Judging from the results that have come in so far, the MQM appears set to win the highly publicised by-election in NA-246 Karachi by a clear margin, leaving both the JI and the PTI fighting for the second position. Barring a few minor incidents here and there, the election was conducted rather peacefully amidst CCTV cameras and constant supervision by the Rangers. Perhaps the Election Commission should have extended the deadline to facilitate aspiring voters in view of the slow pace of voting at several polling stations.

Are there any lessons to be learnt from the by-election? Indeed. Firstly, everyone must acknowledge that the MQM has a genuine vote bank. Despite intense scrutiny and supervision, the MQM is still leading. The party is here to stay. Secondly, the PTI and media should realise that theatrics on television screens cannot do away with ground realities. The PTI and the JI were doing better on the media, but on the streets of Azizabad, the MQM prevailed as expected. Thirdly, cornering a political party, or giving that impression, can also work in its favour. When workers and supporters feel that everyone from the military establishment to the media is ganging up against them, they are more likely to mobilise and retaliate as they did through the ballot. PTI’s onslaught through the media and the operations by the Rangers lent credibility to the MQM’s narrative of victimisation.

It was interesting to note that as the day progressed, the PTI lowered its expectations. Before, it was about defeating MQM. When that didn’t appear likely, the PTI decided to pat itself on the back for merely participating in the election. It was no longer about PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s many claims or numbers, but about everything else. The party should understand that its popularity on Twitter is not reflective of the situation on ground. So far, the PTI seems to be accepting the result whereas the JI is insistent that the election wasn’t free or fair. It is about time that the party lets reality sink in: it doesn’t enjoy the sort of support that it once did in the megacity. There always exists an option between being a loser and a sore loser. However, the violence in Karimabad allegedly perpetrated by MQM supporters was unfortunate. Perhaps the most important lesson for the MQM in this by-election, is this: it can survive, even flourish, without resorting to violence or coercion.