KARACHI: Any mention of Landhi Town, which constitutes the major part of NA-240, is incomplete without its two most popular landmarks – Chiragh Hotel and Babar Market. The former is located next to a bus stop and has been a regular hangout spot for generations of Landhi’s citizens who sit here for hours, talking politics and sharing neighbourhood gossip. The latter is widely cited as one of Asia’s largest open-air markets, where customers may find anything from dried fruits and fresh vegetables to apparel and cosmetics.
Besides, much of the area in this constituency is marred by poor governance and overpopulation. Employment opportunities were once abundant on account of the large industries as well as small and medium enterprises dotted across the constituency. However, the latter have seen a significant decline in recent years.
NA-240 constitutes areas of Christian Colony, Khizerabad, Sarfaraz Colony, Landhi nos. 2, 4, 5, and 6, Zamanabad, Burmi Colony, Sharif Colony, Hassanabad, Labour Square, Pak Town, Madina Colony, Korangi Sector 48, Gilgit Colony, Silver Town, Korangi Sector 33 and Marvi Colony, among others. The vast majority of the people in this constituency belong to the Urdu-speaking community. Other major communities include the Bengalis and Burmese.
After the division of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1991, the Muhajir Qaumi Movement managed to carve out a significant base here. The latter’s party chief Afaq Ahmed is a resident of this constituency. The Afaq-led MQM faction has even recorded an electoral victory from these areas, securing an NA and PS seat in the past. But the Altaf-led MQM remained the most potent political force in these areas for the past few decades. The area was also witness to the infamous Major Kaleem case, which acted as the main trigger for the 1992 operation.
Some of the more popular establishments that give the area its identity are the Landhi and Korangi gymkhanas, and the Rashid Latif Cricket Academy. Tasleem Arif, the late Pakistani test cricketer, who was born and raised in this area, needs no introduction. There are also several football grounds in the constituency.
Unfortunately, the past two decades have not been kind to the residents of this constituency. They have been forced to live under the constant sounds of gunfire, killings and curfews, courtesy of the violence between the two factions of the MQM.
Though there are no universities in this area, it has plenty of public schools and colleges. Prominent among these are the Government Boys Degree College Landhi, Maryam Girls’ College, Government Polytechnic Institute for Women, Landhi, Government Girls Degree College, Korangi No. 6 and Women’s College, Korangi No. 4. On the other hand, public schools in the area are in dire need of overhaul, with most missing desks, fans and other essential equipment.
The most pressing issues of this densely populated are the inadequate provision of potable water and sewerage issues. One alternative is underground wells, but with the drop in water level, it has become increasingly difficult for residents. In the past, water used to be found at 60 to 80 feet below the ground, but now residents must dig up to 160 feet before they hit water. Many households rely on tanker services but the cost cannot be afforded by every family. Frequent power cuts have also made life miserable.
Who is fighting for what?
A total of 16 candidates are vying for the NA-240 seat, including Iqbal Muhammad Ali Khan of the MQM, Syed Asif Husnain from Pak Sarzameen Party, Afaq Ahmed from MQM-H, Farrukh Manzoor from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Abdul Jamil Khan from Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Muhammad Feroz from Pakistan Peoples Party, Muhammad Asif from Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, Noori Mian from Sunni Tehreek, Muhammad Usman from Muslim League Sher Bengal as well as six independent candidates.
Of these, the toughest contest is likely to be seen between the MQM and MQM-H candidates, based on their influence and history in the constituency.
The constituency also includes two provincial assembly seats – PS-94 and PS-95.
Candidates for PS-94 include Muhammad Wajahat from MQM, Muhammad Irfan from PSP, Fareedullah from PTI, Gul Rana from PPP, Muhammad Aslam Pervez Abbasi from MMA, Muhammad Rafiq from PML-N, Arif Azam from MQM-H, Shamim Ahmed from Sunni Tehreek, Muhammad Ahmed from Jamiat Ulema-e-Paksitan-Noorani, Muhammad Shoaib-ul-Rehman from TLP, Javed Iqbal from APML, Uzma Farooqui from Grand Democratic Alliance. Javed Ali Sheikh, Aurangzeb Khan, Hafiz Muhammad Kifayatullah, Raees-ur-Rehman Khan, Muhammad Saleem Khan, Mirza Farhan Beg and Naseem Ahmed Khan are contesting as independent candidates.
Candidates from PS-95 include Muhammad Javed Hanif Khan from MQM, Shiraz Waheed from PSP, Sajid Hussain from PTI, Muhammad Ayub Abbasi from MMA, Azam Khan from PPP, Riaz Ahmed from PML-N, Muhammad Tanveer Qureshi from MQM-H, Muhammad Mehboob-ur-Rehman from TLP, Muhammad Salaheen Qureshi from GDA, Muhammad Tariq from Sunni Tehreek, Syed Muhammad Kamran from APML, Abdul Haq from Muslim League Sher Bengal, Muhammad Islam from Pakistan Muslim Alliance and Muhammad Tayyab from Pasban-e-Pakistan. Those contesting elections independently include Syed Adnan-ul-Hassan Gillani and Abdul Hafiz.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2018.