KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which emerged as the largest political party in Karachi in the general election of 2018, has also conquered the areas of Azizabad, north Karachi and Lyari’s political fortresses of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which had ruled for decades.
Political observers, however, are assessing if Imran Khan’s party, which is forming governments in the center, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces, will turn its recent victory in Karachi into a consolidated vote bank for future elections.
The PPP, despite a spirited election drive by its Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, lost NA-246 to PTI’s Shakoor Shad, ending the four-decade reign of the Bhuttos over Lyari, a neighborhood that had been voting for them since the 1970s.
The MQM’s electoral record over three decades was impressive. It won 9 out of 11 seats (82 percent) on its debut in 1988 and never looked back. At the next elections in 1990 it won 10 out of 11 seats, however a boycott of the next general polls in 1993 brought the number down to 9 in 1997; but still it enjoyed the mandate of 82 percent of voters.
With a relatively low performance in 2002, when it won 12 out 20 (60 percent) seats, mainly due to a wave in favor of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in the wake of the US invasion of Afghanistan, it retook its seats and won 17 out of 20 seats in the general elections of 2008 and 2013. On other hand, the PTI, which could win only a single seat — NA-250, still bagged a large number of votes, emerging as the second largest in terms of total votes.
Khan’s party, which had obtained nearly 0.7 million votes from Karachi in 2013, was criticized for not consolidating its vote bank but in the recent elections the PTI shocked observers by securing 14 out of 21 national assembly seats, also winning the MQM-P and PPP’s strongholds.
Political analysts said that in 2013 the post-election apathy toward Karachi did not take voters away from PTI, but since the electorates have now voted in a large number of PTI candidates, their future association with PTI vote bank will certainly be decided by PTI’s performance in Karachi.
Besides the popular slogan of “Prime Minister Karachi Se” (“Prime Minister from Karachi” and “getting rid of the MQM,” on which Khan’s party took a U-turn, the PTI chairman had presented a ten-point Karachi agenda — including holding mayoral elections and improving the education system, healthcare and hospitals, police, business and industry, power shortages, playgrounds and sporting facilities, environment, sewerage and the circular railway — on May 13, 2018, on which, the analysts predict, the PTI future depends.
Kashif Hafeez, director of Pulse consultants — a survey firm that has conducted several pre-poll surveys — said that the people of Karachi voted for “change” and PTI’s “national narrative” rather than local issues.
“It’s however difficult to predict at this stage that the PTI will replace the MQM as the permanent majority party,” Hafeez said, concurring that the fulfilment of PTI’s promises for the city will play a role.
Mashail Malik, a PhD scholar who is researching Karachi’s politics, said that many of the MoHajjir electorates told her that they had voted for PTI in 2013 and voted for it again. “These were folks who were disappointed with MQM’s performance, especially in the period 2009-13 when local governments were no longer empowered and violence was at very high levels.”
“The electorates who switched from the MQM to PTI will be closely following if the PTI fulfils its promises to Karachi. If it does not, they may not vote for it again,” she told Arab News.
The MQM-P central leader Faisal Subzwari said that the PTI will have to deliver otherwise Karachiites will take their words as hollow promises. “They have federal government and Karachi contributes more than 60 percent of federal revenues, so the federation must give Karachi its due share, especially now when a federal government is the largest shareholder of the city’s mandate,” Subzwari told Arab News.
Zia Ur Rehman, a Karachi-based journalist and author, said, however, that it was no easy task due to the passage of some laws.
Although the PTI had released a plan before the election to resolve the city’s civic issues, it would be very difficult for them after the passage of the 18th amendment, Rehman said. “The PPP in the past assembly passed a number of bills to decrease the powers of major and local bodies, and without strengthening it civic issues cannot be resolved.”
Ali Zaidi, senior leader of the PTI and MNA elect, said that the PTI’s performance and delivery over the next five years will determine if it is a one-shot wonder or a permanent majority party in Karachi.
“If we do not get the cooperation we seek from both levels of government, we will look at options that the federal government can implement on its own without the PPP’s Sindh Government and MQM’s Karachi Government,” Zaidi told Arab News.
“The PTI will resolve the major problems facing Karachi by taking all stakeholders onboard and producing consensus solutions. In addition, we can direct federal funds to different infrastructure projects and look at a public-private partnership model, especially about the matter of providing low-cost housing,” Zaidi said.
Zaidi admitted that there might be some negative political fallout of vacating Imran Khan’s Seat after winning the elections with the “Prime Minister Karachi Se” slogan. “Since we won 14 out of 21 National Assembly seats in Karachi and (considering) the value of these seats to the PTI’s total, in essence the prime minister has been elected from Karachi.”
Defending the inclusion of the MQM in the federal government, Zaidi said that it might be seen as a minor setback but the MQM is the not the party of Altaf Hussain anymore after August 22, 2016.
“As long as we remain close to our constituents, sincerely work to serve them and provide good governance, I believe the PTI will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in Karachi,” Zaidi said.