General Elections 2018: Who will win Karachi?

General Elections 2018: Who will win Karachi?
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ISLAMABAD - General Elections 2018* aren’t just too far as its scheduled date of July 25 is approaching near, but prophecies about the prospective winners in Karachi after Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) falling from grace, are definitely far from any certainty this time around.*

Home to around 23 million people, the country’s biggest city Karachi has now become a battlefield of multiple political forces, unlike the years-long tradition of one-party fisthold.

After revised delimitation, the city now has three more seats of the assemblies, one for National Assembly and two for Sindh Assembly, taking the total number of seats in the metropolis to 21 (NA) and 44 (PA), respectively.

Following delimitation in Karachi Division, the highly populated District West has now the highest number of seats, which are five for the NA and 11 for the provincial assembly. Residents of District South will now vote for two national and five provincial assembly seats, while District Central has four NA and eight provincial assembly seats. Three NA and five provincial assembly constituencies lie in District Malir, whereas, District Korangi has three NA and seven provincial assembly seats. In District East lie four NA and eight provincial assembly constituencies.

All of the aforementioned Karachi districts are not ‘arguably’ under the influence of any particular political party. The security crackdown aimed at ridding the city of violence and militant groups operating under political patronage followed by divisions within the Mutahidda has open the field for many forces who would look to capitalize on targeting MQM voter base in its strongholds.

*Who will grab the driving seat?*

The Rangers operation that netizens saw in 2013 had the carryover effects on the political landscape of the city as the powerful party ruling the city Muttahida Qaumi Movement (now divided into three factions, Bahadurabad, PIB and London) suffered a major jolt with all its offices either being sealed or closed in the wake of operation by the paramilitary force.

It’s pertinent to mention here that in 2013 polls, MQM had grabbed 17 NA seats and 35 provincial assembly seats in Sindh. But repeating the same feat appears to be a demanding, yet not impossible task, in the current political scenario.

The troubling toll on the MQM didn’t recede since it started to unleash. The resurgence of ex-party loyalist and former city mayor Mustafa Kamal as a rebel forcing MQM out of its comfort zone, followed by defections of party leaders, especially legislators, to Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party and creation of multiple divisions within the party fold further compounded problems for the Muttahida.

Kamal formed his own party as a parallel opposing force to MQM and months later former Senator formally unveiled his plans to take part in mainstream politics.

Having said that, the vote bank Kamal currently enjoys is a reality that comes with a surmise. The party is in a nascent stage as well as untested. It’s yet to be seen how PSP could transform its rabble-rousing into real vote power.

*PPP peeping into rivals’ strongholds*

When it comes to Karachi , the Pakistan People’s Party was generally known to have handful of strongholds in the city – Malir and Lyari to say in particular. But this time the party seems to equally focus to the home turf of the MQM . The recent PPP public meeting in Liaquatabad’s Tanki Ground – the area with strong voter base of the MQM – implies that the people’s party will leave no stone unturned to make the most of troubles facing by its rival.

In the 2013 elections, PPP had won three out of 20 NA seats, and three out of 42 provincial assembly seats in the city. But the changing political dynamics could be well gauged from recent by-elections in PS-127 and PS-114 where the PPP grabbed both the seats that were won by the MQM in the last general elections.

*The PTI factor*

Unlike 2013 polls when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had reached almost each house of the city with its popular appeal of reforms and ‘change’, the party’s position doesn’t seem to be too firm because it’s not just MQM that PTI looks to challenge this time. The presence of other political groups will be equally challenging to deal with.

PTI had won one NA and three provincial assembly seats in Karachi in 2013 elections contrary to assumptions and predictions of a far better show. The Imran Khan-led party has already decided to field its chairman in MQM’s stronghold NA-243, which reflects the self-assurance the party might have at the moment.

*Religio-political parties*

Like other parties, the voter base of religious parties especially Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has sizable standing in the city. Before the rise of MQM in 80s JI was one of the major player of the political scene in Karachi with influence in the city’s Urdu-speaking population. The party’s voting fortunes, however, dwindle, after the rise of the MQM . The JI this time contesting under the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – a coalition of multiple religious groups.

In 2002, MMA had won five NA and six PA seats in Karachi . But in 2018 other religious groups such as Tehreek-e-Labbaik and Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen also contesting from the city making it difficult for the MMA to grab the sizable vote bank of the population who prefer to vote to the religious parties.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Awami National Party have also fielded their candidates with considerable influence in Punjabi and Pashto speaking voters of the city. But their significance is debatable in presence of other political forces much relevant to the Karachi context.

It is going to be seen how they play their cards to take benefit of an open electoral field in Karachi .

BY: Azhar Khan

OpEd