KARACHI, May 25: The date for withdrawal by the candidates in the by-election of the National Assembly constituency 255 is one week away, and emotions are running high among the supporters of different candidates, particularly those of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement and the Muttahida Majlis-i- Amal.
This has created a tense situation in Landhi and Korangi. In the constituency, whose major part before the new delimitations used to be NA-195, the election is scheduled for June 22. The final list of candidates after withdrawal of nominations will be made public on May 30.
According to initial reports, four of the candidates belong to the Muttahida, four to the Haqiqis and two are independents. The MMA, the PPP, the PML-Q, the PML-N and the PML-Z have also fielded their candidates. There are Mufti Ferozuddin Hazarvi of the PPP, Alim Adil Shaikh of the PML-Q, and Tariq Khan of the PML(N). But they appear undecided whether to contest in the troubled waters.
However, in view of the ongoing political hobnobbing between the PPP and the MMA, it appears they are soon going to reach a decision. And in the given situation it is most likely to be in favour of the MMA, as its candidate Muhammad Aslam Mujahid had bagged 28000 votes in the October 2002 general elections against Mahmood Ahmad Qureshi of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, who was declared winner from the constituency with 31000 votes. He could not last long as a heart attack last month proved fatal.
Earlier, this constituency was represented by Zain Noorani in the 1985 non-party elections. But in 1988’s party-based polls Mahmood Hussain of the Haq Parast group won the seat as an independent candidate, to be replaced by the party by Rehan Farooqui in the 1990 elections.
In the 1993 elections, which were boycotted by the Haq Parast group, Prof ND Khan of the PPP won the seat. However, in 1997 elections the Haq Parast group regained the seat with its candidate Shaikh Liaquat Hussain bagging over 26600 votes.
In the last October elections the PPP candidate Naeemuddin could not cross the four digit figures and remained within the limits of 7000 votes. Muhammad Abrar-ul-Haque of the Haq Parast group, now the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, secured over 24000 votes despite being a little known figure in electoral politics.
In the present by-election the MQM has fielded a heavy weight, Dr Farooq Sattar. He is a former city mayor, ex-MPA, ex-MNA and ex-senior provincial minister. He also holds the office of senior deputy convener of the MQM coordination committee.
He did not contest the last general elections for reasons known to him and his party strategists. After the announcement of the by-election schedule he was nominated by the party.
All speculations in political circles point to the likelihood of a last-minute withdrawal by the candidate of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, Abid Jafri, in favour of the MMA nominee Aslam Mujahid.
His party and other candidates claim that they are not being provided an even playing field against the MQM which, as a ruling coalition party, enjoys support of the entire administration, particularly police and rangers.
“The opposition parties have been demanding the chief election commissioner to hold the by-election under the supervision of the army. But so far we have not received any response from the authorities,” said Aslam Mujahid.
He said the MMA was the only party which had a strong network in the constituency and all the Nazims of the UCs in Landhi Town belonged to his Al-Khidmat group.
Therefore, he said, he had been able to carry out the election campaign to some extent and set up his election offices.
He alleged that the Muttahida had full blessing of the administration and had succeeded in occupying three UCs 8,11 and 12 so far.
He further alleged that in other areas where the Muttahida could not make it they were making inroads through police and rangers to create an atmosphere of harassment in the locality, so that the voters turnout remained low and they could stuff the ballot boxes.
Mr Mujahid claimed that the Muttahida had started getting posted its favourite officials soon after the announcement of the election schedule, and so far four SHOs had been posted to the constituency to support its election strategy. He added that efforts were also being made to get the returning officer transferred.
There are 249,000 registered votes in the constituency. 80 per cent of the population there consists of working class people. The remaining population represents professionals and traders from middle and lower-middle classes.
The majority are Urdu speaking followed by Punjabi, Pushto and Sindh speaking people. But their total strength is not more than 80000.