THE countdown has begun. The party-based local government elections in the largest city and commercial capital of the country are just one week away. Yet, a traditional festivity relating to such a huge electoral exercise is amiss thanks to heavy rains that had paralysed life over the past one week and even during Eidul Azha.

Major contesting parties are Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan with its election symbol kite; Pakistan Peoples Party (arrow); Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (bat); Jamaat-i-Islami (scale); Pak Sarzameen Party (dolphin); Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (crane); Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (tiger); Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (candle); Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (book) and others.

The Altaf Hussain-led MQM, commonly called MQM-London, has announced the boycott of the LG polls on the grounds that it has been denied political activities for the past six years.

The candidates of these contesting parties are very much in the field but their voter mobilisation campaigns in the form of holding public meetings, corner meetings and door-to-door canvassing is almost nonexistent till date. However, one can get some idea about election activities by watching ads on social media platforms by the Jamaat-i-Islami and posters shared online by a few candidates of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan.

Petition in SC, demarcation confusion, boycott and rains have a deadening effect on electioneering

Even in the PIB Colony area, where a by-election on a National Assembly seat, NA-245, is scheduled for July 27, ie three days after the LG polls, election activities of candidates of different political parties have eclipsed the campaigns of local government contestants.

For the July 24 LG polls, different political parties and candidates have made seat adjustment deals even with their rivals in various parts of the city. However, no major party has so far made an election alliance for the LG polls.

While the contentious issue of amending the Sindh Local Government Act of 2013 to make it an empowered law in compliance with the Feb 1 directives of the Supreme Court is yet to be resolved, the demarcation and delimitation of electoral constituencies and creation of 26 towns in the seven districts of Karachi division are also adding to the confusion among the minds of ordinary citizens. The people ask as to how the district and town system will go together or whether the deputy commissioner of a district would control all the towns in that district.

The Sindh government earlier this year had announced replacement of seven district municipal corporations (DMCs) with 26 Town Municipal Corporations (TMCs), but later withheld the formation of TMCs till the new LG elections.

At present, not a single town has been made functional and the seven city DMCs have also passed their budgets for financial year 2022-23.

But complications aside, voters in Karachi will elect their representatives — a chairman, vice chairman, general councillor and councillors on seats reserved for women, peasants and minorities — in their respective union committees (UCs) in the July 24 elections.

Karachi is divided into 26 towns and these towns are further divided into a total of 246 UCs. But, since towns are not functional, the 246 UCs have been divided district wise under which District Central got maximum UCs (45) followed by East (43), Korangi (37), West (33), Keamari (32), Malir (30) and South got 26 UCs.

And the party that would manage to win 124 UCs in the July 24 election can be in a position to get its mayor elected from the house i.e. the City Council.

However, given the complex situation of the metropolis as well as the division of “Mohajir vote bank”, it can be safely predicted that getting a simple majority in the City Council would be an uphill task for any one party including the MQM-P that had won a clear majority in the 2015 LG elections.

Also, it is the MQM-P that had moved the Supreme Court for postponement of the LG elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions challenging the basic structure of local governments as well as creation of electoral constituencies that it said had been made only to suit the ruling party in the province. However, the SC is yet to take up the petition for hearing and it appears the MQM-P pins hopes on it.

But, the Election Commission of Pakistan has already completed its arrangements for holding ‘transparent’ elections in seven districts of Karachi division as well as nine districts of Hyderabad division — district Hyderabad, Tando Mohammad Khan, Matiari, Tando Allahyar, Badin, Dadu, Jamshoro, Thatta and Sujawal — on July 24.

A total of 9,848 polling stations have been set up in the Karachi and Hyderabad divisions and 2,573 of them declared highly sensitive.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2022

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