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Smokers’ Corner: Tale of two cities

Published Jul 01, 2012 12:00am


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By studying the electoral history of Karachi and Lahore, one can largely ascertain the general political and ideological mood of Pakistan's urban bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie.

In 1970 when the country held its very first direct elections, its polity had split into two distinct poles: one was trying to recreate Pakistan as a democratic-socialist entity and the other determined to safeguard the country's traditional ruling elite.

In the 1970 election, the left-liberal Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won the majority of seats in West Pakistan, whereas the Bengali nationalist party, the Awami League (AL), swept the election in the former East Pakistan.

In Lahore election results clearly reflected the signs of the time in which people overwhelmingly voted for change. All eight National Assembly (NA) seats were won by the PPP in Lahore where pro-establishment and religious parties were heavily defeated.

However the 1970 NA election in Karachi saw Karachiites going against the PPP and AL tide by largely voting for religious parties.

Seven NA seats were up for grabs in Karachi, out of which only two went to the PPP.

The religious parties bagged four seats, with JUP and JI winning two seats each whereas one seat went to an independent candidate.

Karachi was (as it still is) one of the most pluralistic cities of the country, dominated by an Urdu-speaking (Mohajir) majority.

The Mohajirs largely voted for religious parties in 1970 mainly due to the fact that they had arrived as refugees (from India) and were not considered 'sons of the soil.'

And since only the religious parties had directly linked Pakistani nationalism with Islam (thus transcending the need to be tied to an ethnic base or culture to be called people of the soil), the majority of the Mohajirs counterbalanced their social liberalism with political conservatism and voted for JI and JUP.

Seven years later, the 1977 election was marred by controversy and protest leading to the imposition of Pakistan's third (but by far the longest and the most violent) military regime, that of General Ziaul Haq.

In a bid to erode the influence of mainstream political patties and to also consolidate the patronage his regime was giving to the formation of a new urban class of industrialists, traders and shop-keepers (mainly in the Punjab), Zia held the 1985 election on a party-less basis.

However, after his assassination in 1988, the country returned to the normal party-based democratic process.

In the 1988 election, the majority of the seats were won by the PPP followed by the nine-party right-wing alliance, the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI).

This time Lahore had nine NA seats and Karachi 13. Out of the nine seats in Lahore, the PPP won six; whereas the IJI won two and one seat was won by a moderate right-wing alliance. This would be the PPP's last hurrah in Lahore.

Karachi saw a landslide victory for the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), a secular Mohajir nationalist party that completely wiped out the hold JUP and JI once enjoyed in Karachi.

MQM won 11 out of the 13 NA seats in Karachi, whereas the remaining two went to the PPP.

When the Zia loyalist, President Ishaq Khan, dismissed the PPP regime in 1990 (on 'corruption' charges) and held new elections, most analysts claimed that the elections were largely fixed.

IJI emerged as the majority party but was a fractured entity by the time its government was dismissed as well on the same charges by Ishaq.

A relatively fairer election was held in 1993 in which the PPP again emerged as the majority party.

Punjab's political and economic dynamics had been changing under Zia, but the impact became more visible during the 1993 election.

Out of the nine NA seats in Lahore in 1993, PML-N won eight. The PPP which had swept Lahore in 1970 and bagging the highest number of seats in 1988 could only win one in 1993.

PML-N had mixed an elitist version of Punjabi nationalism and fortified it with an appeal to the growing conservatism and Islamist sentiments among the Punjabi bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie.

In Karachi, the MQM boycotted the NA election (as a protest against army operation). The PPP and PML-N being the main beneficiaries of the boycott.

The 1997 election held after yet another PPP regime was dismissed, saw the participation of just between 27 and 35 percent of the electorate.

The elections were swept by the PML-N, but its regime toppled in a military coup by General Musharraf in 1999.

In 2002, the Musharraf regime held elections that were won by the PML-Q. The PPP bagged the second largest number of seats. PML-N was annihilated.

PML-Q was constructed by the Musharraf government by bringing together pro-establishment PML factions as well as a number of former PML-N heavyweights.

In the 2008 election, out of 20 NA seats in Karachi, MQM won 17 while the PPP won the remaining three.

Out of the 13 NA seats in Lahore, PML-N returned with a bang by winning 11 while two were won by the PPP.

Ever since the early 1990s, the PPP’s electoral support among the urban bourgeoisie has continued to erode, but it remains intact in the villages, towns and small cities of Sindh, South Punjab and parts of Pakhtunkhwa.

MQM remains a strong electoral player in Karachi.

The electoral trends in Lahore continue to reflect central and northern Punjab’s on-going shift towards conservative parties like the PML-N. Even though this time around N’s constituency is being attracted by another right-wing player, Imran Khan’s PTI — gunning for the province’s middle-class youth who find Khan’s idea of colouring his conservatism with sweeping rhetorical chants of change rather attractive.

In the next election, Lahore is likely to witness an electoral battle between the old right (PML-N) and the new right (PTI), whereas in Karachi the MQM is set to dominate again, followed by the PPP and ANP.


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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (49) Closed

Sindhri Manhoon Jul 01, 2012 06:43am
Excellent work NFP. You are the best. Muhajir secular party MQM and Sindhi secular party Jeay Sindh it seems were built for natural alliance if only there was no conspiracy. Still all Sindhi parties are secular and with some work they can form an excellent alliance with Pashtun Secular party ANP.
Badar Jul 01, 2012 12:02pm
NFP stated: "The Mohajirs largely voted for religious parties in 1970 mainly due to the fact that they had arrived as refugees (from India) and were not considered ‘sons of the soil." I take an exception to this absurd statement by NFP: First, More Punjabis migrated to Pakistan than Urdu speaking. So Mohajirs are not just urdu speaking. Second: Who did not consider Urdu speaking not sons of the soil? Once they came here, they belonged here. Many of them still don't consider themselves Pakistanis as they keep linking themselves to their ancestoral land back in India. They have to correct their attitude.
shahid Jul 01, 2012 06:48am
>> one was trying to recreate Pakistan as a democratic-socialist entity The one leader that was trying to do this, ironically, had Islam/Socialism/Democracy as his party manifesto: his party flag was carefully designed, green/red/black, to reflect this and of course there was no end to their public claims about this. >>> and the other determined to safeguard the country’s traditional ruling elite. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto belonged to this traditional ruling elite as much as any one else. He was a part of the Ayub dictatorship for nearly 8 years, was secretary general of the Convention Muslim League, was the covering candidate for Ayub Khan in the election in which Fatima Jinnah was the opposition candidate supported by JI, JUI, NAP and various other smaller left wing groups who were opposed to Ayub.
Ali Achakzai Jul 01, 2012 07:17am
PTI gaining 5-8 out of Balochistan's 14 seats???Yu must be dreaming.Can you please name ONE seat either from Pashtun area or Baloch area which PTI will win?
abdul bari Jul 01, 2012 07:25am
PTI does appear to be right wing in the traditional sense but then no major party can be called left wing. And they are corrupt to the core. As for the secular MQM, it is not averse to employing terrorism as a weapon in an aim to dominate Karachi. So have your pick, PTI which is not as liberal as we all may like but appears clean, aiming to eradicate corruption or all others, left and right corrupt to the core. And in the case of MQM, secular yes, but still right wing and violent. Secular is not necessarily left wing
Kami Jul 01, 2012 12:38pm
I agree but what to do about ego's, vested interests and petty bikkerring?
kanwal Jul 01, 2012 12:37pm
I am sure the illusion of PTI is going to blast to shreds right on the heads of its supporters very soon. I am so amazed why sometimes people term MQM as a terrorist organisation. How can you extract millions of votes using guns? and so consistently? such disillusion. I do not support MQM myself politically but what i dont understand is why people fail to understand the importance of MQM. State of denial.
Kami Jul 01, 2012 12:36pm
Not only right wing but also with similar facist tendencies, like self righteousness, populist rants and a propagandist outlook based on relentless attack on others and offerring little or no substance itself. In fact a burger version of jamaat-e-Islami.
Waqas Abro Jul 01, 2012 12:11pm
@ Hammad : coz Karachitte know that only MQM have stakes in karachi, development in karachi is only done when mqm is in FULL authority, they were in alliance with PML N and PPP but never get funds for development
Ali Khan Jul 01, 2012 07:25pm
I don't understand why people ignore the fact that most of the % from 60% people who don't use to vote, will vote this time .. and trust me almost 90% of those who are voting for 1st time will vote for PTI irrespective or area and candidate. So 2013's election is PTI's election. Mark my words.
Hammad Jul 01, 2012 11:05am
While Punjab & KPK is willing to change its traditional voting patterns, why cant Karachi get out of the MQM shakles, and be ready to vote for a change!
Ali Jul 01, 2012 03:19pm
PTI is rightwing, center or leftwing party, I do not care. I know one thing that Imran Khan is an honest and sincere person. His party very much deserves a chance.
Real Left Jul 01, 2012 02:32pm
Chasm between PPP and Pakistan's urban middle class is growing, and this is going to have significant - mostly negative - effects on Pakistani politics. One however shudders to find that most of commentators see it a case of resurgence of conservatism or stoop to the level of Zayed Hamid and blame it entirely on the establishment. Given the enormity of issue, it merits much deeper appreciation. Since Harsanyi (1953), it is well known that urban middle classes, looking through their veil of ignorance, acquire very strong inequality aversion/risk aversion. This induces amongst them deep preference for strong institutions that could preserve and promote equality of opportunities. Meritocracy and rule of law are much more important to urban middle classes as they see them competing for scarce resources of the state. Unfortunately, PPP, perhaps deservedly, has acquired the reputation of a party who does not value meritocracy or rule of law. This perception more than anything else is pushing urban youth to the quarters of PTI and PML(N). PPP, if it has to survive as a mainstream national party, must reinvent itself otherwise it runs the risk of alienating urban middle class votes for many years to come.
Tariq Jul 01, 2012 04:38pm
The 'help' the ordinary villager needs is called good all honest 'law and order' which is extremely in short supply or rather non existent!
Cheema Jul 01, 2012 05:16pm
Very well said. It is sad that we take pride in calling ourselves Sindhi, Balochi, Pashtun and Punjabi or Sunni or Shia. It is time that we get our act together and work for Pakistan. Lets vote for Pakistan this time.
Virkau Jul 01, 2012 04:57am
NFP has not mention PTI's position in the upcoming elections.
zaman khan Jul 01, 2012 05:42am
sir, may i remind you that at the time of 1970 elections there were five provinces in pakistan east pakistan, sind balochistan, nwfp and punjab. in sind ppp got 50/50 national assembly seat, in balochistan it got no, in nwfp it just one one seat and bhutto lost to mufti mehmood yes in punjab it got majority of seats. so my request in one that there was no west pakistan there were four provinces in western part, two since there was no west pakistan assembly how an intellectual like you says that bhutto got majority in west pakistan please stop misleading pakistani youth
Mehwish Jul 01, 2012 04:26pm
People like NFP who label PTI as 'right wing' are wrong in their assessment. PTI is the only left wing and liberal political party in Pakistan. All of PTI's party policies are left and liberal, including economic policies, which includes taxing the rich and spending on the poor, health and education reforms, protecting rights of minorities, providing equal justice to everyone irrespective of religion, race and color, and having an independent foreign policy. In the coming election, PTI will break the vote bank of both pml and ppp, and will tap the new voter, which will give it a clear majority
Mustapha. Jul 01, 2012 06:06am
What are you talking about, Zaman. Out of a total of 138 seats in West part of Pakistan, PPP won 82! NFP is right. It swept Sindh, apart from Karachi, and all of Punjab.
abdulrashid01 Jul 01, 2012 06:25am
i can foresee some unexpected upsets. PMLN's vote being eroded by PTI, PPP will be the beneficiary. A Rashid
Sheikh Sultan Ahmaed Jul 01, 2012 06:25am
There are 47 NA seats of KPK and FATA. PTI will get the biggest share among them and without any hurdle, they can manage 20 to 25 seats. Central and Northern Punjab has almost 100 seats from NA50 to NA 147 and PTI and PML N will be the biggest contenders. Even if PTI manages 25 to 30 NA seats from here, they are in the game. The southern Punjab has 50 seats and it is likely that PTI will get 6 to 10 seats with PPP getting major seats. Federal area has two seats and PTI can win one seat as NA 49 is Mian Aslam's constituency and JI will be in alliance with PTI. PTI will get 3 to 5 seats mainly due to Shah Mehmood Qureshi's votes fromSindh out of 60 seats and 5 to 8 seats from Balochistan. so my pick is at minimum PTI gets: 59 NA seats and at maximum: 78 NA seats.
eyeing propaganda Jul 01, 2012 06:24am
PTI is a centrist party Mr.NFP but u cant understand this coz u dont want to
Amer Syed Jul 01, 2012 06:27am
Is that why PTI can be seen with sectarian organizations at diffa-pakistan council (DPC) rallies and then holding hands with fundamentalist Jamat Islami? Wake up. PTI is very much a rightwing party.
Syed Ali Jul 01, 2012 08:45am
I agree with NFP. Lahore will be the main battlefield between PTI and PML-N. And I love the way he has described this battle: As a fight between the 'old right' (PML-N) and the 'new right' (PTI). As a whole, both PTI and PML-N should forget about Sindh, Karachi and South Punjab. They are likely to remain in the hands of PPP and MQM. There is however a question mark still over what will happen in Pakhtunkhwa and Balochista. In the 2008 elections, PPP and ANP won the most seats in Pakhtunkhwa. But this time I think they will be getting a tougher fight from JUI, PML-N and PTI. PTI may win big in the province's urban areas. Karachi and Sindh will remain largely 'secular' or moreso in the hands of non-right parties. Can't say much about Balochistan. But during a recent discussion I had with people like NFP and researcher, Haris Gazdar, they think that the reentry of Baloch nationalist parties and the Pukhtun PakhtunKhwa Milli Awami Party will make a huge impact there.
Sindhri Manhoon Jul 01, 2012 11:00pm
PTI is ring wing certainly. You should first read the meaning of left/right Mehwish.
Vaqar Jul 01, 2012 09:37pm
All Pakistan, all son of soil. In 1970, I was 15.went to Rawalpindi to see my mother's uncle who migrated from India, settled there. Had 7 kids. All married to pure Panjabi families. While we were searching for his home, my father inquired a passerby of the address. He asked the name of the resident. When my father told him the name, he said, "Oh, those Hindustanies?. So how can you say that everybody Pakistan is son of the soil?
Uza Syed Jul 01, 2012 07:43pm
Gotta agree with Mr. Paracha's analysis and admonitions about the dangers of PTI's ageda. PTI is a veiled extreme right party. Their talk of justice is nothing but duping of the ignorant and the simpletons of the land. If they ever make it anywhere even close to parliament, we will see their true colours with a 'Schwastika' sign, or a more appropriate symbol to suit their aspirants, on their flag and their chief honcho the "Kapitän" becoming ultimate der Führer and then the cleansing would start and only those of us who make it to the Herr Führer's description of a true patriotic muslim pakistani would be there and the rest would be lynched if not simply fried or roasted live. So beware and make sure the better senses prevail and keep them far away even from vicinity of our parliaments.
Keti Zilgish Jul 01, 2012 12:17pm
From this article it seems clear to me that by 'right' and 'left' all that is implied is pro or anti religious fundamentalism. Well what happened to the economic interpretations of 'right' and 'left'?
Mustafa Razavi Jul 01, 2012 08:07am
PTI is without a doubt the most popular party in Pakistan. However electoral arithmetic is still stacked up against it unless at least 20% of PML (N) supporters switch over to PTI. With current standing as reported by the polls, PTI would garner the largest number of votes but still lose to PPP in Sindh and PML (N) in Punjab. This would leave PTI with a large majority in KPK and a majority in Baluchistan. PTI may also get one seat from Karachi. The mechanics of getting the vote out is only loosely related to street popularity. The two status quo parties have stolen nearly 10 trillion rupees over the last 4 years. If they bring back a mere 1% of it for elections, that is a 100 billion rupees. At 5000 rupees per vote that amounts to 20 million votes.
Mustafa Razavi Jul 01, 2012 08:22am
@Sheikh Sultan. PTI is not in the game until they get well over a 100 seats. All the corruption establishment is united against PTI. PPP and PML (N) will join hands once again. A large majority of PTI supporters in Punjab are former PPP supporters, PTI has made little dent in PML-(N) vote bank. While PPP is nearly decimated in Punjab, PML-(N) is holding it's own and is still about eight percentage points ahead of PTI, this is not a small handicap, PTI has it's work cut out for it, although the momentum is with PTI, it has a big hump to climb.
Simon Khan Jul 01, 2012 11:34am
Pakistan will fix up if you let Muslim Bengali's rule again.
Sindhri Manhoon Jul 01, 2012 10:59pm
Sindh has 5000+ years of history. It is foolish to think that Sindhis will forego this history for 60+ years of chaos. Today Sindh has Baloch, Pashtun, Seraiki, Punjabi and Muhajirs who have adopted Sindhi culture. They are all Sindhi. Examples: Zardari (Baloch), Agha Siraj Durrani (Pathan) etc
bkt Jul 01, 2012 06:32pm
Wy can't you bring yourself to say that the PPP lost the election in 1970? The Awami league won it fair and square
Tahir Jul 01, 2012 09:55am
10 Trillion Rupees ? Where did you get this number from....I'm all for exaggeration, but lets not go full retard....
AlifBayPay Jul 01, 2012 09:57am
NFP wrote: "Ever since the early 1990s, the PPP’s electoral support among the urban bourgeoisie has continued to erode, but it remains intact in the villages, towns and small cities of Sindh, South Punjab and parts of Pakhtunkhwa" I think another way to look at this is that parts of the country where level of literacy and political awareness has increased, the support of PPP has eroded. The reason PPP does well in rural areas of country is because of the landed aristocracy/waderas; people vote for waderas, not the party. I also think that its not correct to blame 'increasing conservatism' of society for the declining support for PPP. PPP has only bad governance to blame for its fate. Had conservatism been a factor then Jamaat-e-Islami should have swept the elections, not PML-N.
Tariq Jul 01, 2012 02:25pm
I am a punjabi from Lahore. ALL the population of Pakistan are the "sons of the soil". It's about time everyone started thinking and acting like one! Those Muslim brothers and sisters who fled India at the time of partition to settle in Pakistan risked life and limb and to be labelled Mohajir's it's pretty insulting. If anything these Muslim brothers' and sisters' are more deserving who accepted Pakistan than those who just inherited it. However they are now in the third, forth or fifth generation Pakistani's and should look beyond MQM for the greater good of the Pakistan. The average Pakistani voter should break the shackles and ditch the 'regular political parties' who have done nothing but robbed their country for the last 64 years. Vote for some one fresh, more deserving who will deliver what they promise. Remember people the politicians are our servants and the public is their masters!
AHA Jul 01, 2012 02:22pm
If PTI is centrist, then ANP and PPP have to be hardcore-ultra Left.
haji Jul 01, 2012 08:58pm
U r right more punjabis have migrated than urdu-speaking doubt migrants from india feel betrayed when they see their fellow indian muslims staying back in india and enjoying the freedom with hindus sikhs christians etc in secular democratic republic of india ...hence its onvious that they feel belonging to india than pakistan !
Agha Ata Jul 01, 2012 01:30pm
You have a mighty good crystal ball. I believe what you predicted! :)
zia uddin Jul 01, 2012 08:58pm
My predictions for next National Assembly Elections: PPP = 105 seats PML-N = 46 seats PTI = 42 seats MQM = 26 seats PML-Q = 23 seats JUI = 10 seats ANP = 9 seats JI = 5 seats FATA = 15 seats (equally shared by PPP, PML-N, PTI, PML-Q, JUI and other relegious parties) Minor Parties = 15 Independents = rest Provincial Governments: Sindh: PPP and MQM KPK : PTI, ANP, PPP Balouchistan: PPP, PTI, JUI and BNP Punjab: PPP, PML-Q and PTI, Center: PPP, PTI, MQM, ANP, PML-Q Summary: No change and status quo shall be retained, except PTI shall join as a minor partner The biggest looser shall be PML-N.
abushinawar Jul 01, 2012 12:58pm
still lot of time is left in general elections, but talk about who will bag votes and from where has started. I think PPP will emerge as the single largest party and will form the next govt. at least in Centre, Sindh as well KPK. there are many factors which favor my idea. one among them is the aid given by this govt to women in the name BISP and women will not loose that aid although very small in size, second Zardari has good experience of forming coalition govts an accommodating allies while Nawaz Sharif is very bad and I has no experience third the support base of IK is youth an Middle or upper middle class which do not either turn to cast their vote and wait in queues for hours for their turn or go in small numbers while that of PPP and ANP has committed workers last but not least PPP MP's has given services and accommodate their supporters by awarding contracts to safeguard their base and vote and these will contribute to the victory of PPP.
jwd Jul 02, 2012 05:54am
nicely described, i also agree that we should vote out the PTI and keep continuing with the brilliant minds of PPP and PML (N) and rest to ensure that visionaries like Zardari, Gilani and Raja should rule for another 5 to 10 years. after i do not see any entity to be ruled by these genius of mind, morality and governance.
Mehwish Jul 02, 2012 03:56am
Please first read the party manifesto of PTI and you will come to know how it is left and not right
Jeffmahagaonvi Jul 01, 2012 10:50am
I think PTI new rightwing/ fundamentalist party will get only 35-45 NA seats in all four provinces. ( KPK 10-15 seats, Punjab 20-25 seats, Sindh 1-2 seats, and Balochistan 2-3 seats ) Live with love-Let democracy work.
observer Jul 01, 2012 10:36am
Personally, I see PTI as a 8 seat party in the next elections. If it successfully maintains the present momentum (unlikely as it has no originality in its program), then in 2018 elections it can bag some 50 or so seats. All depends on how narrowly or broadly Imran Khan defines his future strategy. Right now, he is narrow, very narrow and over-confident and over-optimistic about his party and himself.
observer Jul 01, 2012 10:31am
Why do I see so much anti-PPP bias everywhere?
Baba Sidni Jul 01, 2012 10:14am
Wake up guys, most of the population of Pakistan lives in the villages, and most of those commenting on these pages including NFP have no idea of the mechanization of the rural areas, as they have lived most of their lives in the big urban centers. Problems of the village folks are simple, for living a simple life. Most common problems are not the food and electricity. As, thank Allah, there is enough to eat, due to the fertile land. And they don't need electricity, the way we city folks, take it for granted. Their most common problems are that the sons of the village Chaudhry, or Khan has mistreated someone, and the one who helps these folks against the mistreatment is going to get the vote, or the Chaudhry has taken away the buffaloes, or cut off the irrigation water in connivance with the "patwari". They need help for this, and the one who helps them, will get the vote, and not PTI or any one else with future plans, they live in the present. In my opinion, most of the under 19, of Pakistan is with PTI, but when they reach the voting age, about half of them vote for PPP, and about rest of the half votes for PML-N, the rest - 'chaan boora' votes for other parties including MQM and PTI, oh sorry, most of the Mohajireen vote for MQM. PTI is just fooling itself, and some other gullible folks, and got no golden future, they should better join hands with Nawabzadah Nasrullah. Although I would like them to succeed but I doubt, it will ever happen.
PakJam Jul 04, 2012 12:54pm
huh! I am from Lahore as well bro. Before boasting about hollow patriotism, just visit the backside of Government college civil lines. That place is known as Mohajir Mohalla. One of the poorest and neglected areas of Lahore. People want to forget that that place even exist in Lahore.
Karachi Wala Jul 03, 2012 06:52pm
"PTI is the only left wing and liberal political party in Pakistan." And yet time and again Imran tries to allign himself with JI and Taliban. Also, during Lahore and Karachi's so called Tsunami, why he had to perform salat right there on stage? By the way I have nothing against salat as long as it does not appear to be just a show off or for pleasing people instead of Allah swt.