February 27, 2024

Karachi’s Crucial Role: The Power Pivot on Feb 8th to Determine the Federation’s Kingmaker Party


Karachi's Crucial Role: The Power Pivot on Feb 8th to Determine the Federation's Kingmaker Party

Riaz Sohail

In Pakistan, the city of Karachi, boasting 22 seats in the National Assembly, consistently plays a pivotal role in determining the ruling party after general elections. The significance of controlling this economic hub has led to its reputation as a ‘kingmaker’ city.

Dr. Riaz Shaikh from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology emphasizes that Karachi’s National Assembly seats surpass those of entire provinces, elevating its political status. As the largest city in the country, winning the majority of seats here holds substantial importance in forming coalition governments, according to Mishaal Malik, an assistant professor at Howard University.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has long been dubbed the ‘kingmaker party’ due to its historical success in Karachi. Professor Farhan Siddiqui of Quaid-e-Azam University notes that a party securing 16 or 17 seats in the National Assembly from Karachi has historically gained prominence in national politics.

However, the landscape shifted with the entry of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the last general elections.

Will PTI maintain its dominance in Karachi in the upcoming 2024 elections?

Despite PTI’s growth from winning one National Assembly seat in 2013 to securing 14 seats in 2018, challenges loom. Protests, leader departures, and concerns about election rigging pose obstacles. Firdous Shamim Naqvi from PTI remains optimistic, citing public support, but emphasizes the need for a free and fair election.

Analyst Mazhar Abbas highlights hurdles for PTI, including the absence of the party symbol during elections and restrictions on campaign activities. The voter turnout on election day becomes crucial for PTI’s success, with Naqvi stating that a 60 to 65 percent turnout is necessary.

While other parties vigorously campaign in Karachi, PTI’s activities are comparatively limited. Naqvi defends this approach, stating that PTI is using digital means to connect with voters, sending voting information via WhatsApp.

As Karachi becomes the epicenter of political maneuvering, the question remains: Will PTI’s public support translate into votes on February 8th, shaping the city’s political landscape once again?”

“MQM’s Bid for Resurgence: Can it Regain ‘Kingmaker’ Status in Karachi’s Political Arena?”

“As MQM gears up for the upcoming elections, major factions, including PSP, Bahadurabad, and PIB groups, unite in a bid to reclaim their ‘kingmaker’ status. Leader Aminul Haque expresses optimism, citing the merger’s enthusiasm among supporters, aiming to secure 16 or 17 out of 22 National Assembly seats.

In the 1988 elections, MQM triumphed with 9 out of 11 seats in Karachi, steadily increasing its presence in subsequent polls under Altaf Hussain’s leadership. However, the party faced a setback in 2018, securing only seven seats in the absence of Hussain.

Farhan Siddiqui, Quaid-i-Azam University Professor and author of ‘Language Politics in Pakistan,’ notes a divided mandate in Karachi, citing organizational crises and a leadership vacuum. The party lacks the charismatic figures that once defined its strength, contributing to a decline in influence.

Siddiqui suggests that since 2012, Karachi residents questioned MQM’s ability to address issues while in power, leading to a shift towards Tehreek-e-Insaf in 2013 and 2018. Aminul Haq, however, asserts that MQM, when in federal government, has served the people, highlighting initiatives like underpasses, green buses, the K4 project, and the establishment of a dental college.

Amid internal divisions, Altaf Hussain’s return to political engagement adds complexity. While MQM Pakistan boycotts elections, MQM London nominates candidates for all constituencies. In a video message, Hussain criticizes MQM Pakistan, branding those using the kite symbol as ‘traitors.’

Meshaal Malik, a professor, suggests that if any MQM faction still holds support in Karachi, it’s MQM London, despite some migrant voters shifting allegiance to Tehreek-e-Insaf. Meanwhile, Dr. Jafar Ahmad of Karachi University opines that decision-making by the establishment at the lower political levels may influence seat distribution.

As the political landscape evolves, the resurgence of MQM remains uncertain. Mustafa Kamal’s shift from opposing migrant politics to actively participating reflects the ongoing adjustments in the intricate map of political forces in Karachi.”

PPP’s Quest for Karachi Dominance: Breaking the Historical Barrier or Facing Uphill Battle

“Despite its formation, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has yet to secure a majority in Karachi. As PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and his sister Assefa Bhutto campaign in the city, questions arise about the party’s potential to emerge as the majority force in the upcoming general elections.

While PPP tasted success in the municipal elections by securing the mayoral position and victories in Korangi, Orangi, and Baldia Town, the question lingers whether this triumph can translate into a broader majority in the city during general elections.

Saeed Ghani, a senior PPP leader and former provincial minister, expresses confidence, asserting a stronger position in Karachi this time and anticipating victories in around 13 national and 28 provincial assembly seats. He emphasizes that the joint efforts of other parties against PPP signify its growing influence, challenging the perception of weakness.

Ghani highlights PPP’s acceptance in cantonment boards, local body elections, and by-elections, suggesting a positive reception from the citizens of Karachi. Analyst Mazhar Abbas notes PPP’s gains in 2018, winning three National Assembly seats with two additional victories in by-elections. He contends that even securing 7 to 8 seats in the upcoming elections would mark a significant political success for PPP.

However, the challenge lies in winning the support of the Urdu-speaking population in Karachi, historically associated with other political identities. Professor Dr. Riaz Shaikh of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University points out the long-standing perception that PPP represents Vadera culture, making it challenging to sway voters who view the rulers of Sindh as Vadera.

In contrast, Professor Farhan Siddiqui believes PPP can garner votes from the Urdu-speaking population and positions the party as a stakeholder in the forthcoming elections. PPP’s internal estimate anticipates winning eight to nine seats in the National Assembly, aiming to extend its influence into urban areas.

As PPP strives to break the historical barrier in Karachi, the electoral landscape remains uncertain, with the party facing both skepticism and hope for a significant political shift in the city.”

Jamaat-e-Islami’s Evolving Presence in Karachi: From Local Triumphs to National Ambitions

“In the 2018 Karachi elections, Jamaat-e-Islami secured only one provincial seat in Lyari. However, recent local elections witnessed Jamaat-e-Islami emerging as the second-largest party in the city, prompting speculation about its potential to clinch National and Provincial Assembly seats.

Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, the Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami in Karachi, asserts the party’s position as the largest in municipal elections and believes that electoral trends in the city do not shift abruptly. Expressing confidence, he anticipates that Jamaat-e-Islami will not only maintain its dominance but also secure the most votes in the upcoming general elections.

Addressing MQM’s claim that their boycott of municipal elections contributed to Jamaat-e-Islami’s success, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman questions MQM’s motives, emphasizing that the political landscape remains unchanged over a short span. He challenges MQM’s previous boycott reasoning, suggesting it was a face-saving tactic when they lacked the prospect of winning any seats.

The religious vote bank is poised to play a crucial role in determining victory and defeat in Karachi’s political arena. Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman dismisses MQM’s allegations and emphasizes that Jamaat-e-Islami’s growing influence is a result of genuine public support, positioning the party as a contender with the potential to sway the city’s electoral dynamics.”

Religious Dynamics in Karachi Elections: Shaping Political Landscape Beyond Sectarian Lines

“Karachi, a diverse metropolis, witnesses the interplay of religious and political elements in its electoral landscape. While Jabbar Nasir notes historical voting patterns based on religion until 1985, he acknowledges that, despite a shift away from widespread religious voting, certain constituencies continue to reflect religious preferences.

In the 2018 general elections, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) emerged as the third-largest party in Karachi, representing the Barelvi school of thought. TLP, having fielded candidates across all National and Provincial Assembly constituencies in the upcoming 2024 elections, has gained prominence after the incident involving Mumtaz Qadri. Journalist Faizullah Khan observes that TLP’s rise coincided with increased disillusionment within the Sunni movement, fueled by internal disputes following the demise of Allama Shah Ahmad Noorani.

The ban on Sipah Sahaba Pakistan led to the formation of Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat, now contesting elections under the Pakistan Rah Haq Party banner. A notable contest unfolds in NA 230, where Allama Aurangzeb Farooqui faces PPP’s Agha Rafiullah. Analyst Faizullah Khan mentions discussions between MQM and Allama Aurangzeb, emphasizing the potential impact of the banned group’s votes on electoral outcomes.

The Pakistan Central Muslim League, formed by ex-members of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa, navigates politics above religious lines in Karachi. Despite having a Salafi or Ahl-e-Hadith background, the organization supports Allama Aurangzeb Farooqi in NA-230 and MQM in NA-242, showcasing diverse alliances.

Shia vote bank, influential in specific constituencies, sees representation through Majlis Wahdat al-Muslimeen’s candidates for two provincial seats. Analyst Zia-ul-Rahman highlights the significance of Karachi’s 25 Shia communities, contributing to a decisive Shia vote.

Journalist Faizullah Khan underscores that while religious and sectarian votes alone may not wield significant influence, uniting with a political party can amplify their impact. As Karachi navigates a complex web of religious and political affiliations, the convergence of these elements shapes the city’s dynamic electoral landscape.”