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KARACHI: Unlike dull and dry electioneering in two geographically related National Assembly constituencies — NA-236 and NA-237 — NA-238 offers a lot of interesting things to a voter and people closely monitoring the upcoming elections after developments just a week before polling day.

First came a claim from key leader of the Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party (PRHP) — an electoral platform of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) — Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqi, who is one of the candidates in the constituency, saying he had won support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and former provincial minister of Pakistan Peoples Party Haji Muzaffar Ali Shujra, who is contesting this election independently.

Then an armed attack on a PTI election office in the Quaidabad area that left four activists injured and which the party blamed on PPP workers sowed fears of violence on election day in voters and residents of the constituency. The July 25 polls would see some 20 candidates battling to win a majority of 234,616 total registered voters but it does not look easy for any of them.

Thriving drug business, water scarcity, poor health facilities, tattered roads plague localities

Multiethnic neighbourhoods

The constituency consists of multiethnic neighbourhoods including Korangi Creek, Ibrahim Hyderi, Rehri Goth, Chashma Goth, Quaidabad, Landhi, Radio Colony Landhi, Gulistan Society, Zafar Town, Qaddafi Town, Labour Colony, Bhains Colony, Labour Square, Muslim League Colony, Cattle Colony, Qaim Town, Old Muzaffarabad, New Muzaffarabad, Majeed Colony, Bilal Colony, Landhi Muslim Colony and many other low-income localities.

The constituency has been carved out of former NA-255, NA-257 and NA-258, which makes the situation more interesting as in the past elections those three seats had been winning grounds of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the recent delimitation has made it difficult to claim any result by any of the formerly winning parties.

The elections in NA-238 would be different from constituencies in many ways. First, it is a new constituency with a population of mixed ethnic and political support. Secondly, names of a couple of heavyweights of Karachi politics in the list of contesting candidates further brings it under the spotlight. For instance, Shahi Syed of the Awami National Party (ANP) is contesting from the constituency where he is facing Syed Rafiullah of the PPP, Gulfaraz Khan Khattak of the MQM and Mohammad Islam of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA).

Zunera Rahman is the only woman candidate from the constituency, who is an active member of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in Karachi, contesting on a PTI ticket. The most interesting among other candidates is the name of Aurangzeb Farooqi of the PRHP.

Critics believe that Maulana Farooqi enjoys good support in the constituency and it would not be wise to rule him out for any upset. They believe that religious votes in NA-238 would count the most and secondly it would be support on ethnic grounds to candidates which would also matter most in the final results.

Problems

When it comes to problems of the areas in the constituency, the poor localities of NA-238 are no different from other outskirts of the city. Apart from poor infrastructure, deteriorating condition of roads, declining health and education facilities and unavailability of water, a majority of the areas in the constituency still face the decades-old problems which have not been solved despite repeated promises by governments.

The peace, which returned after years of street crimes and violence following Rangers-led targeted operations, has now started to fade away and criminal activities have re-emerged in several pockets of the constituency. Among other criminal activities, several localities of NA-238 are known for thriving drug business.

The prospects of provincial assembly seats under the constituency — PS-90 and PS-91 — favour the PPP. However, the party that ruled the province for the last decade could face tough contest in one of the two constituencies — PS-91 — where its former provincial minister Haji Muzaffar Ali Shujra is contesting as an independent candidate after he was denied a party ticket.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2018