HYDERABAD: Surprises cannot be ruled out in the Sept 12 election for local government representatives in the Cantonment Board Hyderabad (CBH) though the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) is poised to maintain its winning streak. It had won most seats in the previous election held in 2015.

MQM-P is, however, faced with the post-August 2016 political landscape which witnessed emergence of its Dr Farooq Sattar faction and Pak Sarzameen Party, led by Syed Mustafa Kamal.

Very interesting contests are expected on the seats for which women aspirants have been fielded.

Three women — Afshan Rauf Shaikh (an educationist) of PTI, Sana Arshad (a schoolteacher) of PSP and Azra Miandad (a retired policewoman) of PPP — are trying their luck on general seats for the first time.

A total of 74 candidates, including 20 independents, are in the race. There are 48,965 registered voters — 27,073 male and 21,892 female — for whom 35 polling stations have been set up. Six of them have been declared “sensitive” by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

In the 2015 CBH polls, MQM had won six seats, two of them unopposed, to lay hands on the coveted slot of vice-president for the first time. The seat had always remained with the PPP in the past, when CBH had fewer number of wards.

PPP had won three constituencies — all taxpaying areas — in 2015. Most seats of MQM were from katchi abadis. Abdul Rehman Pathan had contested as an independent candidate but later joined PPP during voting for the post of vice president.

Under the new delimitations, CBH had redefined/renamed boundaries of 10 constituencies, merging and altering wards though their number remained unchanged. This could put MQM-P in an advantageous position as katchi abadis’ wards are divided into multiple constituencies. But it could cause upset to the party simultaneously amidst presence of other stakeholders like PSP, PTI, TLP and independents.

Interesting contests are to be seen also in wards of katchi abadis. Candidates who are testing their luck again are Faqir Mohammad, Abdul Rehman, Kazi Ashhad and Iqbal Memon; the latter had won a seat in the 2015 polls as a Muttahida candidate but had quit the party after the Aug 2016 episode to join PPP.

Surprisingly, he was denied a ticket by PPP and decided to contest as an independent.

Kazi Ashhad again got a PPP ticket. Rehman has also been given a ticket by PPP although he had won his seat as an independent candidate with a narrow margin against PPP’s candidate Ibrahim Qureshi. Rest are mostly new entrants.

“We are hopeful to win six seats,” Amir Khan, MQM-P’s senior deputy convener claimed lately at his recent press conference.

His party says it is confident of winning wards 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 and believes that inclusion of katchi abadis in ward 5 could also benefit it if it is able to bring voters to polling stations. PPP is sure of winning wards 1, 3, and 4.

“The present division of wards seems to be favouring us but presence of other candidates can prove the contest to be tough,” concedes an MQM-P activist from the constituency of a katchi abadi.

Ward 10, falling in Latifabad’s Unit-12, was the largest one in 2015 polls as multiple katchi abadis including Jinnah Colony and Mujahid Colony near Sindh Regimental Centre (SRC) were part of it. It has now been divided into wards 8, 9 and 10.

Similarly, ward 5 has the highest number of registered voters — 7,121. According to CBH’s polling scheme, ward 9 has second highest voters — 6,610 followed by ward 7 with 6,572 and ward 2 with 5,482.

Besides PTI, PPP and PSP, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Tehreek Allah-o-Akbar are now in the field on directly contested seats.

Like Sana Arshad of PSP, Afshan Shaikh of PTI is contesting from ward 5 which has become a difficult ward considering the fact that she is a novice in politics and contesting an election for the first time. PPP’s Irtiza Sheikh has run a vigorous campaign in this ward and is poised to win.

True colour of electioneering was witnessed in katchi abadis located in six out of 10 wards as supporters and activists of contesting political parties enjoyed party songs at their respective offices located at small distances from each other. Barring a few unpleasant incidents involving MQM-P and PSP no other election-related violence has been reported so far.

“Ashhad Kazi will have to pull his socks up to win a seat again in ward 4 where PTI’s Kashif Qadir has run a vigorous campaign,” says a PPP leader, who is actively engaged in the electoral process. Ward 4 mainly covers posh areas of Civil Lines, both phases of Defence, and its other parts. Kashif Qadir is son of a retired Wapda officer while Ashhad belongs to Hyderabad’s old Kazi family. Peon Colony located behind Shahbaz Building often throws plenty of electoral support for PPP candidate.

One political observer from ward 3 — a taxpaying area of Saddar, Cantonment, Hussain and Tufail lines — believes that “while PPP’s Rehman is favourite, PTI’s Ashraf Memon couldn’t be written off outright either”.

PPP’s Faqir Mohammad was considered favourite in ward 1 (Hur Camp, Kumbhar Para, Irrigation Colony, Shami Line and Gharibabad) and contest in ward 2 (Millat-i-Islamia, Pathan Masoom Shah and Barrage colonies) would be tough among PTI, PPP and MQM. Wards 6 and 7 cover katchi abadis of Mumtaz, Shah Faisal and Kaimkhani colonies, Qazi Qayyum Road and Bacha Khan Chowk. Ward 6 has seven and ward 7, 11 candidates, including four independents.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2021

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