KARACHI: In an interesting turn of events, hours before the NA-245 by-polls in Karachi, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate Amjadullah Khan announced his decision to withdraw in favour of MQM candidate Kamal Malik.
Flanked by MQM leaders at party headqarters Nine Zero late Wednesday, Amjadullah Khan announced his decision to withdraw in favour of MQM. Addressing the media, Amjadullah cited PTI's neglect for his campaign as the reason for his withdrawal.
"Local party leadership did not offer any support and cooperation for the by-polls," he lamented while addressing the media.
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The NA-245 candidate criticised PTI chairman Imran Khan for not contacting him and "leaving him on his own for the elections." He added that PS-115 provincial constituency, where by-polls are taking place today as well, was the sole focus of PTI.
Amjadullah claimed the PTI refused to provide him any funding for his election campaign or other such cooperation.
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"Imran Khan doesn’t know anything about politics he should be doing welfare work," he said. "Imran Khan is a good person but he cannot handle the party," Amjadullah added.
Complete Press Conference: PTI candidate for NA-245 withdraw in favor of MQM candidate, joins MQM https://t.co/yHFPyMftLy— allaboutmqm (@allaboutmqm) April 6, 2016
The MQM seems to be in a comfortable position to clinch both the provincial assembly and National Assembly seats. Political parties are battling for NA-245 and PS-115 after MQM lawmakers Rehan Hashmi and Arshad Abdullah Vohra resigned from their respective seats following their victory in last year’s local government (LG) elections.
The National Assembly constituency falls in District Central, and comprises all blocks of North Nazimabad, Buffer Zone, some parts of North Karachi and Nazimabad. Its ethnic composition is made up of a majority of Urdu-speaking people, and the area is home to the ‘educated middle class’.
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NA-245 is considered to be a stronghold of the MQM. According to a member of the party’s Rabita Committee, Aminul Haque, the party has been bagging the seat since 1988. In the last general elections, Hashmi had secured the seat with 115,776 votes, defeating the runner-up PTI candidate with a margin of 60,839 votes.
MQM’s Farhat Muhammad Khan won the seat with a heavy mandate in the 2008 elections, defeating the PPP candidate. In the 2002 elections, Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) former chief Munawar Hasan lost to MQM’s Kanwer Khalid Younus. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 227 polling stations and 796 polling booths have been established for the by-polls, with 33 declared ‘highly sensitive’ and 124 ‘sensitive’. The number of registered voters is 409,655, out of which 221, 242 are men and 188, 413 women. A total of 16 candidates from various political parties are contesting the polls.
This provincial assembly constituency witnessed bouts of violence this week, with the MQM and its rival Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H) accusing each another of attacking offices and thrashing workers. Around 70% of Lines Area falls in the constituency, along with PECHS block two and six, Jut Lines, and Jacob Lines. An overwhelming majority of locals here belong to the Urdu-speaking community.
The ECP states that there are 162, 614 registered voters in the constituency, out of which 90, 413 are male and 72, 201 are female. For the by-elections, some 83 polling stations and 332 polling booths have been established, of which 66 have been declared ‘highly sensitive’ and 14 ‘sensitive’.
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The seat was last held by MQM’s Vohra who is now the party’s nominee for Karachi’s deputy mayor. In 2013, Vohra won the seat after bagging 55,804 votes. The runner-up, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Hamza Nafees, has now joined the MQM and is working for its cyber communication department.
Raza Haroon bagged the seat from the MQM’s platform in the 2008 general elections, beating a PPP candidate. Haroon has now joined the Pak Sarzameen Party under the leadership of Mustafa Kamal.
The MQM has fielded relative novices on both seats, with both candidates never having run for provincial or National assemblies seats. However, they have won local bodies’ polls before. The party’s candidate for NA-245 is Kamal Malick, the nazim of Gulberg town in the 2005 city district government setup. Six months ago, he was included in the party’s rabita committee as well. The party’s PS-115 candidate is a newcomer, Faisal Rafiq, elected as a vice-chairperson in the local government elections in December last year. He joined the party in 2012.
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The PTI is also fielding relatively new candidates for the two constituencies, Amjad Jah for PS-115 and Amjadullah Khan for NA-245. Jah, who joined the party in 2010, has demanded that a level-playing field be provided to all contestants. “Everyone should be given a fair chance. I would request the people to come out and vote,” he told The Express Tribune, hoping a higher turnout will propel him to victory.
MQM-H has fielded Jameel Qadri on the provincial assembly seat. The party’s spokesperson, Khalid Hameed, said this time around they had public support. “Because we are getting supporters and people are turning to us, the MQM has reacted by spreading fear and panic by resorting to violence.” Hameed said the MQM has started pre-poll rigging, alleging that it had even changed an SHO of one of the police stations falling in the constituency.
PPP is also contesting the elections and has nominated Shahid Hussain as its candidate for NA-245 and Saeed Chawla for PS-115.
However, the JI is not contesting the by-polls. Its spokesperson, Zahid Askari, rejected the impression that the party was not contesting because it was losing its vote bank, and said by-elections are usually won by those who had bagged the seat previously.
“We have the vote bank, but there’s disappointment among people because no changes have been made to the voters list despite several complaints. We had demanded unbiased polling staff and Rangers within and outside the premises [but this did not happen],” he claimed.
PTI asks ECP to take notice
Deputy Secretary General PTI Imran Ismail urged Election Commission on Thursday to take notice of the dissent of their candidate on eve of by-polls in NA-245 constituency.
“We strongly demand the Election Commission to declare the elections null and void and issue a new date for elections to enable fielding of new candidates,” Ismail said while addressing the media.
We cannot accept elections like this, the PTI leader added while urging the ECP to launch an investigation if pressure or money were the basis of Amjadullah’s decision.
Ismail also apologised to Imran Khan and PTI leadership for recommending Amjadullah’s name for the candidacy ahead of the polls.
The PTI leader also criticised MQM for “backtracking from the competition and terming Amjadullah’s disassociation from PTI an awakening of conscience.”
Meanwhile, Amjadullah said he neither had any pressure nor he was given money for making the decision to join the MQM.
"I would urge PTI chairman to purge the party of unwanted and greedy elements and bring eligible people to the forefront," he said while talking to media in Karachi accompanied by MQM leaders.