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KARACHI: Malir: a strong sense of identity

August 16, 2005

WITH an estimated population of 500,000, comprising seven union councils, Malir Town has been carved out of former districts East and Malir. During Benazir Bhutto’s era, most of the areas now falling in the township were excluded from the traditional commercial hub — a decision widely criticized by the urban population as they started facing problems owing to the inconvenient location of several administrative offices.

Thanks to the devolution plan, some prominent urban and rural localities have again been put together and named Malir Town. As areas comprising the town suffered on account of successive governments’ neglect, there emerged a host of problems, starting from drug addiction to non-availability of water, extreme insanitation, absence of good educational institutions, and foremost, a poor law and order situation which the town has witnessed for about 15 years. Many people left their homes and settled in other localities; many were killed in political vendattas.

Malir town is defined by the Jinnah International Airport , Malir Cantonment, Thado Nullah, a tributary of the Malir river, and Memon Goth, Sharea Faisal / railway and the Malir River. Malir Colony, Saudabad and Malir Extension were set up as residential colonies after partition to rehabilitate people coming from India.

The town is among the localities considered sensitive and 200 polling stations have been set up. As election fever gains momentum, the Awam Dost, Khushal Pakistan, Watan Nawaz, Al-Khadim and Insan Dost (Sunni Tehrik) groups have started door-to-door canvassing by distributing handbills. Similarly, Gharib Nawaz, Khidmatgar, Insaf Pasand, Shariat Group, Al-Madad, Aman Pasand, Haq Parast, Tameer Karachi Ittehad, Faqeer Dost and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-backed Insan Dost groups are active in various pockets.

A festive mood prevails in the entire township, with parties displaying banners, distributing handbills, and painting street-light poles. But the voters are worried about the similarity in the names of several panels and appear somewhat confused. Moreover, they are in difficulties differentiating between panel symbols as these differ from constituency to constituency.

The official population count in the town is 398,289 with a total of 209,060 registered voters. Of them, 96,481 are women. UC Saudabad has the highest number of voters, 32,605, followed by Model Colony 32,214; Khokhrapar 30,432; Kalaboard 29,743; Ghazi Barohi Goth 29,565; Jaffar-i-Tayyar, 27,441 and Gharibabad 27,060 voters.

The town is incorporated in the areas mostly falling in NAs- 257 and 256 (formerly NA-196) and PS 127 and 121 (formerly PS 96, 97, 98 and 99). NA-257 is considered to be a volatile constituency in the former district East where Muttahida Qaumi Movement swept four general national elections.

NA-257 has traditionally remained an MQM vote-bank with Communications Minister Shamim Siddiqui having won in 2002.

In 1997, 1990 and 1988, the Muttahida had won the NA-196 seat, and in the 1993 polls, boycotted by the MQM, Sher Mohammad Baloch of the PPP had won. In 1993, 1997, 1990 and 1988 the Muttahida had swept PS 99 seat. PS 98 is traditionally a PPP seat, with Abdul Hakim Baloch having won in 1988, 1990 and 1993. The constituency was shared with Sher Mohammad Baloh of the PPP in 1997.

While the town itself has a historic importance, Model Colony occupies prominence as it was established during Ayub’s regime, to be developed as a model zone where the elite purchased land. Ayub Khan and Zukfiqar Ali Bhutto were among luminaries who acquired plots in the locality.

Similarly, other localities have an identity of their own and have been retained as whole units as people of these areas identify themselves with where they live. In Ghazi Barohi Goth, parts of Jaffar Tayyar and Gharibabad union councils, various Sindhi and Baloch tribes and Memons are settled. A majority of them are engaged in land cultivation, services and business. These people are hard working and hospitable. A sizeable number of Punjabis and Pakhtoons live in Model Colony and other scattered pockets. A small minority, which consists of Christians and Hindus, is also part of the community, and there is an old temple called Malir Mandir.

Although the town mainly comprises developed areas, Gharibabad and Ghazi Barohi still have undeveloped rural landscapes where scattered agriculture can be seen. However, as the poor inhabitants are unaware of the importance of their land, unscrupulous builders are eyeing their property.

In the previous LB elections boycotted by the MQM, Jamaat-backed candidates won the elections. Jamaat stalwart Azam Ali served the constituency till his death, when his colleague Naveedul Islam took over the reins.

New comfortable UTS-11, 12, 13 and 35 buses were inducted to facilitate commuters. The Malir Extension Road was built while work is continuing on Begum Khursheed Road. At least three parks were developed. The CDGK has to its credit mega projects worth Rs 50 million, including a 36-bed hospital in Malir City, laying of sewerage lines from Model Colony to Malir Halt, and repair of three water supply pipelines.

However, some controversial actions drew criticism, such as conversion of bus stops into shops and handing over of community centres to NGOs and destruction of a monument-cum-fountain on the Saudabad roundabout. Moreover, the area’s social workers say no major effort was made to retrieve government land from land-grabbers.

The PPP and the Al-Khidmat groups have made seat adjustments in certain unions and hammered out an accord to support each other’s candidates. However, a tough fight is expected between MQM and the MMA and PPP-backed candidates.

CONTEST DETAILS: In Model Colony, there are 54 candidates. Awam Dost has fielded Haider Ali Jokhio and Haji Mohmmad Rafiq Baloch. They will face Tahir Rasool and Zahid Hussain of the MQM. Pervez Siddiqui of Al-Khidmat and Rana Tariq of Watan Nawaz are also in the fray.

In Kala Board, 27 candidates are vying for various slots. Zahid Siddiqui of the Al-Khidmat and Shahid Hussain Rizvi of the Awam Dost are facing Babar Amir and Mohammad Laiq from the HPG side.

In Saudabad, there are 30 candidates. Although there are three panels of nazims, a tough fight is expected between Syed Nayyar Raza /Mohmmad Riaz Rana of the HPG and Saddat Ibrahim Siddiqui / Nishat Rasool Khan, backed by the MMA.

In Khokhrapar, 32 candidates are vying for various slots. For nazim and naib nazim, there are four panels. The tough fight is expected between Nadeem Ahmed Khan / Mohammad Khaliq of HPG and Nazir Ahmed Katchi and Tariq Ayyub of Al-Khidmat.

In Jaffar Tayyar, Karim Bux, (Al-Khidmat) and Mehmood Iqbal Alvi (Awam Dost) are facing Syed Khursheed Iqbal and Syed Nasir Abass of HPG.

In Gharibabad, Altaf Patni (Al-Khidmat) and Siddiq Singhar (Awam Dost) are facing Aqeel Ahmed Ansari and Asad Jamal of the HPG.

In Ghazi Barohi, Jan Mohammed and Khuda Bux are MMA and PPP nominees, and are facing Mohammad Raees and Shamim Haider of HPG.