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KARACHI: Of the 21 National Assembly seats in Karachi, NA-242 — a constituency in East district — is the smallest one in terms of total number of registered voters.

While there are provincial assembly seats which have over 200,000 registered voters, the number of registered voters in NA-242 is 183,373 — 110,111 male and 73,262 female voters.

The Election Commission of Pakistan set up only 98 polling stations across the constituency due to the comparatively fewer number of registered voters.

In Karachi, there are NA constituencies where the number of registered voters crosses 500,000 and where the ECP set up over 200 polling stations.

Nineteen candidates are contesting the July 25 polls

The constituency was created as a result of new delimitation and it comprises parts of old NA-253. It largely comprises middle- and lower-middle class neighbourhoods as well as katchi abadis, which represents a mixture of people belonging to the Sindhi, Urdu-speaking, Punjabi and Pakhtun backgrounds.

Areas like New Sabzi Mandi, Al-Azhar Garden, Chapal Sun City, Kiran Hospital, Sachal Goth, PCSIR, KDA Society, Al-Asif Square, Quetta Colony, Ahsanabad, Laasi Goth and Scheme-33 are part of NA-242.

A total of 19 candidates are in the run. Almost every major religious and political party has fielded its candidate on the seat.

Prominent among them are Asadullah Bhutto of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, Saif-ur-Rahman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Mohammad Iqbal Sand of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Kishwar Zehra of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Hassan Sabir of the Pak Sarzameen Party, Noorullah Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Syed Mohammad Waqas Hashmi of the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, Noorullah of the Awami National Party and Sharafat Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

During the last three elections, MMA’s Mr Bhutto had won the 2002 elections on the old NA-253 by securing 28,840 votes; MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi won the seat in 2008 and bagged 96,973 votes and Muzammil Qureshi of the same party was elected in 2013 by securing 101,386 votes.

This time around, Mr Bhutto of the MMA, who is also the deputy chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami, was quite hopeful of getting elected from NA-242.

He said he did not see any obstacle in his re-election if elections were held in a free and fair atmosphere as repeatedly pledged by the chief election commissioner and the government, and provided money factor was not used by other candidates.

When reminded that the constituency was won by the MQM in two consecutive elections after 2002, he said that those polls were not held in a free and transparent manner.

Against the backdrop of internal squabbling within the MQM-P, he said that the ground realities had been changed. Although the MQM still commanded loyalty from its supporters, the only thing missing was its activists who used to get votes at gunpoint, he said.

Besides, he was of the view that the people who lived in the constituency mostly belonged to lower middle class with religious leanings.

MQM-P candidate Kishwer Zehra said: “Despite the fact that we neither have offices to run our election campaign nor vehicles to take out rallies and organised meetings; yet we are in the field confident that the voters will come out of their homes to cast their votes for the MQM candidates to repeat the performance of 2008 and 2013.”

She said in order to reduce the MQM vote bank from the constituency, katchi abadis and goths, which were part of an adjacent constituency, were included in NA-242 at the time of new delimitation.

However, without taking into account the outcome of the election results, MQM and its workers were determined to get back their mandate and for this purpose they had started a door-to-door campaign to meet people, she said, adding that the goths and katchi abadis did not have drinking water and a proper drainage system and “we would continue to strive to provide them at least normal basic amenities to live”.

PPP candidate Iqbal Sand sounded optimistic when he told Dawn that the results of the 2015 local government elections were a “concrete proof” of his party’s popularity in the area as six out of eight union councils were dominated by PPP councillors.

He said that the newly laid infrastructure in the metropolis and extension of costly medical facilities across the province was another proof that PPP was the party which believed in service to the people without any discrimination.

He expressed his confidence that the results of the July 25 elections would not be different from the outcome of the local government elections.

PTI candidate Saif-ur-Rahman was of the view that in the constituency people were fed up with the leaders of tested parties as despite having their mandate they failed to solve their problems.

He said that the people were looking for change. He said that the wind of change was blowing across the country and Karachi could not be an island and remain aloof from this change; this trend was reflected in the attitude of people who welcome the PTI wherever it went for campaigning.

He said the “tall claims” made by the MMA or the PPP did not matter to the voters.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018

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