KARACHI: Although the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Shehbaz Sharif launched the party’s electoral campaign in Karachi last month, making all kinds of promises for the city, analysts believe the PML-N’s candidates have dim chances of winning this July 25.
The party’s Karachi candidates are banking on the launch of the successful crackdown on violent groups in the city to fuel their electoral campaign and swelling their local vote bank. Their main slogan here is “Yeh jo sheher mein sukoon hai, iss kay peechhay Noon hai” that roughly translates to “The PML-N is behind the peace in the city”.
Analysts, however, believe the party leadership has failed to capitalise on the Karachi operation, mainly due to the central leaders’ lack of interest in Sindh, especially the provincial capital, and severe factionalism within the party’s ranks.
Instead of reorganising the party in the city and ending internal groupings, the central leadership has been running the party on an ad hoc basis by sending in its Punjab leader and former provincial education minister Rana Mashood from Lahore.
In the 2013 general elections the PML-N secured one National Assembly seat (Abdul Hakeem Baloch from then NA-258) and three Sindh Assembly seats (Humayoon Khan from then PS-89, Irfanullah Marwat from then PS-114 and Haji Shafi Jamot from then PS-129) in Karachi.
However, all of the elected parliamentarians from the city have quit the party. Baloch and Khan joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and became its candidates from the newly carved out NA-238 and PS-113 constituencies.
Marwat is contesting on a ticket of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) from PS-104, while Jamot has fielded his nephew Mehmood Alam Jamot on a PPP ticket in PS-91. PML-N leaders admitted that the internal crisis is not only damaging the party in the city, but also helping the party’s arch-rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) woo voters in non-Mohajir and non-Sindhi/Baloch areas.
The PML-N performed well in the local government elections in the city and won most of the seats from Lyari, Malir and Baldia towns, emerging as the second largest party in the Karachi Municipal Corporation. For the 2018 general elections the PML-N has fielded the party’s big names in the city and is focusing on the areas dominated by Punjabis, Pashtuns, Hazarewals and other communities.
PML-N leaders said the party is focusing on the constituencies of party chief Shehbaz Sharif (NA-249), former finance minster Miftah Ismail (NA-244), Shah Muhammad Shah (NA-238), Saleem Zia (NA-246) and Senator Mushahidullah Khan’s son Afnanullah Khan (NA-247).
Shehbaz Sharif, whose foremost priority appears to be the strengthening of the party’s traditional vote bank in Punjab, did not come to Karachi again during this month to join the otherwise dull election campaign of the PML-N’s candidates in the city.
Moreover, the electoral alliances or seat adjustments with other parties, especially the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), did not work out well and the PML-N managed to make seat adjustments with the Awami National Party (ANP) in a few constituencies. Even Shehbaz Sharif is now not in a position to win NA-249, a constituency comprising Baldia Town, after the party could not manage to make an alliance there with the MQM-P or the MMA and only agreed on a seat adjustment formula with the ANP.
The PTI’s Faisal Vawda and the MQM-P’s Aslam Shah are the main challengers to Shehbaz Sharif in the constituency. Dissenting PTI leader Abdul Qayyum Kundi, the PPP’s Qadir Khan Mandokhel, the MMA’s Syed Ataullah Shah, the Pak Sarzameen Party’s Dr Fauzia Hameed and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s Mufti Abid Mubarak are the other prominent contenders.
“Without the MQM-P’s support, it is very difficult for junior Sharif to win the constituency,” said a local political activist. He said the division of non-Mohajir votes between the PML-N, the PTI, the PPP and the MMA can help the MQM-P reclaim its seat, which it won in the past three general elections.
Similarly, Miftah Ismail has entered into a seat adjustment agreement with the GDA’s Irfanullah Marwat. Now Marwat is supporting Ismail in NA-244, while the PML-N is supporting the GDA candidate for the PS-104 seat. But he is facing a great challenge from the MQM-P’s Rauf Siddiqui and the PTI’s Ali Zaidi.
The PML-N’s NA-238 candidate Shah Muhammad Shah, who is also the party’s Sindh president, is in trouble because the party’s influential Malir leader and a PS-89 candidate Javed Arsala Khan announced becoming a part of a local electoral alliance formed by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chief Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqi, who is also contesting NA-238.
The PML-N has agreed on another seat adjustment formula with the ANP, whereby the ANP will support the PML-N candidate Afnanullah for winning the NA-247 seat.