KARACHI: Waseem Akhtar, a Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader who is currently in jail on sedition and terrorism charges, was elected mayor of the megacity, while his party colleague, Arshad Vohra, was elected his deputy in the final phase of the local government elections in Sindh on Wednesday.
Waseem, a former minister and parliamentarian won the mayoral poll by a landslide with 208 of the total 294 votes cast by the city’s municipal authorities, whereas Arshad Vohra bagged 205 votes and was elected deputy mayor.
Waseem, who was arrested last month on charges of aiding alleged terrorists and the May 12, 2007 massacre, arrived in a police armoured vehicle at the British-era Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) building to cast his vote in the final round of elections that has his party in an unassailable lead.
The MQM swept Karachi’s LG election in December, but the elected members could not take office because of legal challenges that prevented them from casting their vote.
On the other hand, PPP’s mayoral candidate managed to get 86 while the PML-N candidate for deputy mayoral slot bagged 89 votes. Both the candidates were members of the Karachi Ittehad, an opposition alliance of six parties.
Talking to the media after casting his vote, Waseem sounded reconciliatory when he called for cooperation with the PPP-led Sindh government for the betterment of Karachi. He also asked the Sindh government to provide more powers to the local government. “I will go to the Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami National Party and PPP to take them on board in my mission. If we continue to fight, then the city will not progress,” he said.
Talking about the city’s security situation, Waseem offered to work with Rangers Director General Maj Gen Bilal Akbar, saying the MQM respects the soldiers’ sacrifices in maintaining law and order. “I need guidance from the DG Rangers and Sindh IG. We want to eliminate those who are bent upon disturbing peace in this city,” he added.
Akhtar was elected mayor a day after a charge-sheet was presented in a local court hearing a case against him with regard to his alleged role in the May 12, 2007 carnage while he was adviser to the Sindh chief minister on home affairs.
“I have been languishing in jail for the past month on false charges, but the people have voted for me,” Akhtar said. He vowed to seek his freedom in court — but said if he is denied, he will “solve the public’s problems from jail”.
According to his lawyer Mahfooz Yar Khan, Akhtar would open an office in jail and via video link he would conduct KMC sessions. “He can run Karachi via video link for five years,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
In Karachi’s district municipal corporations (DMCs), where polls were held to elect chairmen and deputy chairmen, West was the only place where the election results were disputed after the defeated candidate from the PTI lodged a complaint with the returning officer (RO). There will be a recount of votes in the West today (Thursday).
There were no elections in Central and Malir DMCs where the MQM and the PPP candidates had already been declared elected unopposed.
As expected, the MQM won the mayoral election with a majority of votes in DMC East, defeating the Karachi Ittehad. The MQM candidates for chairman and vice-chairman, Moid Anwar and Abdul Rauf, secured 28 votes against the opposition candidates, the PPP’s Zulfiqar Ali Kaimkhani and the PTI’s Sartaj.
The PPP revived its past glory in District South by winning the elections of chairman of the DMC. The party candidate, Malik Fayyaz, secured 28 votes out of the total 47. The PTI candidate from the same panel, Mansoor Shaikh, won the slot of vice chairman by securing 26 votes.
In Korangi, the MQM candidates Nayar Raza and Rukunuddin won the election of chairman and vice chairman.
In Malir, which is considered a PPP stronghold, Chairman Jan Mohammad Baloch had been elected unopposed a few days ago. Meanwhile, the party also won the election of vice chairman on Wednesday, defeating a PML-N candidate. In Central, MQM candidates Rehman Hashmi and Shakir Ali had already been elected unopposed as chairman and vice chairman
The district council, comprising areas of Malir, Keamari, and Gadap, was clinched by the PPP.
While the MQM managed to retain its sway in the municipal set-up of Karachi and Hyderabad, the PPP won most of the local bodies in upper and lower Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2016.