Muttahida, PPP, TLP ready to fight out NA-240 by-poll today

Published June 16, 2022
Presiding officers take election material including ballot boxes to their respective polling stations on the eve of NA-240 by-election on Wednesday.—Online
Presiding officers take election material including ballot boxes to their respective polling stations on the eve of NA-240 by-election on Wednesday.—Online

KARACHI: With little enthusiasm among residents and cautious campaigns by political parties amid low turnout expectations, over half a million registered voters of NA-240 are set to exercise their democratic and constitutional right today (Thursday) in the by-election, wherein among 25 contesting candidates the main fight is expected between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The by-polls in the National Assembly constituency that had fallen vacant after the death of MQM-P MNA Iqbal Muhammad Ali in April though managed to attract interest of political parties, it couldn’t create much electioneering during the campaigns compared to past trends.

As electoral history and voting trends in the neighbourhood suggest, other major parties like the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, better known as MQM-Haqiqi, and the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) despite having foothold though their organisational structures in the multi-ethnic constituency don’t seems to have promising chances in today’s by-poll.

The situation has left more space for leading contestants after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the party with largest mandate from Karachi in 2018 polls and the Jamaat-i-Islami, which has gained enough political grounds recently due to aggressive campaign for urban rights, have decided to stay away from the electoral process in the NA-240.

With 529,855 registered voters, electioneering remained lacklustre in constituency

The NA-240 (Korangi Karachi II) comprises the areas which were once part of the former NA-255 and various areas of the NA-254 as the fresh constituency was created after delimitation of the constituencies on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 population census by amalgamating both former constituencies of National Assembly.

The total population of the constituency, as counted in 2017 census, stands at 853,973 while the registered voters in NA-240 are 529,855, including 294,385 male and 235,470 female voters.

A total of 309 polling stations and 1,236 polling booths are being set up for elections in the constituency. The Election Commission and security administration have declared 203 polling stations “highly sensitive” and 106 as “sensitive”.

Mainly dominated by Urdu speakers, the constituency has a moderate number of pockets of residents of other linguistic groups.

With total 25 candidates in the run, among them main contestants include Muhammad Abu Bakar of the MQM-P, Shahzada Shahbaz of the TLP, Nasir Rahim of the PPP, Shabbir Ahmed Qaimkhani of PSP, Syed Rafiuddin of MQM with a number of independent candidates.

Hours before the polling on Wednesday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) announced to withdraw from the process in favour of the PPP.

In the 2018 elections, of the 475,523 registered voters the late leader of the MQM-P won the seat by getting 61,165 votes against Muhammad Asif of the TLP who was runner up with 30,535 votes and Farrukh Manzoor stood third with 29,941 votes.

Muhammad Feroze of the PPP with 7,586 votes and Syed Asif Hasnain with 6,661 votes couldn’t stage impressive performance.

Once considered as a stronghold of the MQM where the party had never lost any polls it had contested, over the years the constituency has however changed in many ways amid challenges being faced by the party, emerging from the vote bank of TLP in the urban centre and winning performance of the PPP in the recent by-polls in the city capitalising on its 14-year-old rule in the province.

The absence of PTI from the by-poll process, which bagged the second highest number of votes from the provincial metropolis in 2013 elections and then emerged as a party with the biggest Karachi mandate, has further narrowed down the contest and given more chances to the key contesting parties.

Arrangements

Meanwhile, the ECP claimed to have finalised all the arrangements for the polling day.

An official said that polling materials and all other related stuff had been handed over to the polling staff.

Similarly, he said, security arrangements for NA-240 by-polls had also been made. He said that the Rangers would be deployed outside all polling stations of the constituency for maintenance of law and order.

However, sources privy to the process didn’t find the arrangements in line with the requirements.

Due to insufficient means of transport for the delivery of election materials, they said, the polling staff were bringing the election materials to the respective polling stations on their own.

“At several polling stations, there is no potable water and fans. It would not be easy to perform hour-long non-stop election duties in the scorching heat and extreme weather conditions,” said a member of the polling staff.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2022

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