A police vehicle stands by as voters approach polling camps set up by different parties in the constituency on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
A police vehicle stands by as voters approach polling camps set up by different parties in the constituency on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Though there was plenty of hype around the NA-249 by-election, there was not much enthusiasm at most polling camps as polling started in the constituency on Thursday.

“No, it is only now that you don’t see so many voters. That’s because of heat. People are fasting as well. Still, there was a good turnout at 8am,” said Gulzaib Hasanzai, minding a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) facilitation camp in Orangi Town under swaying posters of smiling candidate Miftah Ismail with Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.

“The voters are very wise and aware now. They remember well Nawaz Sharif’s time when they got their taste of peace and calm in this region. They remember the commodity prices in his time, and they also feel the burden of inflation now,” said Owais Bilal, another volunteer at the camp.

‘Our reward will come in the form of Miftah Ismail’s victory’

ANP-PML-N alliance

Alamzaib Khan Allai, a former chairman of UC-23 Orangi Mominabad, who belongs to the Awami National Party, said that they had formed an alliance with the PML-N out of mutual respect and like-mindedness. “We are both democratic parties and our alliance is a victory for democracy. It will also bring victory for Miftah Ismail,” he said.

Right across, there was the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf camp where the volunteers and facilitators for voters of their candidate Mohammad Amjad Iqbal, had their back to the entrance. They had even turned their chairs the other way. But Mr Allai had another explanation: “See, this is what happens when you do no work. You can’t face people. The PTI minister from this constituency also had the water and power portfolio but there is no water and no electricity in our area. Why is PTI even contesting this election?” he laughed.

Next to the PML-N camp at Badar Chowk was the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) tent where the volunteers said that they were expecting a good turnout around the time polling closed as it was also closer to iftar time. “We have gone door-to-door to speak to voters. Hopefully, they will show up after Zohr prayers,” said volunteer Jibran Hashmi there.

A good turnout area

Meanwhile, Baldia Town No 6, also known as the Jungle School Area, witnessed a 60 per cent turnout. It was the place to be if you wanted to catch the general mood of the elections.

For PPP’s candidate Abdul Qadir Mandokhel, his workers were also expecting a turnout after Zohr. “This is a Pakhtun area, with most people busy in their work the entire day as they are labourers, drivers, shopkeepers, etc. They will show up sooner or later,” said Nur Mohammad, a volunteer.

Mustafa Kamal volunteers

Meanwhile, the PSP volunteers were quite hopeful for Syed Mustafa Kamal.

Advocate Hassaan Sabir, who was campaigning for Mustafa Kamal there, said that one could tell by looking at his past what kind of a leader he was going to be in the future. “Everyone knows how he worked for the uplift of Karachi. He was with the MQM then and he made that party look good through his own good work.

“Look at Baldia. Look at its broken, uneven roads. Here you get electricity for as little a time as the rest of the city gets loadshedding. There are no playgrounds here, no sewerage lines. When Mustafa Kamal was the mayor, he constructed the only good road here, the Ittehad Town/Saeedabad Road. He also built a 100-bed cardiac hospital here in 2010. And that hospital is in ruin now as the PPP government could not run it or maintain it. It shows PPP’s competence,” he said.

“The Hub reservoir is some 40 kilometres from here. In 2009, it was Mustafa Kamal who was instrumental in the laying of a 48-inch diameter pipeline from there to Baldia Town. And today, mismanagement, crime and corruption have led to that pipeline having 178 illegal connections, including 25 illegal hydrants,” he said.

In Baldia, one could also find many facilitation camps in not that close proximity of one another. MQM’s camp could be located in a lane thanks to the fluttering party flags hanging from the poles and wires. And as one moved in that direction, one saw three or four big black double-cabin 4x4s with the tiger banners covering their bonnets.

One was also reminded of the PML-N candidate’s offering rewards for all his workers if he won, hence the enthusiasm. But one female volunteer, Naureen Alam, quickly shook her head after hearing that. “Our reward will come in the form of Miftah Ismail’s victory, nothing else can be more rewarding than that,” she smiled.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2021

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