KARACHI, May 5: With polls just five days away, electioneering in Karachi’s district central is yet to pick up momentum amid heightened security fears in the wake of four bomb attacks near election offices of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Despite some small rallies taken out by youths, corner meetings held by candidates and roadside election camps set up, the electioneering in general has suffered a serious blow following Saturday’s twin bomb blasts outside an MQM office in Azizabad, which sent shock waves down the spines of candidates as well as ordinary men and halted all election-related activities until Sunday afternoon.
However, a low key canvassing activity began in the evening in a few spots of the district.
Almost all major political and religious parties have fielded candidates for most of the five National Assembly and 10 provincial assembly seats in district, none of them has so far organised a public meeting in any constituency. Even Nabil Ahmed Gabol, an MQM candidate for NA-246, has yet to visit his constituency.
The district is adorned with banners inscribed with kites, the MQM’s election symbol, followed by scales, symbol of the Jamaat-i-Islami, bat (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf) and arrow (the PPP-Parliamentarian). Other parties have also hung their banners at different places.
The candidates of the MQM and the JI are also going from door to door, distributing pamphlets and putting up banners and billboards as part of their election campaign. The party flags of the MQM, the JI and the PPP are also seen hoisted at almost all vantage points in the district.
The district comprises areas that fall within now defunct towns of New Karachi, Liaquatabad, North Nazimabad and Gulberg. It has an overwhelming Urdu-speaking population, most of whom had been voting for the MQM in every general election since 1988.
However, the JI also has a sizeable vote bank in the district where it had controlled administrations of the four towns for four years after winning the 2001 party-less local government elections. From 2005 till Feb 2010, the MQM-backed nazims were running affairs of the four towns.
There are over 1.7 million voters in the district who will vote for five NA seats — NA- 243, 244, 245, 246, 247 — and 10 PA seats —PS-98 to PS-107.
A visit to the district showed that the MQM, despite remaining in power at the provincial and federal level for about five years after the 2008 general elections, has neglected majority of localities where residents are facing numerous civic problems.
Most roads are in a dilapidated condition, heaps of garbage dumped on roads is a common sight and street crimes are rampant. Besides, residents are also hit hard by prolonged loadshedding and acute shortage of water.
Land-grabbing is one of the serious issues as parks and playgrounds meant for children and youths have been turned into marriage lawns or residential-cum-commercial plots.
Recently, residents of Liaquatabad’s Bandhani Colony, which falls within NA-247 constituency, staged a violent protest against illegal occupation of an over 4,000-square-yard amenity plot allegedly by members of a political party and managed to stop illegal construction on the plot.
Although it is hard to believe that the party which got votes from each and every constituency of the district was unaware of the problems confronting its voters, it is also a fact that elected MQM representatives made little efforts to solve the issues. Many residents accused the MQM of complicity with land grabbers, a charge which the party has always vehemently denied.
However, like all previous elections, the contest for all district central seats looks pretty one-sided and it appears the MQM will again comfortably sail through the elections.
NA-243 The number of voters is 424,180, including 267,699 male and 156,481 female. The constituency comprises North Karachi, New Karachi, parts of defunct Gadap Town and Surjani Town.
Nine candidates are in the run for NA-243 and prominent among them are; Abdul Waseem of the MQM, Sohail Abidi of the PPPP, Zahid Hashmi of the PTI and Syed Mohammad Iqbal of the JI.
The MQM’s Abdul Waseem had won the 2008 election by securing 167,764 votes. The turnout in the previous election was over 58 per cent.
Two provincial assembly constituencies — PS-98 and PS-99 — comprise areas of North Karachi and New Karachi, respectively.
Both PA seats were won by MQM candidates Moin Khan and Khwaja Izharul Hasan in the 2008 general elections.
This time, the MQM has fielded Waseem Qureshi for PS-98 and retained Mr Khawja as its candidate for PS-99. The PPPP, the PTI, the JI and others have also fielded their candidates for the two PA seats.
NA-244 The number of voters is 318,734, including 176,810 male and 141,924 female. The constituency comprises parts of North Karachi, New Karachi, Godhra, Buffer Zone, and some blocks of Federal B. Area.
Thirteen candidates are in the run for NA-244 and prominent are; Shaikh Salahuddin of the MQM, Tahir Khan of the PPPP, Khalid Masood of the PTI, Syed Bilal of the JI and Abdul Hai Shaikh of the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz (MDM).
MQM’s Shaikh Salahuddin had won the 2008 elections by securing 174,044 votes. The turnout in the previous election was over 64 per cent.
Two provincial assembly constituencies — PS-100 and PS-102 — were bagged by MQM candidates, Adil Siddiqui and Imamuddin Shahzad, in the 2008 general elections.
This time the MQM retained Adil Siddiqui as its candidate for PS-100 and fielded Anwar Raza Naqvi for PS-102. The PPPP, the JI, MDM and ST have also fielded their candidates for the two PA seats.
NA-245 The number of voters is 383,748, including 208,050 male and 175,698 female.
The constituency comprises parts of North Karachi, Shadman Town, parts of North Nazimabad and Nazimabad, Paposh Nagar and certain katchi abadis including Arafat Town, Pahar Ganj, Umer Farooq Colony, Kosar Niazi Colony.