KARACHI - Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s imprisoned candidate Waseem Akhtar yesterday bagged Karachi’s mayorship while Arshad Vohra was elected deputy mayor, according to unofficial results.

Waseem Akhtar, who is currently in jail on sedition and terrorism charges, won the mayoral election by a landslide with 214 of the total 308 votes cast by the city’s municipal authorities.

Waseem was arrested in July and accused of ordering a crackdown on city riots in 2007, when he was serving as Sindh home minister, that resulted in a bloody massacre. Later he was also booked on sedition and terrorism charges.

“I have been languishing in jail for the past month on false charges, but the people have voted for me,” Waseem told journalists outside the historic Karachi Metropolitan Corporation building before being escorted by police to a prison van.

He vowed to seek his freedom in court - but said if he is denied, he will “solve the public’s problems from jail”.

“He will open an office in jail and via video link he will conduct council sessions,” Mahfooz Yar Khan, Waseem Akhtar’s lawyer, told reporters. “He can run Karachi via video link for five years.”

The polling to elect mayor and deputy mayor of Karachi along with the chairmen and vice chairmen of local councils started at 9am and continued till 5pm without any interval.

The security agencies took strict measures to ensure the safety of voters in the polling areas.

Mayoral candidate of MQM Waseem Akhtar was shifted to the polling station concerned under tight security to cast his vote. His rivals were PPP’s Karamullah Waqas, independent candidate Muhammad Rafeeq Khan and Irshad Hussain while MQM’s Irshad Wohra, PML-N’s Amanullah Afridi and independent candidate Naveed Javed were contesting for the slot of deputy mayor.

With simple majority of 214 votes of total 308, MQM comfortably secured the slot of mayor and deputy mayor as per unofficial results.

Addressing media men along with Arshad Vohra, newly elected Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar thanked Karachi people who reposed trust in him and said, “I am not the mayor of MQM but that of entire Karachi and want to move forward leaving differences behind by taking all the parties along.”

He said whatever happened in the past needs to be forgotten, adding the provincial government and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also deserve to be congratulated.

He asserted he wanted to work in harmony with all stakeholders in the city as well as the law-enforcement agencies so that the city could become prosperous and peace be ensured. He termed the elections historic and stated Pakistan would progress if Karachi progressed.

Criticising the political rivals, the mayor-elect said he was being treated as a political prisoner and that the cases registered against him were nothing but pack of lies. He said he did not want to repeat conflicts related to the past.

To a question about how he would run the mayor’s affairs being imprisoned, Waseem said he would request the Sindh CM to give him an office in the prison .

Meanwhile, elections for four district chairmen, five vice district chairmen and chairman and vice chairman of the district council were also held in the metropolis. Of the six district councils, Pakistan People’s Party was able to secure chairmen and vice chairmen from district Malir and South while MQM secured the slots of chairmen and vice chairmen from districts Korangi, Central and East.

The results of district West where MQM and PTI supported each other were halted after the opposition group, Karachi Ittehad, raised objection to the victory of MQM leader Izhar Ahmed as chairman and PTI]s Azizullah Afridi as district vice chairman. In district Malir, PPP candidate for chairman, Jan Muhammad Baloch, was elected unopposed and Khalid Marwat was elected vice chairman, securing 13 of 19 votes.

In the district council elections, PPP candidates Salman Murad and Rafiq Jatt were elected chairman and vice chairman, securing 40 of 55 cast votes.

The election of an imprisoned politician as mayor is symbolic of the ongoing power struggle for control of Karachi .

How Waseem Akhtar will manage to run the city is far from clear, with the courts not expected to release him before he likely takes oath on Aug 30.

MQM officials have said they will ask authorities to provide him with a well-furnished office. Police will escort him to any meetings he is allowed to attend on the outside.