KARACHI: Who are these strange people staring back unblinkingly and hopefully at you from the posters and banners hanging from every other wall and pole of the Karachi’s six cantonments where elections were held on Sunday.
Are they there to serve us? How very nice of them to show their faces even though it is just on posters and banners.
A round of the city on the day of polling also served as an eye-opener of the issues faced by the people of these cantonment areas.
“You see this gutter water accumulating on the service road here,” asked Mohammed Javed, a resident and voter of a ward in the Cantonment Board Faisal (CBF). He was standing at a Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) facilitation camp at Jauhar Morr.
“This dirty water will double after the elections,” he laughed. “When these people running for seats in these elections could not clean up the mess even on election day when they are supposed to show efficiency, then don’t associate any expectations from them later,” he added.
Asked then why he was there at a candidate’s polling camp in the first place, the voter shrugged and informed that he had come to see if they were using voting machines. “I was curious about that actually,” he smiled.
“The taxes are multiplying but the facilities, other than what we get during election time at such candidate facilitation camps, are zero,” he opined before walking off.
“Things will improve if we get a chance,” a volunteer at the facilitation camp said then.
Shahrukh Khan, another young volunteer at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf camp, also pointed to the dirty water the voters had called attention to. “What if it has been done to make the current people, running cantonment affairs here, to look bad,” He questioned.
Another quick glance at the various posters and banners also made one realise that they focused more and prominently so on their party leaders and their election symbols rather than the candidates. Those who voted for the Bat, Arrow or Dolphin didn’t really seem to know the names of the candidates they voted for. Some mentioned their vote was for Prime Minister Imran Khan, some said that it was for Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari or Mustafa Kamal.
The thought about how come the outlawed Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was also contesting these elections crossed one’s mind as one noticed their camp there, too.
Meanwhile, the lesser known symbols such as Rose, Butterfly, Calculator, Vespa Scooter, etc, then made one head to the camps where these beckoned voters.
There was also a big picture of Pir Pagara, along with the Rose symbol and the picture of their candidate Shakil Ahmed Tariq. The gentleman at the facilitation desk in this camp looked exceptionally familiar as he looked up from the lists before him to smile at you. And that’s when you realised that he was one and the same as the candidate whose small picture you saw with the picture of the leader and the rose.
“I can’t sit around looking pretty, so I thought of lending my team a hand,” he smiled when asked what he was doing there. “We are here to serve, aren’t we? I might as well start from here,” he added.
At one Jamaat-i-Islami camp in Cantonment Board Karachi, Ward 2 or the Bizerta Lines, young volunteer Musab Siraj had this to say about the lack of voters: “There is a lack of issues or problems there. Did you see any water tankers around? Everyone is quite happy and content here. But ignorance is also bliss, so they say. These people here don’t realise what they are missing. They should come out and vote as we have plans for this area, too, such as creating sports facilities for them. We want to have a polo ground here for them,” he disclosed a part of his party’s plans for the area.
Shafi Bhai and Mohammed Habib there in the camp of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan said that there were plenty of voters but in the morning as they wanted to avoid the heat. “There is not that big a population here anyway,” said Shafi Bhai.
“And the population that you see are the residents of these Askari residential areas,” said Mohammed Habib pointing at both Askari 2 and 3. “They are still sleeping peacefully inside their comfortable flats and townhouses. Even if we do take the seat here, we have nothing to gain,” he said.
At Clifton Cantonment, around the PNS Shifa Hospital, young sisters Uzma Batool and Huma Batool also didn’t seem to have too much to do other than enjoy their biryani. The symbol they were promoting was that of the classic Vespa scooter, which belonged to the individual candidate Jahanzaib Aslam. The candidate was also spotted though with longer hair than in his banner picture. “That was taken before all the hard work, and this is how you have him after all the running around and preparation for these elections,” giggled one of the sisters, as the other remembered to ask the media person talking to them if she had voted yet. When she was informed by the journalist that she wasn’t sure where her polling station was, she quickly volunteered to help her out by asking for her CNIC.
The biggest rush and excitement could be found at the same ward’s DHA Phase-1 polling station where 15th East Street was completely covered on either side with facilitation camps. Here the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek party candidate Muddasir Iqbal Chaudhry with the chair symbol spoke passionately about the issues faced by the area residents. “It’s water, what else.”
“Defence is not being supplied water equally. These tall water tanks that you see in DHA are just there to be admired by people like us who barely get any water through the pipes. Even a water filtration plant sponsored by a big beverage company near the Nadra Centre on main Korangi Road has this message inscribed on it that the water facility is for the people of Akhtar Colony and Azam Basti. Where do the residents of DHA go then,” he asked. “And the huge turnout of voters here today is also because of this water issue. I will take it up big time if I win today,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021