Identity politics could decide fate of NA-251

Members of Bihari and Pushtoon communities seek resolution of their CNIC troubles

Syed Ashraf Ali July 21, 2018
NA-251 constituency comprises of areas like Orangi Town and Mominabad. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: NA-251 is the personification of Karachi's urban wrongs. Devoid of basic civic amenities, the people of this constituency, which comprises areas of Orangi and Mominabad sub-divisions, have all but given up on their rights in the struggle to survive day in and day out.

Of the never-ending list of civic deficiency, two issues feature right at the top - shortage of potable water and identity cards. Other complaints include dilapidated roads, litter, abysmal sewerage system, encroachments, non-functioning street lights, rampant street crime and shortage of public health and education facilities. Delays in the Edhi Line Bus Project (Orange Line) by the Sindh Government have added to the transport woes of these residents. The project, which starts at the Orangi TMA office and was supposed to merge with the Green Line at the Board Office intersection, has been hit with delays for the last two years.

As many as 405,662 people are registered to cast their votes from this constituency, with 239,849 male and 165,803 female voters. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Amin-ul-Haq, Pak Sarzameen Party's Muhammad Nihal Malik, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal's Laeeq Ahmed Khan, Pakistan Peoples Party's Jamil Zia, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Muhammad Aslam, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's Fahad Shafiq and 14 others will battle out for the constituency on July 25.

Orangi Town residents cry foul over water crisis

Residents' concerns

Water remains, however, the foremost concern of the residents of this constituency. Like other areas of District West, the drying up of the Hub Dam has caused a serious water crisis, with several areas hardly receiving water for more than a few hours on a given day each month.

The second major concern is the non-issuance of Computerised National IdentityCards (CNICs) for the Pushtoon and Bihari communities. The scrutiny of all CNICs, both new and old, by the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) has distraught members of both communities.

Ethnically, NA-251 is dominated by Biharis and members of the Urdu-speaking community. Besides, Pushtoons, Punjabis, Seraikis and Bengalis too feature in the population count.

According to a survey conducted by The Express Tribune, members of the Bihari community in Orangi nos. 12, 13 and 14, Zia Colony and other areas of the constituency have severe reservations regarding the issuance and scrutiny of their identity cards. NADRA has issued directives that anyone who migrated from what was then East Pakistan by 1976 would be considered Pakistani, while the remaining would be regarded as illegal immigrants.

Several residents told The Express Tribune that NADRA had issued them CNICs in the past, but when those were close to their expiration date, they had gone back to the agency, which demanded their parents' identity cards and other documents. Subsequently, a large number of people had their CNICs blocked, after which they could no longer operate their bank accounts, nor could they renew their passports. Their names are also not included in the electoral roll for the upcoming elections. A similar situation exists in Faqir Colony, Fareed Colony, Pareshan Chowk, Bismah Colony and other Pushtoon-dominated areas.

NADRA activates software to transmit election results

Muhammad Khan, a resident of Faqeer Colony, told The Express Tribune that NADRA was unnecessarily provoking the Pushtoon community. According to Khan, the community's members were being labeled Afghans and illegal immigrants.

Development issues

Orangi Road and its adjoining streets that stretch deep into residential pockets are pockmarked and almost unfit for vehicular traffic. Encroachments on either side add to the residents' woes, leading to traffic congestion almost on a daily basis. Besides the Qatar Hospital, there is no public health facility in the constituency. There is also a severe lack of public schools and colleges.

Past elections

In previous years, areas constituting what is now NA-251 used to be part of NA-242 and NA-243. The latter two elected the Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Mehboob Alam and Abdul Waseem, respectively, in the 2013 elections. The provincial assembly seats were won by the party's candidates too.

This constituency has traditionally been an MQM stronghold, but the turmoil that has ensued within the party over the last couple of years has given its rivals a whiff of what-could-be. Since then, the Pak Sarzameen Party has been trying to make inroads into the MQM's vote bank, while the Jamaat-e-Islami has protested several times regarding the identity card issues faced by the Bihari and Pushtoon communities besides meeting the NADRA Sindh general manager and other officials to resolve the issue. The JI has fielded its candidate, Laeeq Ahmed Khan, from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal's platform. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2018.


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