Karachi (HNRW): At the Shah Faisal Colony No 2 roundabout, a youngster in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans dances to the tune of a new song of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) that sounds like a remake of Bollywood’s ‘Mere Rashke Qamar’. As the large speakers on the pickup truck blare out the song, other young men surround him and clap to match every beat. The roundabout appears to be a hotspot for political parties these days. One after the other, and sometimes simultaneously, their convoys of motorcycles and trucks move past, reminding the locals and passers-by of the proximity of the July 25 general election. According to 24-year-old Nayab Raza, who lives in the neighbourhood, every evening since the start of this month, the roundabout and other such places in the locality take centre-stage as different political parties put up their shows. “Children and teenagers enjoy them a lot. They come with their families and in groups to just watch and sometimes join in the dancing,” he said, adding that it is a good form of entertainment — until it turns ugly.
Shah Faisal Colony comprises a major part of NA-239, the most populated constituency of District Korangi. Model Colony and the urban areas of Malir also fall under the National Assembly constituency. Previously demarcated as NA-256, the constituency has largely seen the MQM win this seat since 1988. The constituency was created in 2002 from areas of the then NA-193 and NA-196. While Urdu-speaking Mohajirs make up the majority of the constituency’s ethnic composition, it boasts large populations of the Punjabi, Pashtun and Baloch communities as well. It is also divided along sectarian lines and has seen a fair share of violence, based on which the constituency can be termed sensitive.
The MQM-P is facing competition from the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) that, to all intents and purposes, is a Muttahida faction, and from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that looks set to at least dent its vote bank. Thirty-six-year-old Yasir Ali, who lives in Shah Faisal Colony No 5, is a TLP supporter. He said the party, a recent entrant to the country’s political scene, has not only raised matters closer to his heart but has also drawn up plans to resolve “worldly” issues. The TLP appears to have an advantage in its electoral campaign that the other parties may not be able to avail: certain Khateebs (mosque clerics) have been asking people to vote for the party during their Friday sermons. Some residents also censured the MQM for neglecting localities such as Azeem Pura and Green Town, which can be termed non-Mohajir neighbourhoods, in development projects. Bashir Ahmed, 28, claimed that the party ignored them on ethnic grounds.
Those residing in MQM strongholds also appeared disappointed with the party. Forty-two-year-old housewife Azmat said her neighbourhood has been braving a water crisis since the past five or six years and the party has done nothing to resolve it. “The sewerage system has almost been destroyed. They get elected only to line their pockets.” Twenty-five-year-old Faizan Saleem of Model Colony said the people have also been taking an interest in the PSP. “They’re actually disgruntled voters of the MQM. They had been voting for the party, but their lives didn’t change. Now they seek a change.” The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is also an emerging force in the constituency. In the previous general elections, the party’s Muhammad Zubair Khan was a runner-up with 69,072 votes. This time around the party has fielded Muhammad Akram, who said that a large number of locals have already announced that they will support the PTI, hoping that the party will win.
The Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi is also among the contestants. For the first time in years, the party is getting a level-playing field. Its candidate, Muhammad Naim, blamed the MQM-P for all the problems in the constituency. He said that the “so-called” representatives of Mohajirs have brought a bad name to the entire community through their “criminal” activities, adding that now is the time to replace them. Rana Muhammad Ehsan, an election candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, claimed that his party leader Nawaz Sharif’s popularity has been gaining strength in Karachi. He said the city’s people are willing to support him for the development he has carried out across the country during his tenure as prime minister. “The voters are emotional right now because of the recent court decision against him.” The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s (MMA) Haleem Khan Ghori claimed that the crime rate in the constituency is among the highest in the city because of illiteracy and unemployment.
He said the MMA is focused on bringing a change in the people’s lifestyles by providing them with basic amenities. “Everyone talks about the water, power and education issues, but they don’t have a plan to deal with them.” Nineteen candidates are contesting the 2018 general elections from NA-239, which is likely to see a tough contest between the MQM-P’s Khawaja Sohail Mansoor and the PSP’s Syed Nadeem Razi, and a total of 60 nominees from the provincial assembly constituencies of PS-92, PS-93 and PS-98. When asked if he still thinks maintaining electoral tradition in the constituency will be a piece of cake, MQM-P leader Aminul Haque expressed hope that the party will reclaim the seat. Listing his party’s major achievements in the constituency, he mentioned the construction of the dyke that prevents flooding from the Malir River, of the bridge that connects Shah Faisal Colony and Korangi, and of a hospital for heart diseases. “These development projects, as well as others, brought relief to the residents,” he said. “Since we have been winning from here since our inception, we hope to secure a victory again.” He refuted the claims that his party has discriminated on ethnic grounds in some localities, saying that their candidate himself is a Punjabi. “We are committed to serving the people of Karachi.