MQM-P withdraws from local government elections in Karachi, Hyderabad

Published January 14, 2023
MQM-P leaders hold a press conference in Karachi. — Photo: DawnNewsTV
MQM-P leaders hold a press conference in Karachi. — Photo: DawnNewsTV

MQM-P announced in the early hours of Sunday that it will boycott the local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions after its repeated requests for changes in delimitations were turned down by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The MQM-P, an ally of the PPP in the current coalition government, lobbied for Sunday's local body polls in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions to be postponed until the issue of delimitations is settled. It managed to get the PPP to do its part to delay the polls, only to see the Election Commission of Pakistan veto the move.

After hours of internal discussions, the party held a press conference after midnight, announcing its decision.

Party leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that "neither the voters list, nor the delimitations and arrangements for the elections are appropriate".

He said that the party waited till the last minute for the election commission to "right the wrongs" and do justice but to no avail.

Siddiqui urged the voters to also "stay home" and boycott the polls as "your vote will not be counted the right way."

The MQM-P chief appeared to give PPP the clean chit, saying that it did its part to resolve the delimitation issue, but the ECP intervened. He also said that the party will not quit the coalition government or "blackmail" anyone due to the frail economic and political situation.

Earlier, Bilawal had offered the party some last-minute advice. Talking to Geo News, he said the MQM-P was a "very old and senior" political party and advised it to "fully participate" in the LG elections, adding that the elections were very important so political parties could work together for the development of Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

When asked what impact MQM-P's departure from the coalition could have on the future of the federal government, Bilawal said: "I think this decision of leaving the government will be a non-political one. I think such a decision won't be taken and the federal government is confident on its [strength of] numbers — if such a phase comes then we will manage it."

He said the PPP was in continuous contact with its ally at the Centre but it was currently focused on Sunday's elections and convincing voters to come and vote.

The PPP chairman reiterated that he was hopeful that the MQM-P would take part in the local body polls instead of taking any "non-political decision". He said parties can issue "harsh statements" in the heat of election campaigning, adding that he did not think such statements would have any impact going ahead.

Regarding the MQM-P's reservations over delimitations, Bilawal said the PPP had tried to explain the matter to its ally many times but was unsuccessful in doing so. He said the delimitations could not be changed once the election schedule was issued.

"Once this matter arose that there could be a threat to the federal government [tenure] then we thought it is very important that we remove the concerns of our allies as much as we can and we tried to do so."

Bilawal said that all the parties had issues with the delimitations, including his own PPP.

The PPP chairman said that as a native Karachiite, he wanted to work for the city's development as well as the entire province's, adding that he wanted his candidates to take part in the polls since that would mean the local bodies, provincial and federal governments being "on the same page" for the first time.

"This is a very positive development for Karachi and Hyderabad divisions so my fundamental message is that come out and use your right to vote in the Jan 15 elections and change your fate."

The PPP chairman expressed confidence that Hyderabad's mayor would be from his party while the Karachi mayor would "100 per cent" be from the Pakistan Democratic Movement.

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