Karachi (HRNW): There are 16 candidates in the contest for NA-240 Karachi II (Korangi). Nine are affiliated with political parties and seven are independent, however, the competition for the seat is likely to be a three-way race featuring two factions of the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (Pakistan and Haqiqi) and former city nazim Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). The bulk of the areas in the constituency were earlier delimited as NA-255, that they including Landhi and Korangi areas. Syed Asif Hasnain, who started his political career with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami in 1984 but joined MQM a couple of years later, has been winning here on MQM-P’s ticket since 2008. He parted ways with the MQM in 2017 and joined the PSP. He will contest the July 25 election on the PSP’s ticket. Hasnain comes from a classic middle class background, earning his livelihood in the private sector where he had a managerial position in a dairy factory. Like many other MQM leaders, he is also accused of having made property (in his case in North Nazimabad and Gulshan-e-Maimar) through illicit means.
During his time in the MQM, Hasnain served as the unit incharge in Landhi and PIB Colony areas. He entered electoral races for the first time in the local bodies election held during General Musharraf’s term and got elected as the naib naim of Landhi town. Subsequently, he won MNA elections in 2008 and 2013. MQM-Pakistan has fielded Iqbal Ali Khan, alias Iqbal Deputy, who has represented the old NA-256 electorate since 2002. A businessperson by profession, Iqbal is a graduate of Karachi University’s batch of 1984. He has been a longtime resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal area where he runs his plastic business as well. Among the contenders in the constituency also is the head of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi, Afaq Shafqat, better known as Afaq Ahmed. In the 2002 elections, this seat had been won by the MQM-H’s Mahmood Ahmed Qureshi (who polled 31,096 votes). Altaf Hussain led MQM faction took the seat, however, in a re-election called after Qureshi’s death.
According to the assets and liabilities documents available on the Election Commission of Pakistan website, Afaq Ahmed is the richest of all contenders in NA-240, and most his economic stakes are in the real estate business. Other prominent contenders include Sheikh M Feroz of the PPP; Farukh Manzoor of the PTI; and Abdul Jameel Khan of the MMA. Feroz is a native of Orangi Town where he served as a town nazim 2003 to 2006 and naib nazim from 2001 to 2002. He has several criminal cases registered against him and is under investigation of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as well. PTI’s Manzoor is known in the area for his extensive network of private schools. body of voters. The MMA candidate has served as the nazim of Korangi Town in the past.
Most of the voters in the constituency belong to lower- and lower-middle income groups. There is significant diversity in terms of ethnic background, though families identified as Urdu speaking owing to their historic ties to pre-partitition North Indian cities in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh are in a majority. There are Pakhtuns, Punjabis and Hazarawals as well. Many are home-based workers, besides those employed in the industrial units in Landhi and Korangi Industrial areas. There are government and private sectors employees and small-time vendors located in the area as well. Among the prominent communities, the Urdu speaking Qureshis in Korangi I are supporting MQM-Pakistan, except a segment that has extended support to the MMA. Voters in the Ghodra community are divided between the PSP, and MMA and MQM-Pakistan; in the Abbasi community between MQM-Pakisan and PSP.
Despite the newly emergent far right Tehrik-e-Labbaik’s presence, the majority of the barelvis in the constituency are still supporting the MQM-Pakistan. Several experts Daily Times contacted said that Korangi has been a stronghold of MQM, but factionalism ahead of the 2018 polls will split the Urdu speaking votebank into different camps. Ammar Zaidi, a senior Karachi-based journalist, says the seat was won by a non-MQM candidate only once in 1993 elections, because the party boycotted the electoral activity that year. MQM-P is mobilising its support base using the ‘vote apno ke liye’ (vote for your own people) slogan. In response, the PSP has highlighted Kamal’s individual performance during his mayorship with the slogan: ‘we developed Karachi, and we will develop Sindh as well’. A survey of 1,300 voters conducted in the constituency suggests that many are disappointed with MQM-P’s past performance but they retain their trust in the party for the upcoming polls. However, the party faces tough competition from the PSP that lags behind by just one percent point.
There are two provicial assembly seats in NA-240: PS-94 and PS-95. All candidates in PS-94 are new comers, including PPP’s Gule Rana, who comes from the performing arts background. In PS-95, Sheeraz Waheed of the PSP is the only contestant who has been a part of electoral politics in the past. MQM-Pakistan has fielded a Local Government Secretary, Javed Hanif. He was recently arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in alleged illegal appointments case. In interviews conducted in voters, media identified chronic shortage of water as their major issue. Abduallah Nice, a resident of Korangi area, said he had not received piped water at his house in the last three years, and yet the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) kept sending bills to him. To meet their needs, he said, residents of the area had to buy water from tanker operators at the rate of Rs500 per 1,000 litres. Peter Masih also identified lack of potable water as the main problem. “We don’t get potable water on a regular basis,” he said. Another Korangi resident Kannat Peter said power load-shedding up to six hours was a routine in the area. Shehriar Ahmed held the PPP government in the province responsible for the woes of the area, saying that the local bodies were not given enough power and funds to undertake civic works.