By Zulfiqar Kunbhar –
Apart from media hype, it is nearly impossible for PTI to defeat MQM in its stronghold
April 14, 2015 brought some relief to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and its self-exiled supremo Altaf Hussain as London Metropolitan Police extended his bail in a money-laundering case till July 2015. Before hearing of the sensitive case, the leaders, workers and sympathizers of the party were anxiously waiting for outcome of the investigation.
On the whole the current situation seems going in favor of MQM as bye-elections on National Assembly seat (NA-246) are being held in April 23 in the remits of MQM headquarters Nine Zero. The seat was vacated after Nabeel Gabool’s resignation from the parliament as well as MQM.
It seems the bail would work to soothe Altaf Hussain who has been in hot waters since the Rangers’ raid on Nine Zero, airing of mysterious confessional interview of Salut Mirzam and the current arrest of Moazzam Ali that is linked to the murder of Dr Imran Farooq, once the right hand of Altaf Hussain.
Despite all recent odds and pressures on MQM, the vote bank and the entity of the party will not be much affected in the bye-elections. It is a make-or-break contest which political pundits consider could determine the politics of Pakistan or at least its financial hub Karachi.
“MQM is master of the art and technique of attracting the voters to the polling booths whereas PTI is not nearing to it on technical grounds,” said senior journalist Nasir Baig Chughtai serving as vice president of upcoming TV channel BOL. “MQM is although facing some pressure but it is not worthy as MQM in previous elections got massive wins against its rivals from this constituency … anyhow even after the statement of former MQM MNA Nabeel Gabol MQM would not bear much pressure,” said Chughtai.
For few analysts what could be witnessed on April 23 is activism of voters. “Though MQM is facing difficult time but party’s vote bank would not be shattered … However voters of the opposite parties have on some extent got more strength,” said Nazeer Leghari.
According to Leghari, the state machinery is striving hard to weaken MQM on the political scene but it will never succeed. “MQM has to play its real political role by keeping aloof from hard liners and keep itself away from militancy. MQM is realizing it very well by keeping it away from the people who are being arrested on pretext of anti-social elements social grounds,” Leghari added.
Leghari said that MQM was facing hardships in current scenario but the party was enjoying the confidence of the voters besides keeping tranquility among its rank and file in the backdrop of all odds..
According to another senior journalist Sohail Sangi, instead of denting on vote bank, MQM has gained sympathizers’ votes as people are there who think the recent incidents were not properly handled.
“Apparently it looks that MQM has been isolated in this bye-election drive. But on the contrary, on ground and in real terms sympathy voter of MQM has been strengthened,” said Sohail Sangi. According to him, it appeared that Imran Khan was coming to Karachi to conquer it but it is fact that the said constituency has been more or less a home ground for both MQM and JI. “Jammat has always been fighting against MQM in the elections in these areas, especially in Urdu-speaking pockets,” Sangi added.
The current bye-election in NA-246 will portray the real situation in the constituency and the standings of major contesting political parties on the seat. In such situation MQM is facing two parties besides past hard experiences spelled out by administration in recent past. “MQM voters might face some anxiety but still there was a vote bank that would remain intact with some dull moment. A total vote bank is always considered that do not take paradigm shift. The psyche of the vote bank remains intact for example in case PPP voters have some differences with the party but at the end of the day they prefer voting the same party,” said Leghari.
Although MQM’s staunch opponents especially PTI has managed to get media attention or some call it media-hype, but political analysts see the other side of the picture and consider MQM’s vote bank largely intact. Political experts are of the view that despite hardships and recent administrative clutches on the MQM, the party would more or less stand on its previous records and in sight of winning the seat.
PTI being a latest emerged political party especially in Karachi, has gained some ground but not to such extent that it could be able to bring hard time for MQM in its stronghold. “PTI is in limelight of media but the difference between the votes of PTI and JI will stand marginal,” Leghari said.
Sohail Sangi shares the opinions of others when he notes that the PTI is novice but at the same time it enjoys the support of the youth. “PTI public gathering was more than a media show as most of the attendance in the public meeting was of the outsiders of constituency,” Sangi opined.
Jamaat-e-Islami has a long political experience and affiliation with the area people where by-election is being held. “JI has vast penetration in the remits of this constituency as it as many social service organization serving people beside it has provincial headquarters as they called this area second Mansoora. In previous election JI got thirty thousand plus votes which are decisive. In 1970, 77, 85 and in 1993 when MQM boycotted elections, JI remained winner in the area,” Leghari remarked.
The writer is Karachi-based journalist. He tweets @ZulfiqarKunbhar.