Karachi is expected to see some very interesting election battles in upcoming general elections of Pakistan scheduled on February 08 just a few days ahead on coming Thursday.
The port city’s National Assembly constituency of Lyari (NA-239), always remained a point of interest for election observers for its specific voting trend. The area with mostly a blue collared population was considered the safe bastion, the PPP could rely on to win a seat in the city from 1970 before the 2018 election.
The election result of the constituency in the previous election stunned political observers when a relatively unknown former political worker of the PPP, Shakoor Shad, won the seat on the PTI ticket.
Lyari is one of the oldest settlements of the city and is embedded in popular imagination as a once hotbed of gang violence and insecurity, but also as a prestige seat where the Bhutto family had never faced defeat.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari s defeat from the constituency in the previous election was one of the biggest jolts the party had suffered in the metropolis.
لیاری نے الیکشن سے پہلے اپنا فیصلہ سنا دیا @BBhuttoZardari @AseefaBZ @Nabilgabol pic.twitter.com/8GJwIPh2py
— PPP_Lyari (@PPPLyari_) January 25, 2024
Stretching over 1,800 acres of Karachi s South district, the densely populated locality of Lyari could witness interesting duels among various candidates of different hues including the PPP, which has awarded ticket to Nabil Gabol, a political veteran and former MNA, who has been elected twice from the area in 2002 and 2008 elections as well as won provincial constituencies from the same locality scores of times earlier.
PPP #NA239 nominated candidate @Nabilgabol and #PS107 nominated candidate @yousufbalochppp participated in Corner meeting at UC 8 shah baig lane.@BBhuttoZardari @AAliZardari @AseefaBZ @FaryalTalpurPk pic.twitter.com/SIsEUGPaQn
— Azhar Abdul Malik (@AzharBaloc70860) January 26, 2024
Despite previous election debacle the constituency is still considered to be the PPP s strongest fort in Karachi.
Martyred PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto, won from here in 1988 and former president Asif Ali Zardari, won the seat in the 1990 s general elections.
However, perceptions have changed with passing times with an increasing number of young voters and social media users likely to have an impact over the election results.
There is a strong sentiment and complaint that the PPP has neglected the locality despite getting votes from the area. “They win from here and work in other parts of the city,” is a complaint common in the locaity.
However, Lyari has elected PPP candidates overwhelmingly in recent municipal elections but local problems and civic issues such as infrastructure, roads, drainage etc have been mostly unaddressed.
A party worker pointed out that “the PPP carried out development works in Lyari. Benazir Bhutto University, Lyari General Hospital, Lyari Medical College, and Trauma Centre are some examples of the PPP s hard work,” he said.
In NA-239, Tehreek Labaik Pakistan (TLP) has fielded Sharjeel Gopalani, Jamaat-e-Islami Fazlur Rehman Niazi, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl Noorul Haq Qadri, who is also being backed by the PML-N and MQM-P.
Former MNA Abdul Shakoor Shad, competing as an independent in this election.
پی ٹی آئی کے نامزد امیدوار برائے حلقہ پی ایس 106 سجاد علی سومرو اور این اے 239 کے یاسر بلوچ کے ساتھ جنرل الیکشن کی کمپین کے سلسلے میں کارنر میٹنگز۔
جس میں عوام نے بھرپور شرکت کی۔ 8 فروری کو ڈھول کو منتخب کر کے مخالفین کا بینڈ بجانے کا عزم ۔#NA239 #PS106 #VoteForDhol… pic.twitter.com/9bwIE10MNz
— PTI Karachi (@PTIKarachi_) January 30, 2024
Ex-MNA from Lyari, in a telephonic chat on the major issues of his constituency NA-239, said that corruption has played havoc with the country as much as Lyari, a major governance issue faced by Pakistan.
“Drugs have hit the young generation in the area,” talking on issues the locality faces, Shad said. “Narcotics have turned the youth into thieves and beggars,” he lamented. “They steal from electric wires to main hole caps”.
“A new class of petty merchants has emerged on every nook and corner of the area dealing in stolen goods, purchasing them from petty thieves on paltry price,” former MNA said.
On a question about corrupt practices in governance, Shakoor Shad said, he was the only member of the 342 members of the National Assembly who had asked the NAB to inquire into development funds allocated to him as MNA.
He alleged that 19 percent of a project deducted at source in PWD as kickback. “Corruption is a major cause of substandard work in development projects,” he said.
He said he will work for a clean governance after being elected as public representative.
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari led an election rally of the People’s Party from Tower to Lyari, for the PPP candidates, where the party supporters accorded warm welcome to the PPP leader.
Addressing the rally in the party’s traditional stronghold, Aseefa Bhutto promised to be the voice of Lyari. “I and Bilawal are your voice and we won’t be kept silent,” the PPP leader said. “We promise to protect your rights. You should also promise to stamp on ‘Arrow’ on February 08, to make Bilawal Bhutto prime minister,” she urged.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has fielded Fazl ur Rehman Niazi as the party candidate for NA-239, who remained union council chairman in the area twice and knows local problems very well.
On a question about the solution of chronic local problems such as the sanitation issue in Lyari, the JI candidate said that he will press concerned officials of the locality to ensure improvement in the situation.
Over rampant street crimes and use of drugs and drug dens in the area, he said these issues are intertwined. Drug addicts commit crimes to meet expenses of their addiction. “I will work for effective policing in the area to curb these social evils that have caused misery to several families hit by these evils.
Replying to a question about corruption in development work and the kickback culture that results in substandard work, Fazl ur Rehman Niazi said, “We will try to create a mechanism to monitor development projects of the area to ensure proper use of funds and better standard of development work.
Replying to a question about rampant load shedding of gas and electricity in the constituency, he said the work to replace dilapidated old gas pipelines is expected to begin in March this year. It will most likely address the gas woes of the locality.
About power load shedding he said that the power utility claims the issue of non-payment of bills as the reason for the load shedding. He said Jamaat-e-Islami persistently protested against the power woes of the city to provide relief to people. “We will press for cancellation of a 20 years extension in the KE licence, recently provided to the company by authorities,” JI candidate said. “We will also press the utility to provide relief to the area by adjusting outstanding bills by some mode of subsidy,” he said.
President of the All-City Tajir Itehhad (ACTI) Mohammad Sharjeel Gopalani, has been in the election field for NA-239 as a candidate of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) from Lyari.
Sharjeel will face PPP s Nabil Gabol and candidates from the Jamaat-i-Islami, PTI, as well as independents in this politically charged constituency.
“It is encouraging that small and medium-sized traders are contesting elections to try and solve their and their fellow citizens’ problems by themselves,” he said in a report, lamenting the fate of Lyari, which has not changed a little bit in years of the PPP rule.
He said that the party he is supporting aims to eliminate the taxation system and introduce interest-free transactions in the country, along with reforms to the prevalent Zakat and Ushr system.
Mr Gopalani claims that if elected, he will spearhead efforts to make Lyari a “drug-free area” by establishing a police station with the help of the Anti-Narcotics Force, imparting free education to children and encouraging people to use solar power.
It is to be mentioned here that the candidates of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Awami National Party (ANP) are competing against each other in the general elections 2024 in various national and provincial constituencies of Karachi.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) a coalition of parties that ousted the PTI government could not sustain and they have pitted candidates against each other.
The PML-N tried to woo the MQM-P for an electoral alliance against Pakistan Peoples Party, the ruling party in Sindh, but the effort failed to bear fruit. PML-N, has pitted candidates at 18 out of 22 National Assembly constituencies in Karachi division, facing MQM-P on 17. On the rest of the four seats, the PML-N has supported Shah Owais Noorani of Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP-Noorani) on one seat and Noorul Haq of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl candidates on Lyari’s NA-239.
Meanwhile, MQM-P has fielded its candidates in all constituencies except for three seats in the National Assembly. One such constituency is the Lyari seat NA-239 where neither the PML-N nor the MQM-P has nominated a candidate and both are supporting Noorul Haq of JUI.