KARACHI - NA-242 is the smallest National Assembly constituency of Karachi with extreme contrasts, representing developed housing societies and over 100 katchi abadis whose residents are even deprived of civic facilities and basic necessities of life.

Farid Ahmed who runs his estate business in the constituency said the area was developed in 10 to 15 years. Previously, it comprised only slum areas, including one of the oldest Katchi Abadis of the city, Sacchal Goth.

“Before the last decade, the area was not considered safe for travel at night and mostly consisted of goths and katchi abadis, but shifting of urban population to this area trigged a real estate boom here and prices of plots in the housing societies surged from lakhs of rupees to millions of rupees,” he said. This also improved the standard of living of the local population as well as the facilities available to them, he said.

According to the data available with the Election Commission of Pakistan, the constituency which is a part of old National Assembly constituency of NA-252 has a population of 734,410 with 183,373 registered votes – 110,111 males and 73,262 females – making it the smallest constituency of the city. Three union councils of District East, 29, 30 and 31, fall under the constituency.

This constituency covers two provincial assembly constituencies, PS-99 and PS-100. Total number of registered votes in PS-99 is 57,000 and in PS-100 125,829, which means both are smallest constituencies like NA-242.

Major competitors on the seat are Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Pak Sarzameen Party and an independent candidate-Hamaad Khan Sherwani who is being backed by Grand Democratic Alliance leader and former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza and former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi.

Pakistan People’s Party has fielded its District East President Iqbal Sandh on the National Assembly seat as well as Shahab Burfat from PS-99 and Taj Muhammad Wasan from PS-100.  Talking to The Nation, Iqbal Sandh expressed his confidence to win the seat, adding PPP had won two of the three union councils in the 2015 local bodies’ polls.

“The third union council was won by MQM-P, but PPP will benefit from its internal rift,” he said, adding different communities living in the area had assured him of their support, so he would win the seat easily.

On the other hand, MMA’s National Assembly candidate Asad Ullah Bhutto said those who had been in power during the past years failed to deliver, so the people would not vote for them.

Highlighting the civic issues of the constituency, Asad Ullah Bhutto said these slum areas still lack basic facilities. There is an acute shortage of water in the constituency and the people are forced to buy water from tankers, but the poor families who cannot purchase water are forced to use the underground salty water, he averred.

The drainage situation is even worse as the provincial and local authorities responsible for lifting garbage did not perform their duties.

He said power loadshedding ranges from 12 hours to 16 hours in this scorching season. “The federal and provincial governments led either by PML-N or PPP are responsible for these miseries of the masses,” he said.

PTI candidate in PS-99 Haleem Adil Sheikh had been contesting from this constituency in the past from the platforms of PML-N and PML-Q. He is considered among top contenders for this provincial seat. PTI candidate for NA-242 is Saifur Rehman.

Pak Sarzameen Party has fielded ex-MNA and MQM-Pakistan leader, Muzammil Qureshi, from this National Assembly constituency.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan has fielded Kishwar Zehra for this National Assembly constituency along with Musaddiq Shah for PS-99 and Sana Ali from PS-100.

Zehra is considered a key policymaker in the party and is considered close to MQM founder Altaf Hussain. She had played a key role in awarding tickets in the 2013 elections.

MQM-Pakistan emerged victorious on this NA seat when it was under NA-253. The party not only enjoyed support from Urdu-speaking community but also from Shia, Ismaili and Aga Khani communities. The only threat the PPP candidate has is from Hammad Sherwani who is an independent candidate. He enjoys complete support from Zulfiqar Mirza and Faisal Raza Abidi, both former PPP stalwarts.

“I am confident to win from this constituency as I have served the masses. PPP ignored me and gave ticket to a rich person,” he lamented.

The National Assembly constituency comprises subdivision Gulzar-e-Hijri which begins from Safoora Chowrangi and covers some areas of Abul Hassan Ispahani Road, areas on both sides of Sohrab Goth and parts of Gadap Town up to Ahsanabad near Gulshan-e-Maimar.

It includes parts of Gadap Town, Godhra Society, Ayub Goth, New Sabzi Mandi, Gabol Goth, Abbas Town, areas of Abul Hassan Ispahani Road, Gulshan-e-Kaneez Fatima, PCSIR Society, Sacchal, Makhdoom Bilawal Village, Ahsanabad and others.

The area has different communities like Sindhis, Balochis and Seraikis most of whom live in Katchi abadis and goths. Pashtun community also lives in Quetta Town and other slum areas. The NA-242 has around 35 percent of Urdu-speaking community, including Memon community in Godhra, mostly residing in housing societies. Shia vote has also significance in the area as Abbas Town, Rizvia and some other societies have a population of Ismaili and Aga Khani community.

The Ismaili community also came under attack, commonly known as Safoora carnage, when terrorists belonging to Daesh attacked their bus and killed over 50 people.  The constituency has two major government offices – Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) and SUPARCO Headquarters. Both of them are under the federal government and deal with different sorts of research activities.

Three big hospitals are also located in the constituency Kiran Hospital, a specialized hospital in treating cancer patients, and a Memon community hospital, Memon Medical Institute.

With just 25 days left for the big day that is the elections 2018 scheduled for 25 July 2018, the constituency has yet to witness any election fervour.

Political parties have started holding meetings with notables of the area. An expensive campaign is, however, being run by PTI’s Haleem Adil Sheikh. None of the other parties has so far held public gatherings or displayed banners and party flags in the area.