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KARACHI: Twenty-two candidates are in the run for the election on NA-244 constituency in Karachi’s East district.

The constituency primarily consists of Faisal Cantonment and 12 census charges of Firozabad subdivision which include Defence View, Akhtar Colony, Manzoor Colony, Azam Basti, Chanesar Goth, Mehmoodabad, Baloch Colony, Pehalwan Goth, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Dhoraji, Hill Park, Muhammad Ali Society, KDA Scheme-1, Naval Colony and Karsaz.

The new NA-244 constituency was carved out from old NA-251. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement had won all three previous elections as its candidate Safwanullah, Wasim Akhtar and Syed Ali Raza Abidi emerged victorious in 2002, 2008 and 2013 general elections.

But, the ground realities have changed after the Aug 22, 2016 incendiary speech of MQM founder Altaf Hussain and the party split into groups. Besides, the former Karachi mayor, Mustafa Kamal, also left the MQM and formed his own Pak Sarzameen Party.

The unified MQM had won the former NA-251 thrice

Both the MQM-Pakistan and PSP would have to prove their mettle and organising capabilities for the first time as until the 2013 general elections the MQM got vote in the name of Altaf Hussain.

With a population of 726,253, the total number of registered voters is 407,363 including 186,078 female voters. A total of 212 polling stations have been set up in the constituency.

Prominent candidates in the constituency are: Zahid Saeed (Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal), Syed Ali Haider Zaidi (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf), Rauf Siddiqui (MQM-P), Miftah Ismail Ahmad (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz), Mohammad Saeed Shafiq (PSP) and Mian Waqar Akhtar Paganwala (Pakistan Peoples Party).

Residents of the area mainly belong to working class. They are living in periphery settlements without basic civic amenities.

Lack of facilities

Acute water shortage, prolonged loadshedding, overflowing gutters, lack of good educational institutions, insufficient healthcare facilities, dilapidated roads are some of the major problems of the area. These issues remained unsolved even after completion of two terms by the PPP governments.

Although MQM-P candidate Rauf Siddiqui is a known politician, he lacked personal support in the constituency and relies on the vote bank of the MQM for his success. But, the realistic elements in the party do not appear optimistic because they feel that the vote bank would be divided into the MQM-P and PSP.

This would provide a golden opportunity to MMA candidate Zahid Saeed, PML-N’s Miftah Ismail, PTI’s Ali Zaidi and PPP’s Paganwala.

The PTI, PML-N and MMA candidates belong to the business fraternity and are rich enough to carry out their election campaign through innovative means to muster support from the constituents.

Mr Saeed appeared to have an upper hand since he had close interaction with business community of Sodagaran-i-Delhi, Memon, Bohri, Chinioti and other groups being a former vice president of the federation of chambers of commerce and industry and Korangi Association.

Mr Ismail was a former finance minister and despite being a newcomer he got the opportunity to cultivate not only business community but other segments of society through interaction with them as a PML-N minister.

Although his party did not pay due attention to the issues of Karachi during its major portion of the five-year term, it had earned some goodwill by starting work on the Green Line bus rapid transit project.

Mr Ismail during his interaction with people claims that soon the Green Line project would see the light of day and if voted to power the PML-N would arrange installation of desalination plants to supply potable water to Karachi and arrange financing of the K-4 water project.

As top leadership of Mr Ismail’s party is facing cases, the public opinion that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was being victimised may work in his favour.

While the wind of change is blowing apparently in favour of the PTI across the country, political observers are of the view that compared to Mr Saeed and Mr Ismail, PTI’s Ali Zaidi has failed to cultivate the electorate personally as he is relying more on the popularity of Imran Khan.

Although he has been addressing corner meetings in the constituency, he lacks appeal and charisma which is required to get elected.

PPP’s Paganwala said that he had decided to work to get the basic problems of the people resolved regardless of winning or losing the election.

However, one has to wait to see who is going to spring a surprise from this constituency on July 25.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2018