Pakistan

ANALYSIS: What the NA 246 result means

By Omar R Quraishi

According to the official result for NA 247 announced today by the Election Commission of Pakistan, and contrary to claims by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and many observers in general that the MQM would face somewhat of a fight in the NA 246 bye-election, its candidate Kunwar Naveed won by a very handsome margin of over 70,000 votes.

Mr Naveed received 95,622 votes compared to the PTI’s Imran Ismail who could manage only 24,822. In fact, the MQM candidate received over three times the combined votes tally of the PTI and the JI candidates.

Jubilant MQM workers celebrate their victory

The results of the bye-election to a seat which for many elections has been a very safe constituency for the MQM should have never been in doubt to those who understand the dynamics of Karachi and its local politics. For instance, the smallest margin that the party won this seat by was in the 2004 bye-election when it’s candidate was the winner by a margin of just over 20,000 votes.
The win in yesterday’s bye-election means that despite the problems that the party is facing — in the form of the Rangers raid on its headquarters 90, in the cases of alleged money laundering in the UK and the murder of Dr Imran Farooq, coupled with the frequent arrests of hardened criminals all shown by the authorities to be its activists — it had not lost its appeal among its votebank. The resounding success of Kunwar Naveed is a clear message to all other parties who want to have a cake of Karachi’s large resource pie that while the party may be down because of its recent travails, it’s votebank is very much intact.

Voters line up to cast their votes

This would suggest that any solution by the powers that be to browbeat the party into submission and paint it as evil in the eyes of ordinary people will not work, and going by the results of the bye-election may have in fact backfired. That said, any party who has a stake in Karachi’s peace and prosperity should see to it that its ranks are purged of any black sheep.
As for the PTI, it seems to be content and putting on a brave face. It cannot dispute the election result since all day yesterday its leadership praised the security arrangements and is also now saying that it managed to get these many votes in what it says is a “no-go area” for other political parties. This is only partially true because in the 2013 election the PTI candidate came in second with over thirty votes. The party should now focus on the Karachi seats that it has and carry out development work in them since that is the best way for any party to ensure that it does well whenever there is the next round of elections.
The JI candidate managed to in fact get more votes in the bye-election than in the 2013 election which points to the fact that the JI and the PTI failed to reach an electoral understanding on fielding a single candidate in NA 246. The result, a thumping victory for the MQM, shows that this doesn’t really matter now.
The message is also for the powers that be: that the MQM cannot be wished away as a political force in Sindh’s urban areas.
The writer tweets @omar_quraishi

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