Mayor in danger: Political maneuverings gain momentum

Opposition parties plan no-trust motion to wrest control from the MQM in City Council


Syed Ashraf Ali February 17, 2018
A no-trust motion in Mayor Wasim Akhtar is likely to be moved by the JI. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: Wasim Akhtar’s position as mayor is at stake. Interparty conflicts in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – Pakistan and rumblings of dissatisfaction amid local government representatives do not bode well for the mayor’s future.

After the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) City Council meeting on Wednesday, Akhtar began to scramble to save his seat.

While Akthar chose to align himself with the Bahadurabad faction of the MQM, but his support in the City Council is not that strong. There are 308 City Council representatives, of which 204 are from the MQM. The situation within the council has become interesting ever since the MQM’s internal rifts became public. The meeting at the KMC’s Sports Complex was chaired by Akhtar and was attended by 110 members. The PIB Colony MQM faction claims that it enjoys the support of half of the party’s representatives in the City Council, leaving the mayor in a fix.

Akhtar's stance had left scores of union council chairmen irked and, by not attending the sports complex meeting, they have expressed their dissatisfaction with his leadership. According to sources, Akhtar is offering development projects to the chairmen. A chairman said, on the basis of anonymity, that Akhtar would not receive him when he went to the mayor’s office. "We would take development projects in our area to the mayor but he wouldn’t cooperate with us. Now, he is calling us himself but we did not attend his meeting in protest.”

The sources said that senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership is actively working for a change in the City Council. Saeed Ghani has been assigned the task, for which he is reaching out to several political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). Ghani is also reportedly contacting the MQM’s City Council members.

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The source explained that if the City Council brings in a no confidence motion against Akhtar, it could lead to an unfavourable outcome for the mayor. Sensing the possibility, the MQM’s Bahadurabad group has become active and increased contact with the UC chairmen, while Akhtar has also begun touring different areas.

Jamaat-e-Islami's (JI) recent declaration to move a no-trust motion against Akhtar has led to political maneuverings in local government council offices. In order to ensure success for the motion, the opposition is trying to win over local government representatives belonging to the various factions of the MQM.

The fallout of the MQM division is also visible in councils, where serving officers are seen extending support to one of the three factions of the party. Consequently, the power of the city's mayor is waning. In order to remove the mayor from his post, the opposition will need the support of 204 of the 308 City Council members.

MQM-Pakistan forms the majority with 203 members. The opposition, on the other hand, comprises of 105 members - 40 from the PPP, 28 from PML-N, 16 from PTI, nine from JI, four from Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam and three from the Awami National Party. Five seats were won by independent candidates and two seats are vacant since two councilors, one each from the MQM and PPP, passed away.

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The PPP appears to be playing a crucial role in the no-trust motion. The party is already eyeing a large number of seats in the Senate elections for which it has been contacting members of the Sindh Assembly, including those of the MQM. It is also rumored that the party is likely to support the MQM faction with the highest number of seats in the assembly.

According to the rules, a sitting mayor can be removed if two-third majority of the elected councilors pass a no-trust motion against him. Internal rifts have in fact paralysed the party’s functional capacity and left MQM workers disoriented. Council functions have come to a halt as MQM workers look for a resolution to their internal party issues. On the other hand, opposition members are looking to capitalise on the MQM’s internal void.

MQM representatives sitting in the national and provincial assemblies are also divided in their support for one of three splinter groups - Bahadurabad, PIB Colony and the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). Deputy Mayor Dr Arshad Vohra has already joined the PSP.

According to political analysts, Akhtar also holds the post of MQM's deputy convener. In addition to being the city's mayor, he is actively involved in party affairs, making it difficult for him to effectively manage affairs of the local government. Recent splits within the party saw active participation from Akhtar, prompting him and other party workers to join one of the splinter camps.

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Akhtar joined the Bahadurabad group, enjoying the support of several UC heads including the chairmen of District East and District Korangi Moeed Anwar and Nayyar Raza. On the other hand, District Central Chairman Rehan Hashmi is a supporter of the PIB Colony group.

The Bahadurabad faction has the support of over 160 local government councilors while PIB claims to have over 170 such councilors on board. According to sources, the chairmen of several UCs chose to stay out from their offices seeing divisions in the party, halting contact with the emerging groups. Council officers have also opted to remain silent about their support for any specific group

When contacted, the mayor claimed to have the support of all members in the City Council. "In addition to the MQM, I also have the support of councilors from opposition parties, including PPP and PML-N," he claimed, ruling out any possibility of a no-trust motion against him.

PPP leader Karamullah Waqas called for an opposition meeting in this regard to discuss disruptions in the working of the local government. JI’s Karachi Amir Hafiz Naeemur Rahman said that meetings and deliberations regarding the no-trust motion will be held soon. "A significant development is likely to take place in the next 48 hours," he disclosed, adding that his party will contact all the members, including those representing the MQM.

Rahman said people were fed up with the city's mayor and that they will fully support JI in its no-trust motion.

MQM-Pakistan isn’t going anywhere

MQM-Pakistan’s PIB faction spokesperson denied news of a possible no-trust motion against the mayor. "The party is not considering any action in this regard," he claimed. The party’s Bahadurabad faction’s spokesperson lauded the mayor’s role and said their group had the support of most of the elected representatives in the local government. "A campaign against the mayor is sure to see defeat" he said.

The PSP spokesperson said his party had won the support of a large number of councilors after Vohra came on board. "We will soon show our power in City Council," he predicted, adding that any offer to join the no-trust motion will be decided after consultations.

According to experts, any meeting for a no-trust motion against the mayor may be presided over by a person nominated by the Sindh government

With additional input by our correspondent

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