Elections are a little over a month away but the city’s Kutchi community only knows for sure who they don’t want to vote for instead of who will be getting their much-sought-after thumb of approval.
In the past, the Kutchi community has shown support for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but after its five-year rule, voices of discontent have started to emerge – and some of them are quite strong. Naveed Rathore from Saddar, said, “I’m going to select ‘none of the above’ option if the Election Commission of Pakistan provides it. I supported PPP, but not anymore. To do that would be to ruin my country.” He added that he might vote for the Kutchi Rabta Committee (KRC), but feels that it lacks a coherent vision.
The committee was formed back in 2010 to curb violence plaguing Lyari, but over time it morphed into a political pressure group. It shares a frosty relationship with the Peoples Amn Committee, a group flexing its political muscles in Lyari while enjoying PPP’s support.
But dissatisfaction with PPP does not necessarily translate into more votes for KRC as Rathore’s opinion shows. A resident of Agra Taj colony said his family might not support PPP in the upcoming elections. But he did not immediately mention KRC as a possible option. “The previous government has ruined the city and being a businessman, I’d prefer a strong person who can bring a visible change.”
Others from the community feel that there is a paucity of choice. “We have just one option and that’s KRC. I’m not a part of it, but who else can I vote for?” said Farooq Kutchi of Kalri.
Some members of the community said they don’t see the point of voting. For instance, Abdul Ghani Shah from Keamari said he did not like any of candidates, saying all of them were corrupt. “I won’t vote for anyone. I have also asked my family not to vote for anyone. Leaders have not done anything apart from playing with the public’s sentiments.”
Some KRC members claim that over three million registered voters in the city belong to the community. A sizeable chunk of the population of Lyari and Keamari comprise Kutchi community members. They also live in pockets across the city, including Saddar, Malir and New Karachi and Mawwach Goth. It is one of the few communities in Karachi which has fostered ties between its members through registered jamaat khanas where social gatherings take place weekly.
Going their own way
PPP had offered KRC tickets for PS-108 in Lyari about four months ago. But the committee refused and has now decided to contest elections itself. It has put forward six names to contest for provincial assembly seats and even one for a National Assembly seat.
The committee will also support people contesting elections independently in other constituencies.
Members of the committee allege that not a single political party in the city has attempted to tackle the problems plaguing the Kutchi community, such as poor access to education and healthcare. Hussain Kutchi, a member of the committee’s upper echelons, said, “It hurts us when political parties leave the city’s peace at the mercy of criminals.”
He was fairly confident about the political clout the committee has and even went on to say that it enjoys the support of “around 80 per cent” of the Kutchi community. “We have strong support in all six constituencies,” he claimed, adding that a total of 173 Kutchi registered groups are supporting the committee.
Hussain said that different political parties had contacted him about a possible alliance. “We have not taken a final decision as yet. Our doors are open for all political parties, including the PPP.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2013.