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PTI protests against alleged rigging in Karachi this week. — AFP Photo
PTI protests against alleged rigging in Karachi this week. — AFP Photo
A female supporter of the MQM shouts slogans while others wave flags during a sit in protest in front of the ECP office in Karachi, May 15, 2013. The supporters were protesting against what they said was vote rigging in some polling stations during the general elections. — Reuters Photo.
A female supporter of the MQM shouts slogans while others wave flags during a sit in protest in front of the ECP office in Karachi, May 15, 2013. The supporters were protesting against what they said was vote rigging in some polling stations during the general elections. — Reuters Photo.

NA-250 – it’s become a battle ground between two contenders for a coveted National Assembly seat; the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Much drama has played out over this constituency during the last week, particularly in its home city, Karachi, which resulted first in an announcement by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that re-polling will take place, followed by a postponement of re-polling for ‘security reasons’.

But an analysis of polling stations in the constituency reveals that the competition is going to be much tougher than that which was anticipated by PTI or acknowledged by MQM.

Discussions on NA-250 have taken the form of wealthy vs. poor, whether it’s NA-250 versus the other constituencies in Karachi, or Defence and Clifton vs. the rest of the areas in NA-250. Comments by the media and political leaders referring to this division have further drawn attention to this distinction and its role in determining vote preferences. With emotions about NA-250 still running high, it would be useful to look at some of the myths regarding this controversial constituency:

Myth 1: Voters in ‘posh’ areas of Clifton and Defence are a small and insignificant part of this constituency

While it is true that NA-250 stretches beyond areas in Clifton and Defence that are being colloquially referred to as ‘posh’, the voters in these areas are not insignificant in number. Defence and Clifton make up the South and Central areas of this constituency, Qayyumabad (Korangi) lies to the East, parts of Shireen Jinnah Colony, Bath Island and Hijrat Colony to the West and areas of Saddar Town up to Aram Bagh and Burnes Road in the North.

The total number of registered voters in the constituency is 365, 531 and out of these, one-third are registered in polling stations that are located in the ‘posh’ areas of Clifton and Defence (a substantial number of people). Polling stations in areas such as Delhi Colony and Shah Rasool Colony that do not fall under this label of ‘posh’ have not been included in this figure. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that voters in these ‘posh’ areas may form the most consolidated geographical vote bank in the constituency in favor of PTI.

Myth 2: As a Karachi constituency, NA-250 is a fortified MQM stronghold.

Unlike some of the other constituencies in Karachi, the MQM does not have an absolute vote bank in NA-250. In 2008, there was tough competition (a winning margin of 10% or less) in at least 17% of the polling stations in this constituency. MQM won in 43 % of the stations with a significant margin but PPP followed close behind, winning in 40 % of stations with a significant margin. Large portions of NA-250 voted for PPP such as the ‘non posh’ low income settlements of Shah Rasool Colony, Hijrat Colony, Hazara Colony and parts of Kehkashan and Railway Colony.

Areas of NA-250 with a significant vote bank of the MQM in 2008 were in Saddar Town (except some polling stations near Railway Colony), Delhi Colony, P & T Colony and Bizerta lines. The overall margin for victory for MQM in NA-250 in the last elections was only 7%, which was the second lowest for any constituency won by MQM in 2008. MQM was also unable to mobilise its voters then, as the lowest turnout in any constituency won by MQM happened to be in NA 250 at 30%.

Myth 3: The anti-MQM and MQM vote is divided along the lines of Clifton/Defence Vs. Rest of NA-250

Interestingly, areas that are now being pitched against the MQM voted by and large for the MQM in the 2008 elections. Voter turnout was low in these ‘posh’ areas of Defence/Clifton and a large number of polling stations were highly competitive (the margin of victory was low) but the winning party in the majority of cases was still the MQM. In addition, there are significant ‘non-posh’ pockets of Clifton and Defence that voted for the MQM in 2008.

At the same time there were areas in Clifton/Defence as well as the rest of NA 250 that voted for PPP. Some of the vote bank that went to PPP was an anti-MQM vote and it is clear that it was not restricted purely to Clifton/Defence. While the trend in these elections seems to be an increase in the popularity of PTI in Clifton/Defence, results from other constituencies also reveal that there has been an increase in the popularity of PTI in other non-posh areas of Karachi as well. Using these constituencies as an example and noting the PPP vote in non-posh areas, it would be fair to assume that an anti-MQM vote may be seen in other ‘non-posh’ areas of NA 250.

Thus, voting preferences in NA 250 will be more complex than this binary of elite and middle/working class.

Myth 4: If given a ‘fair’ chance, PTI will easily win NA 250

It’s already been established that Clifton and Defence do not make up the majority of NA 250 and even if an overwhelming number of voters are voting PTI from these areas, it does not necessarily translate into certain victory. Anti-MQM sentiments may be raging high in certain parts of NA-250 but it is important to remember that in 2008, the majority of the anti-MQM vote went to PPPP.

In 2013, if voting had taken place, it would have been split between PPP, PTI and JI (if they had contested elections). With such a three-way split, PTI supporters would have had to dramatically adjust their expectations. With JI out of the race (assuming they do not rejoin the race in the re-polling) it still remains to be seen if a significant anti-MQM vote and PPP vote will be transferred to the PTI and whether such a transfer would be enough to trump the consolidated, if not absolute vote bank of MQM in areas of NA-250. A rough comparison between the polling stations in 2008 and 2013 reveals that around 40 % of the registered voters in 2013 will cast their votes in areas that had a winning MQM presence in 2008.

What is certain is that turnout did increase in all polling stations of NA-250. In 2008, turnout in the high-income areas of Defence/Clifton was below average (25%). The rest of the areas in NA -250 saw a slightly higher than average turnout in 2008. Thus, it is likely that the rate of increase in the turnout in these ‘posh’ areas will be higher than the rate of increase in the rest of NA-250. However, at the same time the vote bank of MQM will also increase because of higher turnouts and because of the inclusion of areas such as Qayyumabad (in Karachi’s Korangi area). Some low-income areas like Qayyumabad, which has 24, 110 registered voters, were not part of NA-250 in 2008.

What’s clear, then, is that the numbers show both the PTI and the MQM have reasons to be worried – if and when re-polling takes place.

Sidra Kamran is a Research Assistant at the Collective for Social Science Research.

Comments (43) Closed

sahani May 17, 2013 04:40pm

Voting should be compulsory for all in democracy. Or lose some govt benefits.

Asif Kahsmiri May 17, 2013 04:41pm

PTI will win, In Shah Allah.

Rafay Bin Ali May 17, 2013 04:58pm

1) Can you please point out the sources of registered voters in NA-250? According to this article on geo tv the total registered voters are 312,915 (52,616 difference). Therefore, crucial to know the source

2) This point itself is the biggest myth that people have about MQM. MQM does not consider any area its stronghold. It works for the people and people vote for it. Simple as that. Again, can you please quote the derivation of those percentages (at least provide the numbers on which these percentages are calculated)?

Thanks, Rafay Bin Ali

Nouman Khalid May 17, 2013 05:20pm

@sahani: Uh, what 'government' benefits?

ercelan May 17, 2013 05:24pm

@Asif Kahsmiri: much is said about 'rigging' as denial of 'fair' election. do consider how unfair our elections are for the vast majority who cannot bear the expense of standing for elections, and whose children may also never do so because they are left uneducated for no fault of their own. Its not just Pakistan where systemic rigging by the middle and upper class takes place.

Altaf Bhai wapis aajao May 17, 2013 05:34pm

@Rafay Bin Ali: "MQM does not consider any area its stronghold. It works for the people and people vote for it. Simple as that".... You are being sarcastic, right?

Rafay Bin Ali May 17, 2013 05:59pm

@Altaf Bhai wapis aajao: No.

Rafay Bin Ali May 17, 2013 06:00pm

@sahani: Well said. Agreed completely!

Rafay Bin Ali May 17, 2013 06:07pm

@Rafay Bin Ali: why people would dislike my comment when i have only asked for the source of the percentages is beyond me :).What happened to the culture of READING? Incredible! My intention for asking about the source was not to "TRAP THE AUTHOR". It was a sincere request so that I can compare the figures and make an informed decision.

Vaqas May 17, 2013 06:14pm

You forgot to mention an extremely important aspect that JI had won this seat in 2002 defeating top MQM leader Nasreen Jalil. This time since JI has boycotted elections in Karachi, the votes will go to PTI.

Zack Khan May 17, 2013 06:50pm

@sahani:Yes, I agree, but then it must be fair elections.

Anees May 17, 2013 06:54pm

I don't have much information about NA-250 ( or, for that matter, Karachi in general ), but what I understand from your analysis is that you are inclined towards an MQM backing / victory here.

AAmir Khan May 17, 2013 07:58pm

@ercelan: In a democracy you do not run for elected office on your own money. You are supposed to gather people together, present a manifesto and have them contribute towards it. Yes there are some politicians with deep pockets who finance their own campaign, but by and large the process is one of fundraising to finance your campaign.

In Pakistan we never contribute financially to political thought and therefore we are always held slaves to other peoples ideas. A political party should depend wholly and solely on the money provided by contributions of the people at large.

So to answer your question that it is unfair that people do not have the means to be elected - yes they do, if enough people believe in them then they should be able to provide for the means to run the campaign, hence its not unfair.

AAmir Khan May 17, 2013 08:00pm

@sahani: Who will make it compulsory? A democracy by definition is power to the people. You are asking the people to make it compulsory to lose their benefits? It will never happen.

AAmir Khan May 17, 2013 08:05pm

@ercelan: Rigging is usually done by the poor class. I don't see any upper class guy get out their to stuff the ballots.

Syed Ahmed May 17, 2013 08:27pm

Under a internationally hatched plan PTI is being kept away from majority if the seats. The overseas voters who support IK in a big way were also denied the right of voting. PTI shall definitely win NA 250 if another attempt to rob the elections is not made.

imtiaz May 17, 2013 09:03pm

Poor people are spoiling our revolution - Posh People

Brand Manager at Uth Oye May 17, 2013 10:26pm

Dear toddlers,

Place your people at every NA 250 polling station or STFU. If you whine after 19th May, I'll side with all your enemies and instill the 'sore losers' label on you. Furthermore, some of us have jobs, your road blocking antics are not appreciated.

Sincerely, Someone who voted for PTI but learned to MOVE ON.

Brand Manager at Uth Oye May 17, 2013 10:29pm

@Rafay Bin Ali: Probably arrested soon or its all for show.

SK May 18, 2013 01:54am

@Asif Kahsmiri: Of course, because it will be an empty ground. And this is why the match result would never go in the records. I suggest do not waste ur time. There are better uses for a weekend.

SK May 18, 2013 01:55am

@Syed Ahmed: Saihooni Saazish :-)

sohail May 18, 2013 03:47am

Poor can be easily manipulated and subdued as opposed to someone who is not may that be a lack of education, resources or exposure hence the talk of their popularity "so to speak" in those areas. I was born and raised in Karachi and do not see and will not admit to any appreciable change in the areas particularly lower, lower middle and even deteriorating middle class areas now MQM claims they had worked so hard in. If anything, we can all see a sharp rise in militancy and extortion in these areas and heart of their strength sadly, lies in the kids age 14 to 18 who cant tell right from wrong. So when we talk about Posh or not so Posh areas it should all make sense as to what really is going on in the name of "Poor".

El Cid May 18, 2013 04:47am

@AAmir Khan: But they can do it with their wallet behind the scenes. Money may not buy you love but it sure can buy you people who will do your bidding.

Taimur May 18, 2013 05:22am

agree with analysis of Myths 1, 2 and 3. Do not agree with Myth 4 as stated. The PPP votes from the last election have gone to PTI candidate based on sample data I have seen from one polling station.

Fwad Ahmed May 18, 2013 05:54am

MQM could never win not only in karachi but other parts of pakistan also if polls would have been transparent and ECP is responsible for this whole corruption.

Yawar May 18, 2013 07:47am

MQM's decision to boycott the re-poll of NA-250 shows that they are not confident of winning it.

Ammar Sami May 18, 2013 10:27am

Lest we could protest to repolling in every polling station of Karachi the result would be totaly opposite

hc May 18, 2013 10:59am

Thats an intersting analysis..I wonder though that a lot of the traditional PPP vote in Punjab went to might transalate into the same thing here..

hc May 18, 2013 10:59am

Thats an intersting analysis..I wonder though that a lot of the traditional PPP vote in Punjab went to might transalate into the same thing here..

Mubashir May 18, 2013 02:03pm

The memon and Bohri community of Saddar Areas will be supporting PTI. Grim chances of MQM to NA-250 this time, given the repolling would only be held in 43 polling station.

Saad May 18, 2013 02:30pm

@hc: Although a PTI supporter myself, I wouldnt necessarily say all of them went to PTI a lot of PPP votes went to PML-N too.

hanifsamoon May 18, 2013 03:28pm

Nice feature. Hanif Samoon

Moazzam May 18, 2013 03:29pm

Elections come and go. But the NA 250 people will be more insecure now. Rangers must be deputed permanently for their security.

wasim May 18, 2013 04:56pm

its nice that the the voting is going to take place again, MQM is going down big time, because of PTI alternative. MQM should realize that it cannot go on taking karachi granted and representative party of kararchi,

Concerned Citizen May 18, 2013 06:10pm

Interesting analysis but I have some observations. There is no reason to believe that high turnout was for any party other than PTI. They were the new party and spoke for many disenfranchised voters of the area. MQM and PPP have done nothing to earn a share of the vote of these first time voters. A lot of people who voted for PPP in 2008 were not pro PPP but anti MQM; they saw a chance to defeat MQM. I voted for MQM because I wanted to vote for PTI and they boycotted and then I decided to vote for JI and they also did not stand so I was left with no option because I am strongly anti PPP and can't stand them winning from anywhere; this is the reason MQM won in posh areas last time. This time I had the option and stood for four hours to cast my vote for PTI and I saw thousands of voters at my polling station in Kh-e-Hilal all voting for PTI. This is why I believe the tide should have turned because I would say Defence had 80% turnout mostly for PTI while non PTI voters had nothing to motivate them. Turnout would have been higher but many were turned back. I know of several voters in my own family who would have voted for PTI or JI but could not as they were too weak to stand in line for hours. My wife went to the polls two times but returned on seeing the line. PPP is a rural Sindh party and does not have any standing in posh areas due to its virulent corruption. I think if they stand on principal and govern KPK properly, increasing number of young voters all over the country will overwhelmingly vote for PTI in next elections and this Tsunami will truly drown other parties. Young and old people who voted for PTI will not turn away just because they are older and millions of young voters will be added to the electoral roles and who are they more likely to vote for if they want change. PMLN can stop this by governing well and earning respect but PPP has already lost its chance.

athar mustafa khan May 18, 2013 06:12pm

Please stop this media propaganda who are heavily paid by rich political parties. Polling & counting is not completed how come some one claim for rigging . PTI is badly loss in Punjab where it had a strong hold. Here in Karachi it is well known fact that MQM is very strong and its voters commited to MQM ten how come PTI can win it is beyond any understanding. In spite of all consipiries against MQM at all levels in the past & also at present MQM is the clear winner in Karachi. This mass migration to Karachi from the rest of the country ( without any control) it is a big conspiracy against Karachities & MQM to make them in minority and its true that no one can win against the majority. That's why Punjab Is holding 90% on all Pakistan resources ( from job market to any development) and no body can fight against this injustice because they are in majority.

SK May 18, 2013 11:16pm

@Asif Kahsmiri: In an empty ground, it does not take too much effort to win. Enjoy the sound of ur own cheers.

SK May 18, 2013 11:18pm

@imtiaz: Hilarious!

Alam May 19, 2013 08:04am

@Concerned Citizen:

Karachites should remain one and must show solid support for MQM.

hashaamudin May 19, 2013 11:53am

The analyelectionssis is not based on any survey but hypothetical comparison with 2008. If hypothesis is given then it shall be proved or disproved by comparison with other studies, which has neither been done either. In my view it is just a wishful writing.

Owais May 19, 2013 12:39pm

NA 250 people will be more insecure now. army play will important role

Yousuf May 19, 2013 03:06pm

Breaking News: PTI won from NA-250. Now Imran Khan will be PM.

hashaamudin May 19, 2013 04:24pm

Editor! I want any reason for not publishing my comments?