KARACHI: As unofficial results of the local government elections in Sindh rolled in by the dozen, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement moved into an unassailable position, strengthening its claim to the coveted office of mayor in Karachi.
The province’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, meanwhile, has made inroads into the adjoining suburban areas.
The MQM claims to have won 134 of the 209 union committees and is set to nominate the mayor for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.
The PPP has secured a strong position in the district councils – which comprise the rural areas of Malir and West district – by winning more than 21 of the 38 union council seats.
The ground realities and unofficial results show that the MQM is also on its way to elect mayors for four district municipal corporations, but it would face stiff competition in Malir and South district, where the PPP and its allies also have their eye on the lucrative positions.
“It looks like the MQM is facing a washout in Malir,” said a source in the election commission. “It claims to have won the Jafar-e-Tayyar UC in Malir DMC, but the result is being disputed. It seems difficult for the party to bring in its mayor in this district.”
According to MQM spokesman Aminul Haq, the party has won 50 of the 51 seats in Central district and 34 of the 37 seats in Korangi district.
The MQM also claimed to have secured 10 of the 31 UCs in South district. But independent sources claimed that other parties – including the PPP, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – have majority in this district and it would be difficult for the MQM to win the South DMC.
PPP leader Waqar Mehdi claimed that the PPP and the MQM won 10 seats each in South district. “All the other candidates – including the PTI, the PML-N and the independents elected from Lyari and the adjoining areas – have extended their support to the PPP, which is likely to elect its mayor for the district.”
The MQM also appears to have a majority in East district with 19 wins out of 31 seats, while the party secured 21 of the 46 seats in West district.
Meanwhile, the PPP has emerged as the second largest party in the KMC with 25 seats and 21 of the 38 UCs of the district council. It has been the PPP’s long-time dream to elect its council chairman because the party has succeeded in it only once since the council came into being in 1963.
Unlike the expectation the alliance of the PTI and the Jamaat-e-Islami was badly defeated at the hands of the MQM and the other candidates. The JI claims to have won 19 seats, the PTI 17 and the PML-N 18, but unofficial results did not confirm the claims.
Filling Mustafa Kamal’s shoes
Who from the MQM will fill the shoes of Mustafa Kamal and carry on his legacy as a successful, widely-loved mayor of Karachi? Will it be a familiar face doing the rounds for the past couple of days, or will it be someone new and unexpected? All eyes are set on the candidates who would clinch the most important position in the new system.
So far two unofficial favourites appear to be Wasim Akhtar and Arshad Vohra, but the MQM insists that an unfamiliar, young face could also become the mayor. The decision would be taken within a week after consultations with the party’s chief and coordination committee.
An ex-MNA and Sindh chief minister’s former adviser on home affairs in Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s tenure, Akhtar won the chairman’s seat in East district on Saturday. A senior party leader, fierce and vocal, he said it would entirely be the party’s decision if he is chosen as the next mayor.
For the past few months as the paramilitary Rangers’ operation against the party intensified, Akhtar actively emerged as a central leader, appearing on television shows and holding news conferences. During the election campaign for the LG polls, he addressed many public gatherings. He also angered the Rangers by criticising them on TV, which resulted in the paramilitary force sending him a legal notice. However, things are said to have settled down between the two.
A part of the MQM since 1986, Akhtar sees the entire city mired in problems, and would be addressing these issues if he is made the mayor. “There has been no maintenance of flyovers and infrastructure which were developed in our last tenure. Sewage, water, garbage are big issues. Then we need to wipe out corrupt people from government departments, strengthen the health sector, keep a check on hospital waste and eliminate commercialisation in residential areas.”
Canvassing for the LG polls, MQM MNA Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had said during a speech that the next mayor would be someone with a PhD from London. If this is true, then Karachi’s next mayor would no doubt be Vohra, who has a PhD from the University of Manchester.
MPA Vohra, who won the chairman’s seat in UC-49 of Central district, told The Express Tribune that he felt that the basic problems of Karachi are water, electricity, cleanliness and infrastructure.
A prominent industrialist, 57-year-old Vohra has twice been appointed chairman of the SITE Association of Industry. Within the MQM, he has been associated with the party’s charity organisation, the Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation.
He is usually considered a quiet person who shies away from the limelight, which other leaders seem to enjoy.
Party sources have warned that those appearing to be favourites right now might not be chosen as the mayor. “Anything can happen at the eleventh hour,” said an MQM leader. “Even a dark horse could emerge.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2015.