NA-249: Karachi all set to host hotly-contested by-polls today

PTI's Amjad Iqbal Afridi, PML-N’s frontline leader Miftah Ismail and PSP's Mustafa Kamal among the top contenders

Web Desk
A file photo of a person giving their vote during an election.

Karachi is all set to host the much awaited by-election in the NA-249 constituency today (Thursday).

NA-249 has a population of 782,776 of which only 339,591, which means over 43%, are registered to vote. There are 216,056 male voters in the area, while the number of female voters is 137,935.

Some well-known areas in the constituency include Delhi Colony, Mujahid Colony, Baldia, and Saeedabad, while the prominent ethnic groups in this working-class neighbourhood comprise Urdu-speaking people, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, and the Seraiki-speaking lot.

Read more: Who can win Karachi’s NA-249?

Thirty candidates are in the running, including PML-N’s Miftah Ismail and Karachi’s former mayor Mustafa Kamal.

But whoever wins, some of the constituency's unresolved issues remain unaddressed, including the lack of water and poor sewerage systems, broken roads, no government hospital in the area, and drug peddling.

The ECP has ordered strict implementation of coronavirus SOPs during the by-polls in NA-249. Special staff will also be deployed for implementation of coronavirus SOPs.

Read more: ECP asked not to accept Sindh govt’s request to delay NA-249 by-elections

Last month, the ECP had announced the schedule for by-polls in NA-249 after PTI's Faisal Vawda resigned from the National Assembly seat.

Vawda had resigned after casting his vote in the Senate elections on March 3. He had won the seat during the 2018 general election after securing 35,344 votes.

A brief political history of NA-249

Prime Minister Imran Khan chose this constituency to contest elections for the first time in Pakistan in the year 1997.

He could only secure 2,037 votes from the area which, at that time, was named NA-184.

Since 2008 the constituency has elected a different political party to power in every general poll. In 2008, PPP's Abdul Qadir Patel won with over 56,000 votes.

Read more about NA-249 here

In 2013, MQM’s Muhammad Salman Baloch clinched victory with 39,000 votes, while in 2018, Muhammad Faisal Vawda bagged the constituency with over 35,000 votes.

Interestingly, Shehbaz Sharif, the former chief minister of Punjab, who was contesting polls for the first time in Karachi, lost to Vawda with only 723 votes.

A candidate of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which has now been banned by the government, ranked third in 2018 elections, with 23,981 votes.

Public holiday to be observed in Karachi's NA-249 

The Karachi administration has announced a public holiday in the city's NA-249 constituency on account of the April 29 by-election.

Deputy Commissioner District West Saleem Odho, in a notification, said: "The District Administration, Karachi-West is pleased, to declare 29 April 2021 (Thursday) as a Public Holiday in connection with the By-Election in NA-249 Karachi West-II in the territorial jurisdiction of Sub-Division Mominabad."

Who has been named favourite leader ahead of by-polls?

Ahead of the April 29 by-elections, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been named by voters of Karachi’s NA-249 constituency as their favourite political leader, maintaining an edge over PML-N’s Nawaz Sharif.

In two out of three polls conducted, PM Imran Khan was named as the favourite, while in the third, Nawaz Sharif was declared the most popular.

Ipsos, Pulse Consultant, and Gallup Pakistan released survey findings based on the opinion of 1,200 to 1,400 registered voters of the constituency.

All three surveys took place between April 10 and April 20, 2021.

Read more interesting tidbits here: All you need to know about the NA-249 constituency

What is the biggest problem for the residents of Karachi's NA-249?

Voters in the NA-249 constituency in Karachi have identified water scarcity as the most important issue in the area in a survey by three research companies.

Water shortage needs the attention of political parties, the residents said. The three research companies that conducted the survey include Gallup Pakistan, Ipsos, and Pulse Consultants. They surveyed more than 3,000 registered voters from NA-249. All three surveys were conducted between April 10 and April 20, 2021.

In the Pulse Consultant survey, 96% of people cited the unavailability and scarcity of clean water as the most important problem in the region, 71% termed load shedding the most important issue, 71% said broken roads were a problem, 56% deemed sewerage system as the most important problem, 20% said unemployment, 20% said the issue of gas load shedding needs to be addressed, 14% said a poor education system is the most important issue, 14% opted for inflation, while 3% said poor sanitation is the most important issue in their constituency.

Likewise, in the Ipsos poll, voters put water and its related issues at the top of the list, with 36% citing lack of clean water as a major problem in the area.

In the last survey by Gallup Pakistan, the majority — 69% — had a problem with a lack of clean water, while 10% of the residents wanted the issue of power outages addressed. Broken roads were selected by 6% of the respondents, poor sanitation by 5%, poverty by 3%, unemployment by 2%, education problems by 2%, corruption by 1% and poor law and order by 1%.

Why does NA-249 matter?

After the Daska by-election, NA-249 will be crucial for both the PML-N and PTI to win.

For Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was also among the 14 MNAs who won from Karachi, the general perception about PTI in Karachi is that its elected representatives have not performed well.

Just for the record Khan first contested from Burns Road in Karachi 1997, about a year after his party was launched.

Electorally, Karachi, a city of over 16 million, does not belong to any one political party, ethnicity or community anymore. NA-249 may be an important contest, but the real political battle will be in the yet to be held local body’s elections.