Mansoor Khan and Faraz Israr

KARACHI - The MQM swept the by-polls in Karachi, retaining National Assembly seat NA-246 and beating its main contenders with a huge margin. The polls, followed by weeks of extreme frenzy, however showed a shift in the political demography of the constituency as the PTI replaced the JI as the second-most strong power in the area.

According to unofficial and unconfirmed results from the total 213 polling stations, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) candidate Kanwar Naveed Jamil led the polls with 93,125 votes. Imran Ismail of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was second with 22,885 votes while Jamat-e-Islami’s Rashid Naseem was third by securing over 8,000 votes.

The overall polling process remained peaceful throughout the day. However, minor untoward incidents occurred with Rangers arresting five miscreants from different polling stations on charges of disrupting the environment. For the first time in the country’s electoral history, closed circuit cameras were installed at the polling points, besides deployment of law enforcement personnel in and outside the polling stations.

The Election Commission of Pakistan was yet to announce the results but PTI candidate Imran Ismail said his party, which contested the election with a promise of change and freeing the people of the area of MQM’s ‘fear’, will accept the results.

In the vote count, the MQM gained visible win at majority of the polling booths while at few stations PTI and JI secured higher number of votes. As the victorious position of MQM became clear, scores of party workers and sympathisers rushed toward the MQM headquarter Nine-Zero to celebrate. They reached Jinnah Ground in rallies, chanting slogans in favour of party chief Altaf Hussain. The traditional songs of MQM were also heard across the constituency while many enthusiastic activists were seen dancing on the roads leading to Jinnah Ground.

Earlier during the polling, MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi reached at PTI camp and took PTI candidate Imran Ismail to MQM election camp in the same locality where both the leaders had tea together. As the situation seemed to be clearly in favour of MQM candidate, Imran Ismail greeted Rizvi and his party colleagues and expressed his wish to have lunch with MQM leaders, if MQM succeeded.

During that time a number of MQM supporters reached at PTI central election camp in Karimabad where workers of both parties chanted slogans against each other. As the time passed, the number of MQM supporters grew, making the PTI workers virtually stuck inside their camp and the nearby buildings.

Charged MQM activists got violent and set the PTI party flags on fire while law enforcement agencies rushed to the spot, baton-charged the miscreants and arrested several of them. Skirmishes between MQM workers and law enforcers left several people wounded, including a cop. Despite the baton charge, teargas shelling and use of water cannons, the law enforcers were unable to control the situation.

MQM leadership including Dr Khalid Mqbool Siddique, Farooq Sattar, Faisal Sabzwari and others reached the spot and tried to calm the charged activists. Dr Khalid addressed the crowd and convinced the workers to move towards the Jinnah Ground to celebrate the victory.

PTI leader Shireen Mazari tweeted in the evening: Shameful behaviour by MQM attacking PTI office, ripping our flexes and flag! Such fascist behaviour after a relatively peaceful election. In another tweet later at night, she said: MQM is Pakistan’s equivalent of Nazi party.

MQM chief Altaf Hussain while talking to TV channels congratulated the supporters on the party’s victory. Lauding the efforts of the MQM workers, he said they were ‘much brave’ as compared to those of the other parties and they had brought the people out of the homes for voting resulting in a good turnout.  

“I am thankful to the supporters and MQM chief Altaf Hussain for the victory in NA-246 election,” said MQM candidate Kanwar Naveed Jamil while talking to The Nation. He said unofficial results have shown a prominent margin while the number of votes cast might have increased if the ECP had approved the extension of polling time, he added.

 The JI Karachi chief rejected the MQM mandate and alleged that the ECP patronised the MQM and helped it in rigging. It is enough evidence that polling staff affiliated with the MQM were arrested over the rigging during polling, he said, adding that party repeatedly registered complains to the ECP but no visible steps were taken to address the issue.