KARACHI: Murtaza Wahab was elected as the first Pakistan Peoples Party mayor of Karachi on Thursday, after the day was marred by controversy, recriminations and protests.
The mayoral election was expected to be a tough fight between Mr Wahab and Jamaat-i-Islami’s Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, both of whom claimed numerical superiority in the run-up to the election.
The PPP had formed an alliance with PML-N and JUI-F, taking their combined strength to 173, while the JI had the support of 61 PTI members, taking the expected number of votes for Mr Rehman to 192.
But while Mr Wahab secured all 173 expected votes, Mr Rehman only managed to get 160 after 30 union council members abstained from the polling process.
JI rejects elections, calls for countrywide demonstrations
The slot of deputy mayor also went to PPP’s Salman Abdullah Murad, who bagged 173 votes, with JI’s Saif-ud-din securing 160 votes.
According to Returning Officer Nazar Abbas, the election was conducted through a show of hands procedure at Karachi Arts Council, which the Election Commission of Pakistan had declared as the polling station. Media was barred from covering the election while heavy contingents of Rangers and police were also deployed in and around the venue.
No simple majority
PPP’s mayor and deputy mayor candidates failed to secure a simple majority — 184 votes — in the house. However, the present local government law stipulated that any candidate who secured a majority of votes could be elected mayor even if they failed to get a simple majority.
The 367-member City Council of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation currently has 366 union council members, while the result on one UC was still pending.
The dissenting members of the PTI had made their intentions of not voting for Mr Rehman clear three days ago. They claimed that the decision to form an alliance with JI was made without their consultation.
Not only disgruntled leaders, but PTI’s Firdaus Shamim Naqvi, who is also a member of the Sindh Assembly did not vote for the JI candidate. Mr Naqvi, currently detained in a case related to May 9 violence was brought to the polling station but he opted to not vote as that would have meant losing his Sindh Assembly seat.
The JI alleged that the provincial government had coerced the PTI members who were supposed to vote for Mr Rehman in the election. The party “rejected” the election and requested the ECP to declare it “null and void” and announce a fresh schedule.
Mr Rehman, who is also JI’s Karachi emir, also announced to observe ‘Black Day’ today (Friday). The party will also hold demonstrations across the country.
He alleged that the Sindh government did not produce 31 elected UC chairmen belonging to the PTI despite court orders.
Replying to JI’s allegations, Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani said it was an impression that PTI members abstained from the election under duress or incentives.
“The PTI is going through tough times across the country as even its founding members were quitting the party,” he said while admitting that the PPP managed to take advantage of PTI’s precarious situation to get its mayor elected.
Mr Ghani termed the victory of Mr Wahab “historic” as PPP managed to win the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation for the first time.
The PPP and JI workers also came face to face outside the Arts Council following the announcement of the election results. They chanted slogans and pelted stones at their rivals. Later, police and Rangers dispersed the protesters and arrested at least eight people.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2023