What are PTI's chances of reclaiming Karachi's NA-245 constituency?

Arshad Yousafzai
PTI activists can be seen at Parade Ground during a party gathering in 2016. — Online
PTI activists can be seen at Parade Ground during a party gathering in 2016. — Online

  • Seat fell vacant after death of PTI MNA Aamir Liaquat Hussain in June this year.
  • Polling under way for Karachi's NA-245.
  • Political pundits believe actual competition to take place between PTI and MQM-P.

With Karachi’s NA-245 seat up for grabs after it fell vacant due to PTI MNA Aamir Liaquat Hussain’s death, a tough competition is expected between PTI, MQM-P and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in today's (Sunday) by-election for the constituency.

The constituency comprises PIB Colony, Jamshed Road, Jahangir Road, Khudadad Colony, Lines Area, Jutt Lines, Abyssinia Lines, Martin Quarters, PECHS, Tariq Road, Soldier Bazaar, Patel Para, Garden East, New Town, Lasbela Chowk, Pakistan Quarters, Essa Nagri, Nishtar Basti, Old Sabzi Mandi and Parsi Colony among other areas.

Fifteen candidates are in the run now after two independent candidates withdrew from the contest on Friday. As always, it’s difficult to predict the election result, but some political pundits believe the actual competition will take place between PTI’s Mehmood Baqi Moulvi and MQM-P’s Moeed Anwar.

Moulvi served as special assistant to prime minister on maritime affairs during the PTI’s government, while Anwar served as chairman of the East District Municipal Corporation.

The political parties that are part of the alliance running the federal government, including PPP, Awami National Party, PML-N and JUI-F, are also backing Anwar, with those who had fielded their candidates withdrawing them in favour of MQM-P.

Farooq Sattar, a runner-up from the constituency in the 2018 general elections on an MQM-P ticket, is also contesting the by-poll after parting ways with the party. Experts believe he will divide the MQM-P vote bank. He has also mustered support from PTI ally Grand Democratic Alliance (PMD)

TLP is also considered a major political force in the constituency. The party’s chief Saad Rizvi held a large rally on Thursday in support of the party’s candidate Muhammad Ahmed Raza. TLP had ranked third in the 2018 elections. Pak Sarzameen Party’s (PSP) Syed Hafeezuddin, Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Rao Muhammad Jameel Shahid and Pakistan Muslim Alliance’s Muhammad Ahmed Khan are also contesting the NA-245 by-election.

Hussain had won the seat in the 2018 polls with 56,615 votes, while Sattar had finished as runner-up with 35,247 votes. TLP’s Ahmed Raza Amjad had followed with 20,580 votes, while Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Saifuddin had bagged 20,135 votes under the banner of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

PML-N’s Khawaja Tariq Nazeer and PPP’s Farrukh Niaz Tanoli had received 9,653 and 8,812 votes respectively. Dr Sagheer Ahmed, who recently joined MQM-P, had secured 6,136 votes on a PSP ticket.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has deployed Pakistan Army and Rangers soldiers as Quick Response Force in the constituency until August 22 to ensure smooth and peaceful balloting.

ECP has established 229 polling stations, where 916 polling booths have been set up, with 458 of them designated for men and as many for women.

According to ECP statistics, NA-245 has 515,003 registered voters: 274,987 male and 240,016 female. In the 2018 general elections, the number of voters in the constituency was 443,540. However, only 37.62 per cent of them had polled their votes.

PTI unhappy with ECP

Former Sindh governor and PTI leader Imran Ismail criticised the ECP at a press conference held on Saturday night.

He said the commission had moved presiding officers and polling materials to the polling stations under the supervision of the Sindh police.

“We have no trust in the Sindh police,” he asserted, adding that the ECP was yet to deploy the Rangers and army personnel at the sensitive polling stations.

Ismail said the ECP had not shown the PTI the polling material before supplying it to the polling stations. He claimed that the PTI had been told that the polling material would be transferred to the polling stations in the custody of the Rangers.

The ballot papers and boxes were not safe, Ismail said, adding that there was no guarantee that the police working under the Sindh government would not do anything in favour of the PPP.

The ECP should give the PTI assurance that the ballot papers and boxes are safe and allow the media to make videos of the polling stations, the former governor demanded.

Meanwhile, reacting to PPP Karachi President Saeed Ghani’s criticism of the PTI, PTI Karachi President Bilal Ghaffar said that instead of issuing statements against the PTI, Ghani should pay attention to the constituency from where he was elected.

He said that Ghani had remarked that only a mayor of the PPP would be empowered to solve the problems of Karachi and this showed bad intentions of the PPP and the Sindh government who had decided not to devolve powers to the local government in case the mayor was elected from any other party.

However, the people of Karachi knew their rights and were well aware of the PPP’s tactics, Ghaffar added.

Originally published in The News