KARACHI: NA-253 is the first of the four constituencies carved out of District Central after the new delimitation.
The constituency covers areas of North Karachi and New Karachi, including Shahnawaz Bhutto Colony, Mustafa Colony, Bilal Colony, Khawaja Ajmer Nagri, Goth Ghulam Muhammad, Madina Colony and Khameso Goth.
Most of the voters living in NA-253 are Urdu-speaking. They are likely to support the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan (MQM-P) or Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), the leadership of which was once associated with the MQM.
In terms of population, it is the smallest constituency of District Central with a population of 745,685, of whom 453,000 are registered voters. A total of 268 polling stations have been set up for the constituency, which will have 954 booths altogether.
In terms of education, the constituency lags behind. It has no university and there are only four colleges, which are insufficient for its large population. They include alKhair College of Higher Education, Monotech College, Government Girls Degree College New Karachi and Government Nishtar College 11B.
The constituency also features around a dozen of private hospitals, besides two government hospitals in New Karachi and North Karachi. Karachi’s popular Kaala School and Peela School and Kaali and Laal markets are also there in NA-253.
Water scarcity and dilapidated roads have been troubling NA-253 residents for quite a long time like several other areas of the city.
World famous W11 wagon also has its major route through NA 253. A popular flea market and an old cars exhibition is also a weekly feature of NA 253. There was a time when the New Karachi township was popular to its cinemas. However, with the passage of time and onset of TV and cable, the cinemas have gradually disappeared.
A constituency to look for
The areas of North Karachi and New Karachi have historically been considered one of the strongholds of the MQM in the city.
The PSP appears to be making every possible effort to convince voters of NA-253 to vote for it as its chairperson, former mayor Mustafa Kamal, is contesting from it. It is the first time the PSP is contesting general elections after Kamal parted ways with the Altaf Hussain-led MQM. Much of the PSP’s charm comes from Kamal, who claims to have transformed Karachi during the time he served as the city nazim. The defeat of the PSP chairperson would mean much more to the PSP than a loss of a single seat.
The PSP workers not only seem to have a strong grip on the campaign but they also seem to possess needed resources and support on the ground. They are calling the voters to elect Kamal throughout the constituency. However, many voters still have emotional bond with ‘kite’, the MQM-P symbol, to which they have been voting for years. Many of the MQM-P supporters are confident that kite would triumph over dolphin in NA-253. For them, the PSP victory would be a big upset.
Contestants in the run
A total of 19 candidates are vying for NA-253. However, the real competition seems to be between Kamal and MQM-P’s Osama Qadri. The other candidates include Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Ashraf Jabbar, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s (MMA) Zafar Khan, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Muhammad Amjad Ali, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Khalid Mumtaz, Mohajir Quami Movement-Haqiqi’s (MQM-H) Muhammad Farooq Khan, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Chaudhry Muhammad Javed Ishaq and Pakistan Sunni Tehreek chief Sarwat Ejaz Qadri.
One of the independent candidates for NA-253 is MQM-P leader Khawaja Izharul Hasan. He had filed his nomination papers as a covering candidate for Osama and did not withdraw in time due to which he had been allotted the symbol of butterfly.
The provincial constituencies falling in NA-253 are PS-123 and PS-124. As many as 20 aspirants are in the fray for PS-123. They include MQM-P’s Waseemuddin, PSP’s Naila Munir, PTI’s Faizan Muslim, MMA’s Muhammad Yousuf, PPP’s Rehana Anjum and others. The PSP chairperson is also in the run from PS-124. He will be battling MQM-P’s Hasan. There are a total of 22 candidates in the field, including MMA’s Muhammad Khalid Siddiqui, PTI’s Farhan Saleem, PPP’s Shamim Mumtaz, PML-N’s Mudassir Rahim and MQM-H’s Umar Akhtar.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2018.