Activists of PTI march during a protest rally against alleged rigging at NA-250.— Photo by ONLINE
KARACHI: The results announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday show that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has emerged as an important party in Karachi, polling over 50,000 votes in at least one National Assembly constituency.
In NA-245, North Nazimabad, a stronghold of the Muttahida Quami Movement, Riaz Haider obtained about 54,000 votes against Muttahida Qaumi Movement candidate Rehan Hashmi, who polled a little over 100,000.
Similarly, in NA-246, Federal B Area, another locality where the MQM has enjoyed a somewhat unrivalled monopoly, Amir Sharjeel of the PTI polled about 32,000 votes, whereas his heavyweight MQM opponent Nabeel Gabol, former PPP stalwart, obtained 139,386 votes.
In NA-243, another MQM dominated area comprising North Karachi and New Karachi, Zahid Hussain Hashmi of the PTI got about 30,000 votes while the MQM contestant got 192,678 votes.
Rashid Siddiqui of the PTI in NA-247 (Liaquatabad) got over 35,000 votes and NA-251 (Mehmoodabad) contestant of the PTI Raja Azhar polled nearly 39,000 votes.
PTI chief Imran Khan did not address any rally in his electioneering campaign in Karachi. The one major rally he had addressed here was in December 2011. Yet looking at the numbers one can easily deduce that the PTI has built a significant voter base in Karachi.
Mohammed Hanif, Karachi-based journalist and novelist, explains the development as: “Karachi would be a natural kind of PTI constituency. Its campaign was targeted at the urban masses who are agitated and Karachi is filled with such kind of people. Also when we talk about the Pakistan Peoples Party’s incumbency factor then the same reason can be applied to the MQM. It has been in Karachi for a long time, having been in power since Musharraf’s days. People want to try someone new hence these numbers are not surprising.”
Moreover, the PTI polled vote figures are equally impressive in provincial constituencies. In PS-103 (Karachi 15), PTI candidates Zareena Sarwar, Siddiqullah of PS-104 (Karachi-16) and Abid Jilani of PS-120 (Karachi-32) obtained over 17,000 votes. Then there were three other PTI contestants who polled more than 20,000 votes — Muhammad Jawed Jillani of PS-105, Ataullah Khan PS-119 and Erum Butt PS-116. Arsalan Ghumman put up a good fight at PS-118 where he scored 31,802 votes against the MQM candidate, who obtained 56,145 votes.
As to how the MQM should look at these numbers, Mr Hanif says: “I hope the MQM realises that this is a healthy development and that voting for another candidate is good. They need to rethink their strategy rather than having an undue reaction to new realities which is not going to help them in the long run.”
He, however, cautions the first-time PTI voters: “PTI supporters need to realise that just because you stand in line for six hours and vote and your candidate loses does not mean you have to be self-righteous. First-time PTI voters need to realise that someone has to lose and this is what happens in elections.”
When Wasay Jaleel, an MQM leader, was asked by Dawn whether the party had noticed the phenomenon of the PTI bagging significant numbers of votes in its strongholds, he says: “Yes, we did notice it and we attribute this to the 10-party alliance that voted against us. We did meet some youngsters in Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Nazimabad who voted for the PTI but that’s because they are popular with the youth. The MQM sees other political parties as good competition and we do realise that they are other representatives of the people in the city but the 10-party anti-MQM alliance with boycott by the Jamaat-i-Islami worked in favour of the PTI.”