A decade after sweeping the local government elections in Karachi, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) looks set to repeat the feat. According to unofficial results received till 1am, the MQM won 110 seats of the total 247 up for grabs in the six districts that went for polls on Saturday.
The Pakistan Peoples Party came in second with 29 seats. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf could only win seven seats. While the Jamaat-e-Islami managed to win six seats, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which heads the federal government, could only manage four seats. Eight seats have been clinched by independent candidates.
PML-N leads in Punjab with 560 seats, followed by independents with 513
The LG structure in Karachi is divided in 209 union committees and 38 union councils. The committee seats in urban areas fall under the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation while the council seats in rural areas come under district councils, comprising some parts of Malir and District West.
The PPP has grabbed a major chunk in district councils in sub-urban areas by winning more than 20 of a total 38 seats. The party will be able to elect its chairman of the council.
However, the MQM has retained its position as the largest party in Karachi and is likely to win a majority and install its mayor in the city. The party was in the run for 172 seats, and was supporting independent candidates on eight seats.
Karachi turns out in large numbers to vote for its LG setup
Although citizens had waited with bated breath for the election day, the polling process continued relatively peacefully throughout the day, apart from a few scuffles. The ugliest mishap took place in Landhi, where supporters of the MQM and archrival Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H) came to blows. Dozens of political workers were wounded in the clash.
MQM lawmaker Dr Farooq Sattar alleged that the Haqiqi supporters had taken over 25 polling stations in Landhi, and cast bogus votes while pushing out eligible voters from the polling booths. “The Haqiqi terrorists tried to attack our sector office, took over the polling stations and injured 70 of our workers,” he said while addressing a news conference at the MQM Landhi sector office.
Vote count under way as polling comes to a close in Karachi, Punjab
At MQM-H headquarters Baitul Hamza, the party’s vice-chairperson Mohammad Irfan claimed that whenever the MQM was losing, it came out with allegations of rigging. “It was the MQM men who took over the polling stations and injured our voters and polling agents,” he alleged. Despite the Korangi clashes, the MQM managed to clinch five out of the seven union councils in the area.
Excited by the prospect of voting for a LG setup after almost a decade, Karachiites turned out in large numbers to vote. Even areas such as Korangi, which has seen a fair share of violence in the past, managed to attract over half the registered voters to the polling stations.
An overwhelmingly large number of women stepped out to elect Karachi’s local representatives during the third and final phase of the LG elections.
The city heads of all other mainstream parties lost the elections. JI’s Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, PTI’s Ali Zaidi and PPP’s Najmi Alam, all aspiring candidates for the coveted KMC mayor slot, lost.
In a joint press conference, JI Karachi chief Naeemur Rehman and PTI leaders Imran Ismail and Ali Zaidi said the parties had submitted 47 complaints to the election commission about fake votes and rigging. “MQM has lost the mandate they were claiming of,” Naeem claimed.
Wanted criminal contests LG polls in District Central
Zaidi, who is the PTI’s Karachi president, was also critical of the provincial election commissioner. “We are talking with our lawyers and plan to file an FIR against Tanvir Zaki,” he said. “The election commission has turned into [a] selection commission.”
At the MQM’s election camp in Azizabad’s Jinnah Ground, a huge crowd of party supporters carrying flags and portraits danced to songs, as results were displayed on a large screen. They cheered every time the name of a successful candidate was announced.
“We have again proven this city belongs to Altaf [Hussain],” proclaimed Haider Abbas Rizvi. “To my opponents I would say: Better luck next time!”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.