KARACHI: The Oct 21 by-election on a Karachi National Assembly seat, NA-247, is expected to be a one-sided contest in favour of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which has been facing no serious electoral challenge from any of the contending parties.
The seat fell vacant following the resignation of PTI MNA Arif Alvi, who was elected as the country’s president. Mr Alvi had also won the same seat, then called NA-250, in the 2013 general elections.
If the result of the July 25 election is anything to go by, then there is not a single party that can pose a serious challenge to PTI’s billionaire as well as foreign-qualified candidate Aftab Hussain Siddiqui in the by-election.
The TLP that came second in the general elections is not in the field
Mr Alvi got over 90,000 votes — over 65,000 votes more than the runner-up — against the candidates of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal who got 24,680, 24,146 and 22,780 votes, respectively. MQM-P’s heavyweight candidate Dr Farooq Sattar came third after TLP’s Zaman Ali Jafery.
12 in the run
Besides PTI’s Siddiqui, prominent candidates are Sadiq Iftikhar of the MQM-P, famous TV artist Qaiser Khan Nizamani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Arshad Vohra of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Ali Nawab of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek and seven independent candidates.
The MMA, TLP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz are not contesting the by-election.
As MQM founder Altaf Hussain has already appealed to his followers to boycott the by-elections, internal differences and split within the MQM-P have made it very difficult for the party to show any improvement, or even maintain, their tally of July 25.
Even MQM-P somehow realised that without Mr Hussain it was no more a power to be reckoned with in many city constituencies. Its senior leader Faisal Subzwari had said that his party might have a chance “if our voters would come out of their homes on polling day”.
Over half a million voters
Over half a million voters are registered in this constituency, which comprises areas of Defence, Clifton, Old City area, Kharadar, Ranchhore Line etc.
Previously, Karachi’s South district had three NA seats. NA-247 was created this year as a result of fresh delimitation of constituencies for the July 25 election after amalgamating former NA-249 (Kharadar, Ranchhore Line, Old City areas) and NA-250 (Defence-Clifton, Burnes Road) constituencies.
In all previous elections, the now defunct NA-249 seat was won by MQM candidates backed by London-based Hussain. But like the July 25 elections, it is very difficult for the fragmented MQM to pull a significant number of votes even from the areas in the constituency traditionally considered its strongholds.
According to Election Commission of Pakistan, a total of 240 polling stations had been established for the Oct 21 by-election. There are total 546,451 voters — 295,567 male and 250,884 female voters.
Low turnout feared
Despite such a huge number of voters, it is believed that turnout would remain low in the by-election mainly because of the absence of TLP, which has a strong presence in Old City area.
However, some people expect that the turnout would be better than that of last week’s NA-243 by-election because of the by-election on a provincial assembly constituency, PS-111, on the same date.
The PA constituency, which is attached to NA-247, was left vacant by PTI’s Imran Ismail, who became the governor of the province.
PTI’s candidate Siddiqui expected that the turnout would be better, but definitely less than that of the July 25 election.
While the MQM-P, PPP and PSP are holding corner meetings, rallies and installing banners as part of their canvassing in the area, the campaign being run by PTI’s Siddiqui is most prominent.
The PTI candidate, who owns a giant construction firm, is already working in some impoverished neighbourhoods — which fall in the constituency and where the elected local government set-up is responsible for cleanliness, etc, — by making arrangements on a self-help basis to lift garbage.
Mr Siddiqui replied in the negative when asked whether he and his friends were also taking similar measures in areas being controlled by the Cantonment Board Clifton as well the Defence Housing Authority.
There was resentment within the PTI circles for awarding the party ticket to a relatively new entrant like Mr Siddiqui on a seat that fell vacant by the party’s founding member.
He agreed that he was never part of any political party before joining the PTI in 2010.
Mr Siddiqui, also a registered voter of the NA-247 constituency, told Dawn that he looked after the PTI’s “historic” public meeting in Karachi on Dec 25, 2011 along with senior leader Naeemul Haque. “I was the campaign manager of Imran Khan’s election on NA-243 constituency,” he said.
If all goes well, it would be smooth sailing for the PTI candidate on Oct 21.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2018