As August 22 looms ever nearer, political parties have stepped up their campaigns for the by-polls. The seats up for grabs include the NA-235 Sanghar II, NA-237 Thatta-I, PS-103 and PS-64 Mirpurkhas I.
In the May 11 elections, the NA-235 seat was won by the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional while the NA-237 was bagged by the PPP. On the other hand, elections were not conducted on the PS-64 seat due to the demise of the independent candidate, Waqar Buland. MQM retained its winning stance on the PS-103 seat by securing a massive 40,000 votes with the PTI candidate coming in second at 17,000 votes.
The NA-235 seat was vacated by the MNA-elect Pir Sadruddin Shah Rashdi, who chose to retain the NA-216 Khairpur II seat. Meanwhile, the PPP’s winning candidate from NA-237, Sadiq Memon, was declared ineligible to hold office due to his dual nationality. The provincial assembly seat, PS-103, became vacant after the death of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s MPA-elect, Sajid Qureshi.
With the announcement of the date for the by-polls, the constituencies once again saw a surge of election-related activities as banners and posters adorned the walls of the main thoroughfares.
While the lion’s share of PS-103 voters are residents of North Nazimabad blocks A, B, C, E, F, G and H and Nazimabad Nos. 5-A, 5-B, 5-C and 5-D. A brief visit to the area reveals that people, including party activists, feel nervous about attending corner meetings or getting involved in election-related activities. Many mainstream political parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, Muttahida Deeni Muhaz and the Awami National Party have not fielded their candidates for the by-elections citing security concerns for their workers.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s candidate, Muhammad Sultan, who is not a resident of the constituency, has sparked a controversy among the party’s workers who feel they should have been consulted before. A PTI activist told The Express Tribune that the central leader of the party had nominated the candidate without consultation with the party workers which had caused a rift among them – one group taking part in the campaign activities while the other preferring to watch as silent spectators.
PPP’s surprise package
With the Pakistan Peoples Party fairing badly in the May 11 elections in the constituency, the party has decided to change the dynamics of the contest by fielding its youngest ever candidate, Faisal Sheikh. The die-hard PPP supporter, who currently heads the party’s student wing, has been a resident since childhood and claims to be well aware of the political demography of the constituency. Sheikh told The Express Tribune said that, “I was born in this constituency and terrorists killed my father-in-law in this neighbourhood. I will not leave my people stranded and will bring peace back to the constituency if elected,” he added.
MQM sticks to veteran
The MQM, who have remained the undisputed victors in the constituency since 1986, have decided to play it safe by fielding one of their most experienced workers, Abdul Rauf Siddiqui.
The by-polls may bring about a surprise for the election pundits as the general feeling among the residents seems one of dissent. Residents pointed out various sites which had become landfills due to the non-serious attitudes of the authorities. Residents also expressed unhappiness over the encroachment of amenity plots in the constituency – it will be a priority task of the returned candidate to recover the encroached amenity parks and playgrounds from land grabbers.
Sensitive polling stations
The Election Commission of Pakistan has planned to set up 88 polling stations with 330 polling booths. All the polling stations have been declared most sensitive and will be provided security by army personnel.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2013.