Since the time the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has established its hegemony over the NA-246 constituency, Thursday was perhaps the first time that it felt anxious about losing its strongest seat in the city.
The law-enforcement agencies had upset the party. “At the Ronaq-e-Islam and Aga Khan School, our voters were turned away,” said Dr Farooq Sattar at the special tent set up for party leaders at Jinnah Ground. He turned to a man behind him and confirmed the names of the schools. Moments later, a Rangers convoy with blaring sirens sped by Nine Zero and stopped right outside the ground.
“A polling agent was also kicked out,” he continued, cautiously avoiding blaming the Rangers directly. With Haider Abbas and Faisal Subzwari sitting on the couches, and guests being offered red sharbat and oranges, Sattar said that the time-consuming process had discouraged several MQM voters who had been forced to wait for hours in the scorching sun. Many of them were deprived of their right to vote, he claimed. Another leader, Aminul Haque, said the polls seemed to be a contest between the MQM and ‘unforeseen’ forces.
Decorated with flags and strings of kites, the camp office was buzzing with activity by noon. A burqa-clad woman was telling others how the Rangers had pointed to her shimmery kite badge and told her to take it off. “They said I shouldn’t be wearing it while casting my vote,” she said in disbelief.
Syed Rashid, who had driven 200 people to a polling station, said they were asked for verification thrice. “It took approximately half an hour for one person to cast their vote.”
The party leaders claimed they had requested for extension in the voting time but the ECP had rejected their pleas.
At the Jamaat-e-Islami camp located in FB area, the in-charge termed it ‘genuine’ elections. “There is no fear today. Many people voted in the morning, who hadn’t been seen in the previous elections,” said Azeemullah Hussaini.
Men with voters’ lists helped the party’s voters and guided them to their polling stations. Things seemed to be going according to plan. But the party still had its grievances against the MQM.
Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said they had received 35 complaints of rigging. “MQM workers from Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Landhi, Orangi are standing in lines. The party has resorted to new methods of rigging. They are voting through fake NICs.”
He resolved, however, that they will continue to fight till the end. “Our women were turned back by MQM women who said that this is ‘bhai ka area’.” The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf camp at Karimabad was a bustle of activity. Ali Zaidi and Imran Ismail had gone to visit the polling stations. The party’s general secretary for Karachi, Aziz Afridi, who was the main official at the camp, said there was no need to extend the time. “The MQM is complaining because they can’t give five votes in one minute like last time.” He chuckled and so did the men with him. As voting time came to a close, the MQM camp filled with workers, already celebrating the victory of its candidate. The women shouted ‘Mubarak Mubarak’, the men changed into ‘No Imran No’ t-shirts as they all turned to their television screens for the results.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2015.
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