KARACHI: Giving way to a very interesting debate The Second Floor (T2F) on Thursday provided a chance to the people of the city to meet and get to know four candidates contesting in the upcoming elections, namely independent candidate Jibran Nasir contesting from NA-247 and PS-111, Imran Ismail of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also contesting from PS-111, Dr Afnanullah Khan of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz contesting from NA-247 and Qadir Khan Mandokhail of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) contesting from NA-249.
The moderator and T2F’s director Arieb Azhar said they had invited the candidates to introduce themselves while looking forward to a mature political debate and set the rules for the packed audience to refrain from hooting or booing as the candidates spoke and shared their manifestos and mandates.
Dr Afnanullah Khan of PML-N, an IT expert and author of a book Pakistan, the Way Forward, was first to speak about the issues faced by the country and his constituency in particular.
Politicians agree water is city’s biggest issue
Remaining Karachi-specific, he said that earlier at the time of the previous general election in 2013 the biggest problem faced by the city was security.
“From mobile phone snatching to killings, Karachi was seen as a very violent place but PML-N resolved that issue, which no one else could resolve for the last 25 years,” he said.
“We specifically focused to make Karachi a safe place because we saw it as the wheels which move Pakistan,” he said.
“This time around there are the issues of garbage disposal, transport and water that we want to resolve. The Green Line Bus service is on track and will be completed soon. We also hope to clean Karachi within six months and solve the water problem too in about three years’ time through water desalination,” he said.
Mandokhail, who said he had a PhD degree and also ran an NGO working for the welfare of prisoners including poor fishermen, mentioned a few achievements of his party such as the Benazir Income Support Programme while criticising the PML-N as he will be opposing none other than Shahbaz Sharif from NA-249.
“The Green Line they talk of could not be completed in Karachi and despite Nawaz Sharif being the prime minister of Pakistan the water issue could not be resolved here,” he said going on to say that he was surprised that the mayor of Karachi who put up ‘Eid Mubarak’ banners all over the city could not afford to spend on brooms and jharoo to clean the city.
Next Jibran Nasir said that he was a lawyer by profession whose mother thought he had gone crazy when he told her that he wanted to contest the elections five years ago.
“I lost the last time, getting 259 votes only but I put it to experience. It was part of my education,” he said.
“I work for human rights and fundamental rights of people so I raised my voice against injustices. Now I look at manifestos that talk of ending loadshedding which couldn’t happen, ending water shortage by setting up desalination plants but please tell me what about the 10 million gallons of water that Karachi does not get but has to buy from the tanker mafia. Tell me about the 80 illegal hydrants built on government land,” he said.
Imran Ismail, who arrived late and missed hearing Jibran, also said that he saw the scarcity of water as the biggest issue that Karachi faced and also suggested desalination plants as a solution to the problem, adding that it will help citizens get access to cheap water costing around 60 paisa per gallon. Telling a bit about himself Ismail said that this was going to be his third election and that he has been in politics for some 27 years now.
The role of judiciary in a healthy society was taken up next by the candidates.
Mandokhail said that it was a shame that even the simplest of cases such as those for succession certificates took three years and more.
“Cases pile up this way and lawyers get to be blamed for it but speedy trials will happen only after judicial reforms,” he said.
Jibran agreed with him here but he also said that there should be legal aid for juveniles, women and mentally sick people.
Dr Afnanullah said that there was also a problem with people who cannot call out the culprit so the issues continue instead of getting resolved.
About violations of human rights, Jibran said, “Enforced disappearances is not just a human rights issue, it is an international issue which is bringing bad name to our country.
“When you pick up a family member you hurt the family nucleus. We should not consider our own people our enemy.”
Dr Afnanullah agreed with him that the issue of missing persons was hurting the country’s integrity.
Mandokhail said all state institutions should work within their domains.
Imran Ismail then backed all of them, saying he also condemned the missing persons issue and extrajudicial killings.
Leaving the audience with a parting thought on the suggestion of the moderator, Dr Afnanullah said that there was a party talking of a new Pakistan and ending VIP culture, though its own members appeared to perpetuate the VIP culture.
Jibran said he was sick of the people coming out to get their pictures taken and making promises they had no intention to keep. He said his party symbol was the loudspeaker for a purpose. “I want to be the voice of the people,” he said.
Imran Ismail then urged everyone to not merely listen to what politicians say. “Also pay attention to who is saying what, and whether they have a political will,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018