad, who was unhappy over the party ticket distribution among UC candidates. Later, differences between Shad and PTI grew to such an extent that he challenged his resignation in the Islamabad High Court in a breach of party policy. The PTI-Sindh has sought disciplinary action against Shad, whose party membership has been suspended.

District Kemari

In the newly carved district of Kemari, which largely comprises underprivileged and rural areas of the city such as Mauripur, Shershah, Baldia, and their suburbs, the Barelvi factor can be decisive. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan has a strong presence in many union committees (UCs) of Baldia and Mauripur Towns.

The Pashtun community is dominant in Ittehad Town’s UCs. A majority of the candidates in Kemari, irrespective of party affiliation, belong to the Pashtun community’s Jadoon clan. Likewise, Cutchi candidates are leading in UC-9 Bhutta village and Urdu-speaking in Baldia Town.

Touching the western coast of the city, the district comprises three towns — Baldia Town, which has 13 UCs inclusive of 52 wards; Mauripur Town with 11 UCs comprising 44 wards; and Moriro Mirbahar Town with eight UCs and 32 wards. The Baldia and Mauripur towns largely comprise underprivileged areas and slums; the Moriro Mirbahar Town consists of rural as well as suburban areas. In some UCs of Baldia and Mauripur towns, tough competition is expected between the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The popularity of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which earlier had a strong presence in Baldia Town, seems to have waned with the rise of the TLP. Another player in the fray that should not be underestimated is the Jamaat-i-Islami whose Rights of Karachi campaign has attracted many voters.

The JI vote bank is more likely to affect the PTI than the TLP. In the 2018 general elections, Faisal Vawda of the PTI had won the National Assembly seat from Baldia Town, defeating (now prime minister) Shahbaz Sharif by a close margin. After Vawda resigned from the seat to move to the Senate, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Qadir Khan Mandokhail won the seat in the by-polls. In some UCs of Baldia Town, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is a major political party. In the last local government elections, a significant number of the UCs in the town were won by the PML-N.

To add to the complexity of the electoral landscape, various political parties have forged inconsistent alliances in District Kemari. Parties uniting in one UC are opposing each other in another.

The PPP has fielded joint candidates with the JUI-F in three UCs in Baldia Town and with PML-N in two UCs in Mauripur. A joint candidate of the JI and the ANP is facing the PPP and JUI-F alliance in the Shershah UC where \ PTI is a strong contender. In Moriro Mirbahar Town (former SITE Town), the PPP candidates are considered favourites. However, in some UCs, the TLP and the PTI may cause an upset. In Mauripur Town, estranged workers of the PPP have formed an independent panel in two UCs against the party nominees. Some estranged PPP workers are also divided over the town mayorship in Mauripur.

Unpacking local politics: alliances and rivalries

The division among the PPP workers and local leaders may create difficulties for the party in the upcoming local elections. Munir Ahmed Shah, a senior journalist and resident of Kemari Town says: “Some PPP local leaders were unhappy with party policies. Some of them have formed independent panels that have made alliance with other parties. However, the PTI is also facing a similar problem, especially in some UCs of Baldia and Mauripur towns.”

“The PPP led provincial government has carved out Kemari District from District West to create another PPP stronghold. But with PPP’s estranged workers and the strong presence of the PTI and the TLP, it is going to be hard for the PPP to dominate the district. However, the PPP will not face a tough contest in Moriro Mirbahar Town, based in suburban areas.

District Malir

Having won a recent by-election in Malir, the PPP should be confident in the district. But estranged workers and local leaders of the party could cause a major setback for the party in the district.

Due to differences among party’s local leaders, some PPP workers have fielded several candidates against the PPP nominees. However, the party can easily win a number of UCs comprising suburbs of Gadap and Ibrahim Hyderi. The district is considered one of PPP’s strongholds in the city. District Malir includes areas like Cattle Colony, Shah Latif Town, Feature Colony, Mansehra Colony, Steel Town, Malir, Khokhrapar, Rehri Goth and Quaidabad. The district has been divided into three towns namely Gadap Town, Malir Town, and Ibrahim Hyderi.

There are 30 UCs comprising 120 wards across the district. Gadap Town has 9 UCs with 36 wards; Malir Town has 10 UCs with 40 wards; and Ibrahim Town has 11 UCs including 44 wards. The JI and Rajakhail Panel have formed an electoral alliance against the PPP in the Feature Colony and Mansehra Colony UCs.

This is why the PPP’s chances are not that good here. JI’s Maraj Khan who had won UC-7 of Sherpao Colony in the last local body election is again contesting from the same area. He is likely to retain the UC. In District Malir, the Pakistan Democratic Movement parties are contesting the LG elections against one another. However, there are two large alliances in the district. One electoral alliance was formed by the PPP with the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) while the Awami National and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) have made another alliance.

Campaigning by these two alliances is at its peak in Malir and Ibrahim Hyderi towns. Local PTI leaders have also formed an electoral alliance with the Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party. Some of the the PTI provincial leaders have opposed the decision taken by local leaders of the party. However, PTI’s local leaders have fielded joint candidates with the PRHP in some UCs. Sartaj Khan, a political observer from Malir, says that the PPP and its allies are facing two big challenges in the district.

“On one hand, the PPP candidates are in the run against strong candidates of the PTI and the PRHP. On the other, PPP’s estranged local leaders, who were not awarded tickets from Malir Town and Ibrahim Hyderi, are contesting from a splinter platform — the PPPP. These estranged workers are backed by some PPP MNAs and MPAs because of their differences with district-level party leadership.”

“In Malir and Ibrahim Hyderi towns, the PPP and the PPPP candidates are facing each other,” says Sartaj Khan, adding that the PPP leadership has convened several meetings in District Malir to resolve the matter but failed.

The PPP, however, is confident of winning a majority of seats because of alliances it has made in various UCs. In addition, Gadap Town is considered a PPP stronghold. It is expected that the PPP will manage to elect town chairman in the district after some bargaining with other parties.

District West

In District West, the PPP and the JI have fielded the most candidates. West is the only district in Karachi where the Awami National Party has fielded a complete panel in only one UC. In a majority of the UCs, the JI and the ANP candidates have made electoral alliances. To counter this alliance, the PPP has formed an alliance with the JUI-F.

In Orangi Town, candidates contesting from the MQM-P platform seem dominant. However, the PSP, the TLP and the Mohajir Qaumi Movement can dent their vote bank. Some political pundits also say that the MQM-London could announce a boycott of the local election to create difficulties for the MQM-P candidates in Orangi. For now, however, the MQM-P and the ANP, which were staunch rivals up until a few years ago, have made an electoral alliance in one UC. Likewise, the MQM-P and the PML-N candidates are contesting together in some areas.

In MPR Colony, estranged workers of the PPP have made an alliance with the JUI-F against the party but PPP Karachi president Saeed Ghani is said to have addressed their grievances. In the Manghopir UC, two Pashtun nationalist parties have formed alliances with religious parties. The ANP has made an alliance with the JI and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party has forged an alliance with the JUI-F candidates.

District Central

District Central is considered an MQM-P stronghold. However, the party will be facing PTI candidates as well the TLP and the PSP. In New Karachi, North Karachi and Surjani Town, the TLP and the Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party are popular parties.

The MQM-P has fielded candidates in every UC of the district. JI’s Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman is contesting the election from the Nazimabad UC, located in District Central. The PTI mayoral candidate Muhammad Ashraf Jabbar Qureshi is also in the run from two UCs of the District Central.

Apart from developed areas, there are a number of suburban areas that come under the jurisdiction of the District Central. Those areas are populated by Sindhis, Pashtuns, and Seraiki-speaking citizens who have generally been loyal to the PPP and the JI.

The writer is based in Karachi and reports on politics and education

Unpacking local politics: alliances and rivalries