KARACHI: Among the 18 towns of the city district Karachi, Saddar Town has been described as a VIP town because most important financial, commercial institutions and government offices are located in the area.
It is also distinct from other towns because of its historical buildings which include the official residences of the governor and chief minister, the Sindh Assembly, city, sessions and high court, the Supreme Court’s Registry and the Quaid’s birth place.
The city’s main markets and head offices of various banks are also located here, besides several diplomatic missions.
With an estimated population of 6,16,000 largely consisting of old city areas and new areas like Clifton and Kehkashan, the town comprises 11 Union Councils which were part of NA-249 and PA-110 and PA-111.
It has a 17-member town council comprising 11 UCs naib nazims as well as four women and one member representing the minorities and a labour councillor.
The town is largely populated by trading communities such as Memons, Marwaris, Ghanchis and Gujratis besides Balochs, Sindhis and Lasis and it has also significant number of people who migrated from India. Eminent social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi also belongs to this town.
In the 1970s, the JUP, headed by late Shah Ahmed Noorani, and the PPP had dominated the politics in the town. A new trend has witnessed in 80s with the entry of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in local politics.
The MQM had boycotted the 2001 local body polls but now it has fielded its own candidates from the platform of the Haq Parast panel in the town. The Sunni Tehrik has also entered the field and put up its own candidates.
In the 2001 local body elections, the PPP-backed Awam Dost panel had won a majority of seats. Subsequently, in a number of UCs Awam Dost panel candidates were elected UC nazim and naib nazim. Later, Mr Mohammad Farooq Faria Memon was elected as nazim and Mohammad Wazir Rehbir of the JUP panel as naib nazim.
This time the main contest will be among candidates backed by the MQM, the PPP, PML-Q, PML-Nawaz, JUP, JUI and the Awami National Party (ANP). Besides, many independent candidates are also taking part.
The population and local areas of the 11 UCs are: UC-1 Haji Camp (68,018) population comprises New Kumarwara, Napier Police Quarters Compound, partly Bhim Pura, Ghanchi Para, Old Haji Camp and Jinnah Abad, Risala Police Line, Sita Das Temple.
UC-2 Garden (64,139): Usman Abad, Badshahi Compound, Hasan Lashkari Village, Dhobi Ghat, Shoe Market, Garden West, Pakistan Quarters.
UC-3 Kharadar (64,470): Ghulam Hussain Qasim Quarters (part), Qamar House, Napier Quarters, Lea Market, Old Town (part), Market Quarters, Khori Garden, Bunder Quarters.
UC-4 City Railway Colony (43,002): Serai Quarters, Bottle Ghali, New Challi, Pakistan Chowk, City Railway Colony.
UC-5 Nanak Wara (63,041): City Court, KMC Building, Pan Mandi, Nanakwara, Thuttai Compound, Bora Peer, NJV School, Parsi Colony, Lady Dufferin Hospital.
UC-6 Gazdarabad (65,394): Ram Swami, Jubilee Market area, Nabi Bux area, Gazdarabad, Garden Police Quarters, Preedi Street Quarters and Fikri Compound.
UC-7 Millat Nagar/Islampura (52,098): Dharam Siwara, Azeem Plaza area, Shoe Market (part), Bhati Compound, Millat Nagar, Haq Nagar, Hashim Khan Baghicha, Zoological Garden.
UC-8 Saddar (65,313): Preedy Quarters, Ratan Talao (part), Urdu Bazar area, Gari Khata, Burns Road (part), Bohri Bazar, Lucky Star, Aram Bagh (part).
UC-9 Civil Lines (44,874): PIDC, Civil Line, Bagh-i-Quaid-i- Azam, Chief Minister House, Governor House, Sindh Secretariat, Shafi Court, Sindh Club, Hijrat Colony.
UC-10 Clifton (52,154): GOR, Frere Town, Tikri Colony, Railway Quarters, Kehkashan Clifton, Block 5 and 7 Old Clifton, Reti Lane, Shah Rasool Colony.
UC-11 Kehkashan (33,648): Kehkashan Block 1, 2, 3, 4, Clifton (part) Block-2, Mazar Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Gizri (lower and upper).
A survey shows that the PPP still enjoys the support of a large number of people in the old city area, particularly in UC-1 Old Haji Camp, UC-3 Kharadar, UC-9 Civil Lane, besides UC-10 Clifton. But the MQM has a significant vote bank in UC-2 Garden, UC-5 and UC-6 Gazdarabad while in UC-8 Saddar the PML-Q has an effective base. The Jamaat-i-Islami has votes in UC-11 Kehkashan.
The independent group of Jamshed Ahmed Khan, former chairman of DMC-South, has also strong support in UC-7 Millat Nagar/Islampura while the Awami National Party has considerable influence in UC-4 Railway Colony due to a significant number of Pathan voters.
In the last election, religious factor had played an important role. Whether this continues to influence voters or has been replaced by pressing economic and social factor remains to be seen. At present all political and the religious parties are in contact with each other for seat adjustments and the electoral scene will be clearer after final decisions are taken by the central leaderships of the respective parties.
A survey of the Town shows that encroachers are active in Saddar, Empress, Jama Cloth, Boulton and Lea markets occupying almost every open space of the market land.
People complain that it is difficult to walk on the roads around these markets due to parking of all types of vehicles in utter disregard of parking restricts. Total chaos is witnessed during peak hours when vehicles are parked haphazardly on roadsides, blocking the traffic flow.
Several anti-encroachment operations had been launched in the past to clear the area, but after every operation, the encroachers stage a comeback.