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Pyrrhic victory? The battle for NA-250

May 21, 2013

OUT of all the constituencies in the country where allegations of mismanagement emerged during the general elections, Karachi’s NA-250 was probably the most high-profile. Irregularities and a lack of staff at numerous polling stations on election day led the Election Commission of Pakistan to order re-polling in 43 stations of the constituency on May 19. But the re-polling process has been controversial for various reasons. On Saturday, PTI leader Zahra Shahid Hussain was gunned down outside her DHA home, which spread fear in the area and contributed to the low turnout on Sunday. Also, the MQM, which wanted re-polling in the entire constituency, boycotted the process, as did the PPP, JI and some others. So it is something of a pyrrhic victory for Dr Arif Alvi, the only PTI candidate to win a National Assembly seat from Sindh as per unofficial results.

Two issues must be considered; the question of re-polling as well as the murder allegations levelled by the PTI against the MQM in Zahra Shahid Hussain’s case. The PTI should have agreed to re-polling in the entire constituency especially when the ECP had agreed to the deployment of army personnel inside the polling stations. That way, if other parties had still been in the field a victory would have been more convincing, while it would have strengthened the PTI’s demands for re-polling in other Karachi constituencies where the party polled a significant number of votes. Regarding the murder of Ms Hussain, it was premature and ill-advised for Imran Khan to blame Altaf Hussain for the killing before any investigation had been conducted, especially in such a charged atmosphere. Hence the MQM’s criticism of the PTI chief’s remarks seems justified. But the MQM had also raised the temperature earlier by allegedly threatening the PTI and hurling personal abuses at Imran Khan. Ms Hussain’s murder, which police have termed a targeted killing, needs to be fully in-vestigated; in the meantime, all parties must show restraint, accept the results and move forward with the political process.