THE recent general elections mark an unprecedented setback for the MQM, which has remained undefeated in Azizabad since 1988. Not only has the National Assembly seat NA-254 been wrested from its hands by the Imran Khan-led PTI but also two provincial assembly seats, PS-125 and PS-126. A number of factors were behind PTI’s skyrocketing performance in grabbing 14 NA and 21 Sindh Assembly seats from the metropolis. One of them was a diverse range of candidates, who are fresh in politics.
An unknown face in the affairs of the state but not an unfamiliar one in the world of fashion is Abbas Jafri, who was given the ticket by the PTI for PS-125. He is a model and a winner of several awards such as those given out by MTV, the Asian Council, Youth Icon, Lux Style and Hum TV. He received 30,687 votes to secure his place in the Sindh Assembly.
Talking to Dawn from Islamabad, Jafri says that, “I swept every polling station in my constituency. It faces basic civic issues. I will repay the confidence people have reposed in me by working alongside them. Our [party] meeting at Banigala was held on Aug 9, and all the MPAs-elect from Karachi were present. We discussed the name of the opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly and the relief the PTI will provide to Karachiites in the first 100 days of coming to power.”
About his modelling career, the 27-year-old explains that, “Modelling is my passion and I never quit it. Some people think I have said goodbye to the profession, which is not true. I remained away for a few years only. And now, fashion will be secondary and my political duties will come first.” About his earlier life, he adds: “I played for the Pakistan under-19 cricket team. I was also a captain of Karachi U-19 and used to play as an opening batsman and right-arm leg-spinner.”
Fashion commentator and writer Mohsin Sayeed says, “Jafri had a different and appealing look because of his long hair and beard. He used to leave fashion shows as soon as they ended but I found him quite politically active on Facebook. He’s a well-mannered guy — let’s see how he serves his constituency.”
On the point of diversity, Sheikh Salahuddin — who contested for NA-254 from the MQM platform and lost — says about his opponent: “Diversity does not mean that you introduce absconders. Aslam Khan [his electoral opponent] was declared a proclaimed offender by a Customs court in 1997 as he used to import electronic goods illegally on fake letterheads. He concealed this fact on his nomination form, which disqualifies him under Article 62(1)(f). But some hidden forces made him win the election without even canvassing.”
The MQM leader adds: “I knocked at the door of the returning officer and Election Commission of Pakistan but was given the cold shoulder. Imran Khan talks a lot about accountability. I appeal to him to provide me justice and rid his party of such fraudsters.”
Brushing aside Salahuddin’s allegations, PTI’s winner from PS-126 Omar Omari states: “I am Aslam’s business partner. We run an event management company. The MQM has brought up a case that was decided about 20 years ago and that is no longer relevant. They did not approach any authority for the redressal of their complaints. The MQM should not forget that this is the era of performance. People want results. We will also be removed by them if we don’t perform. The constituency is in shambles and needs our immediate and complete attention.”
Fayyaz Hussain, a resident of Azizabad, agrees. “The shortage of water is the number one problem we are facing, though the water board is occupied by the people of our own community. You cannot find groundwater even at 300 feet because of its overuse. We recently paid Rs240,000 bribe to the water board to get a new water connection for our block of flats. I have been living in this constituency for 35 years and always voted for the kite [MQM], but not this time. They made us — their own people — suffer.”
According to Danish Younus, “The people judged the candidates on their performance this time. There was no ideological vote. Altaf Hussain’s appeal to boycott the polls, and the internal friction within the MQM-P, divided the mohajir vote which led to the MQM’s defeat. The votes of the Shia Ismaili community here also played an important role in deciding the winners.”
“I request the authorities to demolish Mukka chowk and rebuild it somewhere else in the city,” he continues. “It reminds us of the time of violence, strikes and protests.”
Siraj Ahmed, who runs a general store in the constituency, says: “All the results were decided even before start of the polls. Imran Khan has been brought in forcibly. He is being used to push seasoned politicians such as Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari to the wall. This constituency will never betray Altaf bhai. The result of the 2015 by-poll was the fairest when every polling station was guarded heavily by law-enforcement agencies yet the MQM emerged victorious.”
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018