Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s candidates stomped home to victory in the by-elections for NA-245 and PS-115 in Karachi, overcoming the recent spate of defections and the general apathy that sparked a low turnout in Thursday’s polls.
According to unofficial results, MQM’s Kamal Malick bagged 39,597 votes to secure NA-245. His closest rival, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Shahid Hussain, could muster just 3,116 votes.
NA-245, PS-115 by-polls: MQM expected to retake both seats, despite low turnout
The NA-245 constituency became interesting when Malick’s main opponent, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Amjadullah Khan, withdrew at the last minute in favour of the MQM candidate and joined the latter’s party. Despite his withdrawal, he received 1,489 votes.
The constituency is considered to be a stronghold of the MQM. In the May 2013 general elections, MQM’s Rehan Hashmi had secured the seat with 115,776 votes, defeating the runner-up PTI candidate with a margin of 60,839 votes. He, however, had resigned from his seat after winning in last year’s local government elections.
Meanwhile in PS-115, MQM’s Faisal Rafiq bagged around 11,747 votes to beat MQM-Haqiqi’s Jameel Qadri who secured 1,381 votes. PTI’s Amjad Jah bagged only 1,210 votes while PPP’s Saeed Chawla could win only 475 votes.
PS-115 was last held by MQM’s Arshad Vohra who is now the party’s nominee for Karachi’s deputy mayor. In 2013, Vohra won the seat after bagging 55,804 votes.
Lacklustre campaigning from both sides resulted in a poor turnout on Thursday with around 11% of 383,784 registered voters in NA-245 turning up while an even poorer 9.20% of 111,711 registered voters turned up in PS-115.
Though polling started at 8am, votes had been cast in double digits or none at all at most polling stations by mid-afternoon. The few voters who turned up showed little enthusiasm.
In that, voters in Lines Area -- PS-115 constituency – showed more election fervour.
At Qasai Chowk in Lines Area, where the MQM-H had set up its camp near an armoured personnel carrier, women and men voters looked for their names on the voters’ lists.
“People are coming but the turnout is low,” admitted Asif Khan, a
To make matters worse, poor arrangements had been made for senior citizens.
Fauzia Anis, an elderly woman who had come with her husband to vote in NA-245, complained about the long distance she had to walk under the scorching sun to reach the polling station.
“Already the voters are not heading to polling stations and with such mismanagement no one would even want to,” she said.
Naushad Anwar, the presiding officer at the polling station Fauzia visited, admitted that voters, especially the elderly were facing immense difficulties. He further told The Express Tribune that the returning officer had forbidden any car inside the premises.
Women participation was also lower than their male counterparts. This was evident in how only 20 women from the 300 registered in Jatt Lines of PS-115 came out to vote.
Relatively peaceful elections
Save some minor clashes between supporters of MQM-Altaf and MQM-Haqiqi, the little voting which took place was carried out peacefully.
That was in part due to the strict security measures adopted including heavy deployment of law enforces including nearly 4,000 police officers and 1,000 paramilitary Rangers.
PTI candidate withdraws from NA-245 by-polls, joins MQM
In Lines Area, MQM-A and MQM-H workers gave each other dirty looks when they squared off in the streets. There were also reports of minor brawls and incidents of aerial firing from some areas.
Rangers served biryani with ‘thank you’ notes
“While appreciating your wonderful performance, a thank you by Director General Pakistan Rangers, Sindh,” read a unique note pasted on a box of biryani which was distributed among Rangers personnel. While it is a common practice to serve food to law enforcers and political parties’ agents on election day, the addition of a ‘thank you’ note was a first.
Sindh Rangers DG Major General Bilal Akbar and District East DIG Kamran Afzal and District Central DIG Feroz Shah also visited various polling stations to review the security arrangements.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2016.