Pakistan Elections 2013:

Karachi, MQM’s Decline, PTI’s Ascendency?

17 Jun, 2013    ·   3996

Portia B Conrad decodes the voting pattern in Karachi in the aftermath of Pakistan's elections

Portia B. Conrad
Portia B. Conrad
Research Intern

Despite Karachi being a city battered by violence and militancy there was a comparatively high voter turnout. The people of Karachi stood for hours to participate in the democratic process. Of those who left, many came back later in the day to rejoin the lines of voters. However, several voters complained of irregularities and intimidation. An order was released for a re-vote in more than 30 polling stations in Karachi constituency over allegations of ballot stuffing. Voting was extended by three hours in seven constituencies after complaints that polling stations opened late. The participants were from all age groups. A significant number of women was observed turning out to vote. It is believed that the youth, especially from the well to do areas desired to vote for Imran Khan but they were not mobilized enough.

The most popular political party in Karachi, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has swept all local, provincial and national elections since the mid-1980s has been seen as both precursor and victim of crime and violence in the city. This year’s elections gave the MQM 18 out of 19 National Assembly seats in Karachi, which has long been the party’s power base. Some of the other major parties who contested in Karachi were the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the JUI-F, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and the Awami National Party (ANP).

Perhaps the most distinguishing phenomenon particular to Karachi is the extent of violence that has become part of the daily life of its citizens. The causes of violence in Karachi range from the more traditional to the more specific which is a consequence of Karachi’s particular demographic and political development. The Pakistan Institute for Peace studies have surveyed that in Karachi the geographical spread of attacks on political leaders or workers and political stations was very high. The report says there have been total 25 attacks of which 57 have been killed and 276 injured. The responsible groups for these attacks are assumed to be the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Karachi was the focus for allegations of fraud during the landmark elections. Political parties Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM-Haqiqi), JUP, Sunni Tehreek and Majlis Wahadat Al Muslimeen had boycotted the elections in Karachi. The Election Commission of Pakistan declared that it failed to hold free and fair elections in the country’s commercial center and biggest city, Karachi. At station 151 of Model Colony and stations 63 of Shah Faisal Colony (NA-256), 3233 and 2495 votes were polled against a total of 2114 and 2405 registered voters. Malir colony’s station 129 (NA-257) also witnessed an impossibly high number of voters, where 1210 votes were polled against 828 registered voters. At least four other polling stations (PS-37, 38, 39 and 40) in Landhi area falling under NA-255, also appeared to have been affected by irregularities, with the number votes polled falling between 93 to 98 per cent of registered voters. In total, at least 32 polling stations have over 80 per cent votes polled, which is abnormally high.

Karachi: Major Outcomes
Most of Karachi is dominated by the MQM which has developed a reputation over the years for working for its constituents, especially those who share the party’s Mohajir background, but funding itself and its leadership through blatant extortion, land-grabbing and other mafia-like activities. It tolerates no rivals and is famous for using street muscle and armed militant wing to assassinate opponents and intimidate those standing in its way. The Karachi electorate keeps electing the same people who are yet to bring harmony and economic progress to the city. No doubt the MQM has given the city representation and recognition at the national level in addition to city development but it despite a lot of effort it has failed to maintain consistent peace and harmony.

In the short election campaign the PTI captured the vision of the urban elite class but it could not take over the popularity of the MQM in Karachi. The strongholds of the MQM were areas that the PTI did not make any serious attempt campaign and yet faired decently. Though the PTI could not defeat the MQM, it still emerged as the second largest party in terms of the total number of votes it received. While the development has baffled the MQM leadership, the PTI has provided an alternative to the people of Karachi who are fed up with the violent politics of the MQM. The MQM is a liberal party that imposes its agenda on people by force and keeps armed wings to harass and kill opponents and dissidents. The party has also been accused of involvement in kidnapping and extortion. The resulting confrontation between the PTI and the MQM has raised the hopes of all those in the country who think the MQM needs to be cut down to size and its mafia-like hold on Karachi has to be defanged.