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The NA-246 bye-election — a curtain-raiser

By Azhar Khan

Tomorrow polling will take place in National Assembly constituency NA 246 in a three way contest between the MQM, the PTI and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) which the PTI chief has said could change the destiny and future of Pakistan’s largest and most troubled city, Karachi.

PTI chief Imran Khan said during his party’s rally in the constituency on April 19 that the party would not just gain a seat to its NA tally but a win could change Karachi’s future. Of course, there are others who share a different view, especially given that the past electoral record shows that this is a safe MQM seat.

The smallest margin that the MQM won this seat by in recent elections was around 20,000 seats in the 2004 bye-election.

That said, this time around who would have imagined that any party would make it all the way to Jinnah Ground, right next to the MQM’s headquarters, to canvass for votes? However, that is precisely what has happened and even the JI organised a rally in the constituency.

What led to the bye-election & it’s run-up

It all started when disgruntled MQM leader Nabil Gabol resigned from the seat, nearly after a year he was elected from the constituency and subsequently quit the party. Within weeks of that, the party’s headquarters were raided and the PTI thereafter went on the offensive repeatedly saying that the party was home to criminal elements and hence stood discredited.

The run-up to tomorrow’s poll has placed this key Karachi constituency in the national spotlight, with many seeing it as a barometer of the MQM’s electoral fortunes. That said, it will be a massive gain for the PTI if it indeed manages to beat the MQM on its home seat. If one looks at the electoral matrix, however, this may seem unlikely given that the PTI and JI (ruling partners in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government) still have their own candidates and this will split the anti-MQM vote.

NA-246 in past contests

The MQM bagged the NA-246 seat with a big margin in the 2013 general elections. It’s candidate, PPP a defector, Nabil Gabol got 137,874 votes, followed by Amir Sharjeel of the PTI with 31,875 votes and Rashid Naseem of Jamaat-e-Islami who got 10,321 votes.

In 2008, the MQM won the seat by a massive margin of almost 180,000 votes margin with its candidate Sufyan Yousuf securing 186,933 votes. Sohail Ansari of the PPP came in second with just 6,741 votes. In the 2002 election the MQM candidate won garnering over 50,000 votes and the second place went to that fielded by the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal who got over 30,000 votes.

Predictions

The past would suggest that this is a safe MQM seat. However, the party has been under severe pressure because of the raid on its HQs and the money laundering and murder case in the UK. The PTI has a leader who is genuinely popular and speaks the language ordinary Pakistanis want to hear and so it may yet have a chance of squeezing past — provided it enters into an electoral understanding with the JI.

 

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