The hotly-contested constituency of NA-247, Karachi District South-II encapsulates the posh localities of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and Clifton Cantonment as well as lesser developed areas in Saddar and Civil Lines, cutting across socio-economic classes.
With a population of 876, 957, the constituency also comprises two provincial assembly seats – PS-110 and PS-111. A total of 23 candidates are vying for the NA seat while 45 are in the run for the two PS seats.
Although Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has won three general elections – in 1988, 1990 and 2008, and one by-poll in 2007 from here, it is difficult to suggest that the constituency is the stronghold of any one political party.
Previously known as NA-250 and NA-191 even earlier, the constituency’s voters have elected the candidates of nearly all mainstream political parties with the exception of the Pakistan Peoples Party since 1988. The last three general elections indicate that no political party or alliance has been able to secure the seat consecutively.
Earlier, the constituency comprised of mostly the posh areas, however, the new delimitation has included parts of the old city areas like Kharadar and Ranchore Line to it. This makes the competition here even tougher.
With prominent candidates like Farooq Sattar of MQM-Pakistan, Fauzia Kasuri of Pak Sarzameen Party, Muhammad Hussain Mehanti of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and rights activists Jibran Nasir (independent) pitted against each other, a heavy-weight contest is definitely expected in NA-247.
Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, who is contesting on an MMA ticket, said that his party’s first priority was to put the country’s economy on the right track by bringing lasting peace in its financial hub, Karachi.
Hoping that people will choose MMA over others, he said that people wanted peace in their lives and all basic utilities, like water and power, which are becoming rare in the metropolis. “MMA leadership is committed to restoring educational, literary and political activities in the city.”
Jibran Nasir, who is contesting for the second time in the constituency, said although the general perception is that living conditions are better in DHA, in reality, the area residents face the same issues as the rest of the city like water shortage, power outages and other civic issues.
He pointed out that there were 330 government schools in the district alone, yet a footpath school was established for the underprivileged children in the constituency which tells the state of the public education system.
According to Nasir, if elected, he will set up offices and complaint centres in each neighbourhood while a smartphone app will also be developed to keep in touch with every voter of the area.
Fauzia Kasuri, who recently left PTI to join PSP, said she will defeat the “oppressors” who kept the people of the constituency deprived of clean drinking water and other basic amenities.
About her political switch, she maintained that she had many options before her but she chooses Mustafa Kamal and his companions because they have played an important role and struggled a lot for peace and stability in Karachi.
Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan candidate Muhammad Rashid, who is contesting from PS-110, said TLP was fighting against liberalism. “If people elect TLP leaders across Pakistan, we will implement Islamic laws in Pakistan. TLP will make changes in syllabus and will include all those subjects which have been expelled from it.” Commenting on the area’s persistent water shortage, Rashid said the issue could be resolved forever with “just distribution” of water across the city.
PTI leader Khurram Sher Zaman, who was elected MPA from the area in 2013 and is also running for PS-110, said that had the PPP-led Sindh government delegated powers to the elected representatives, the issues that his constituency still faces would have been resolved.
He claimed that if PTI forms the next government in the province, each and every civic issue of the city will be resolved on a priority basis.
Adil Askari, MQM-P’s candidate for PS-110, said his constituency is the economic and governance hub of Karachi as all major financial administrative institutions like the Pakistan Stock Exchange, State Bank of Pakistan, Governor House and Sindh Assembly are based here. “Despite all this, the constituency has one of the lowest literacy rates.”
He further said that although the ‘Red Zone’ where the privileged class lived and worked was also here, yet its inhabitants cannot even get clean drinking water. “This is because PPP which ruled the province for past 10 years did not want to devolve powers to the local bodies,” he claimed. “All metropolitan institutions were unlawfully kept with the provincial government and because of which the utility situation worsened across the city.”
The MQM-P candidate said if elected, he will place the provision of quality education for everyone as his topmost agenda.
Prospective voters on both sides of the so-called bridge expressed similar concerns in their respective areas – civic amenities, or rather a lack of them, and the pressing issue of water shortage.
Residents of Clifton and DHA expressed frustration over the absence of a proper drainage system. “Our house gets flooded every time it rains,” Zahra, a resident of DHA Phase-VI, complained.
The lack of a garbage disposal system was on the list for the residents of Saddar as shopkeepers in and around the heavily-commercial and populated Burnes Road and Pakistan Chowk areas complained of trash accumulation on footpaths which deprived them of potential customers. “This often results in health hazards for the surrounding people as well,” a shop owner said. “This coupled with stagnant water on roads in the aftermath of rain is a deadly combination.”
A more straightforward concern of the residents of the old city areas were countless potholes on the roads. Burnes Road and Pakistan Chowk have a heavy flow of traffic – an influx of rickshaws and motorcycles as well as cars and buses on major roads and from narrow streets. Potholes only add to the worsening traffic condition in the area, residents said.
A resident of Civil Lines expressed an often overlooked issue – that of the hanging cable wires in much of the surrounding areas. This is especially dangerous because of the overloaded buses that pass through with passengers seated on the roof. “It would be refreshing to see if something is done about this as well,” said Saif.
Residents of DHA and Clifton were also perturbed over the non-existence of enough public schools to combat the ever-increasing culture of private schools that charge ludicrously high fees. “There are eight private schools in my block alone,” Clifton resident Mahnoor said.
This results in extreme traffic jams at Boat Basin and 26th Street, which are two of the main arteries of Clifton. She drew attention to the fact that this is a residential area. “So technically these commercial activities should not be allowed in the first place,” she added.
Meanwhile, youngsters who are not yet eligible to vote raised their concern regarding a lack of sports facilities in their areas. “While there are parks, which are not maintained and is another issue, we need proper sports facilities for the public,” said a young football enthusiast, Talha. Many of the residents of DHA, on the other hand, enjoy sports and other facilities provided to them by private clubs, he said.
Alice, a member of the Christian community, raised another important point. She said it was unfair that there were no places of worship for the Hindu and Christian communities in DHA. “And I don’t mean home-based churches,” she clarified. “I’m referring to proper church buildings under the Church of Pakistan,” she added.
This also draws attention to the decaying cultural heritage in the old city wherein colonial-era structures are occupied by religious and local government authorities. However, efforts have been made to restore Empress Market and to rid the area of encroachments by Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar.