KARACHI: Stretching from the Karachi Zoological Garden to a part of the eminent shopping thoroughfare of Tariq Road, NA-245 in District East may witness a tough contest due to Barelvi votes.
The constituency appears to stretch around the most famous landmark of the city, the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It includes the localities and areas of Garden East, Lines Area, Sharae Quaideen, Gurumandir, Jamshed Quarters, Martin Quarters, Clayton Road, Soldier Bazaar, Lasbela, Nursery, Essa Nagri and PIB Colony.
Adamjee Govt College, Islamia College, Karachi Central Prison, Faizan-e-Madina and Binori Town madressa are some other notable sites that lie in NA-245. The Askari Amusement Park, which made headlines due to a ride accident a few days ago, is also located in the constituency.
Having fielded Dr Farooq Sattar in his home constituency, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) seems resolute to clinch NA-245. However, he is expected to face tough competition from Barelvi vote bank which is being tapped by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Amir Liaquat Hussain and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) candidate.
The newly formed TLP appears to be a strong force which seems to be overshadowing the appeal of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).
Many areas in NA-245 were considered a stronghold of Shah Ahmed Noorani’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), a Barelvi religious party, before the emergence of the MQM.
Recent electoral history
Before the last delimitation, areas of NA-245 were a part of NA-252. In the 2002 elections, MMA’s Muhammad Hussain Mehanti won the seat. The defeat of the MQM from a constituency comprising PIB Colony was one of the upsets of the 2002 elections.
In the 2008 and 2013 elections, the MQM reclaimed the seat with Abdul Rashid Godil winning both times. Godil has recently left the MQM-P and joined the PTI.
The MQM candidate won with a comfortable margin in the 2013 elections. He bagged 91,339 votes compared to PTI’s Syed Ali Haider Zaidi who secured 49,622 votes. Jamaat-e-Islami’s Mehanti was able to bag 16,342 votes despite the fact that his party announced backing out from the polls over allegations of pre-poll rigging.
As many as 15 candidates are in the run for NA-245. Along with MQM-P’s Sattar and PTI’s Amir, the contestants include TLP’s Muhammad Ahmed Raza, MMA’s Saifuddin, Pak Sarzameen Party’s (PSP) Sagheer Ahmed and Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Farrukh Niaz Tanoli.
Two provincial seats, PS-105 and PS-106 fall in NA-245. All major parties of the city have fielded their candidates in both the provincial constituencies.
In PS-105, a total of 17 contestants are in the fray including MQM-P’s Faisal Rafiq, PTI’s Muhammad Ali Aziz, MMA’s Sarwar Ali, TLP’s Ahmed Ali, PSP’s Mehmood Abdul Razzaque and Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi’s Khalid Hameed.
The 19 candidates contesting for PS-106 include MQM-P’s Muhammad Zahid, PTI’s Jamaluddin Siddiqui, MMA’s Muhammad Aslam Ghauri, TLP’s Ghulam Hashim, PSP’s Syed Qamar Akhtar Naqvi and MQM-H’s Laiq Ahmed.
Both the PTI and TLP candidates are aggressively canvassing for Barelvi votes in NA-245, due to which the Barelvi vote bank is expected to play a crucial role in its result.
Supporters of Amir and the TLP candidate are at loggerheads in the constituency and several clashes have been reported between them during campaign.
While speaking to female supporters of the PTI in Khudadad Colony, Amir said Karachi was not receiving divine blessings as no one from the city defended Namoos-e-Risalat in Parliament. He also called it the reason behind the city’s water crisis. The PTI candidate also censured the TLP which, according to him, had been distributing certificates for being a Muslim.
Meanwhile, the TLP candidate, who is a prayer leader of Ismail Masjid on Jamshed Road, claimed that prayer leaders of 100 mosques in their constituencies had agreed to support the TLP and the party was expecting to bag sizeable number of votes from PIB Colony, Lines Area, Soldier Bazaar and Jamshed Road.]
Haqiqi and PSP stake
The MQM-H is also vying for NA-245 and its corresponding provincial seats. However, its prospects for the NA seat seem not bright. The party, however, appears strong in PS-105 which mainly includes Lines Area. Banners and wall chalking supporting the MQM-H can be seen in Lines Area along with the TLP.
MQM-H candidate for PS-105, Hamid, believes that they are strongest in the provincial constituency, especially after the split in the MQM.
The PSP has also been convincing voters to elect its candidates but so far the party appears to have received lukewarm response. According to MQM-H chief Afaq Ahmed, the PSP openly supports establishment, due to which it is not expected to get public support.
The constituency’s demography
NA-245 represents a blend of affluent, middle, lower-middle and working class people. A large number of people belonging to trading class live in many areas of the constituency, including Memons and Ismaili community. Members of Hazara and Christian communities also reside in the constituency, along with Punjabi Sodagran of Delhi.
Around 5,000 families of retired public servants live in government residential colonies on Martin Road, Jehangir Road, Clayton Road, Jamshed Road and Pakistan Quarters. The federal housing ministry has accused many of such families of occupying government housing units illegally and an operation has also been recently approved to evict them from the houses. These areas are considered strongholds of the MQM but their condition over the years has become deplorable due to dilapidated roads, water shortage and sanitation problems. Many political parties are criticising the operation planned against the families. MMA Vice-President Sirajul Haq has even promised to raise the issue in Senate.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2018.
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