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District profile: The battle for Hyderabad

Updated November 18, 2015

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HYDERABAD: Rich in history and culture, Hyderabad was the industrial-cum-agriculture district that gave birth to three new districts, formerly its talukas, in 2005. It has one municipal corporation, a district council, two town committees and one municipal committee.

Urdu-speaking people dominate city and Latifabad talukas which form the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) with 96 union committees, while Qasimabad and Hyderabad (rural) talukas are predominantly Sindhi community areas.

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party separated Qasimabad from the HMC to create the 27-ward municipal committee.

However the formation of the Qasimabad municipal committee has already been challenged before the Sindh High Court.

The city has gone through turbulent days. Ethnic riots led to imposition of curfews in the 1980s and early 90s — an era that marked the emergence of then Mohajir Qaumi Movement, now the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which staked its claim among Urdu speakers.

Since 1987 Hyderabad city has remained the MQM’s bastion of power that claimed all national and provincial assembly seats here till 1997 and got its first mayor Aftab Ahmed Sheikh and deputy mayor Rasheed Ahmed Bhayya elected.

Before the MQM made inroads among Urdu speakers, who migrated from India, religious parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami and Shah Ahmed Noorani’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan had a strong vote bank in Hyderabad.

The religious parties still have a vote bank though marked by fissures in the shape of two separate factions of the JUP (Noorani) led by Sahibzada Zubair and the other one by Awais Noorani, Allama Noorani’s son, benefiting the MQM eventually. In the 2002 general elections, Zubair, as the candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, had defeated MQM’s Aftab Ahmed Sheikh on a National Assembly constituency (NA-220).

Zubair now leads a local nine-party alliance, Tameer-i-Hyderabad Ittehad, against the MQM in the local government elections scheduled to be held on Nov 19.

The JUP and Sunni Tehreek avoided joining the alliance, which is apparently formed in haste. Even Zubair’s JUP fielded candidates quite selectively in its stronghold of Phulelli and Paretabad and not on all city taluka UCs and so did the JUP.

Interestingly, whilst Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Hyderabad organiser Khawind Bux Jahejo — whose two sons, Sohail Jahejo and Kamran Jahejo, and brother Mohammad Saleem are contesting for district council seats from rural taluka — is lambasting PPP’s Sharjeel Memon and government functionaries for gerrymandering, PTI’s Usman Kennedy sits in local alliance with the PPP. “We are contesting against state and ROs. Police and revenue officers are supporting our rivals,” says Jahejo, former PPP taluka nazim from the taluka who later quit the party.

The MQM claims that its 21 pairs of chairmen/vice chairmen have returned unopposed in the HMC which is 20 per cent of directly contested seats. One pair of chairman/vice chairman of PPP is also elected unopposed. Out of 760 candidates, 257 candidates have returned unopposed on various categories.

Reports say 239 of them, including chairmen/vice chairmen, are from the MQM. The stage is set for one-on-one contest on 41-UCs, with 17 of them is MQM vs JI specific.

However, the nine-party alliance filed a petition before the SHC challenging the unopposed victory of the MQM.

According to Hyderabad ECP office figures, 1,236 candidates are in the field for various categories. Twenty pairs of chairmen/vice chairmen have been elected unopposed besides 210 councillors of the HMC. There is contest on HMC’s 71 seats of pairs of chairmen/vice chairmen in addition whereas three district council members of PPP Malook Nizamani, Hazoor Bux Thebo and Khalid Thebo have returned unopposed. Two councillors, Kashif Shoro, younger brother of Sindh fisheries minister Jam Khan Shoro, and Moazam Chang, have been elected uncontested in the Qasimabad municipal committee.

“In all, JI candidates are contesting on 34 seats of chairmen/vice chairmen. On eight of them, we are supporting potentially strong independents with their own symbols as well as those of the PPP as per alliance decision,” says Hafiz Tahir Majeed, JI Hyderabad district emir.

Nationalist parties also in the run

As far as the nationalist parties are concerned, they neither joined a local alliance nor formed any of their own unlike 2013’s 10-party alliance that didn’t prove productive for them, rather led to differences between Dr Qadir Magsi and Ayaz Latif Palijo over nomination on Qasimabad’s provincial assembly seat.

The Sindh Tarraqi-pasand Party came up with the smallest number of candidates i.e. 10 in Hyderabad district including a pair of chairman/vice chairman with three councillors in UC-3 of City taluka and a councillor in UC-4 besides five candidates in 27-wards Qasimabad Municipal Committee. Jalal Mehmood Shah’s Sindh United Party restricted itself to Qasimabad MC’s 12 wards.

The Qaumi Awami Tehreek, though, has fielded the highest number of candidates — 34 — among three nationalist parties, headquartered in Hyderabad. Of them, it has three pairs of chairmen/vice chairmen in HMC, one in rural taluka UC Seri; a candidate for district council seat out of 20, nine councillors in HMC’s UCs; 16 councillors in MC Qasimabad and Tandojam.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2015