After weeks of speculation, the former Nazim of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal finally announced on Wednesday the name of his new party — the Pak Sarzameen Party. He made the announcement at an event in Cllifton, flanked by the seven Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) dissidents who have joined his ranks in the past few weeks. Although it still lacks a manifesto, and there is controversy over the party flag, slowly and incrementally the party seems to be getting the elements needed to be a legitimate force in the elections – up till now it was just an anti-Altaf group.

The party’s discourse is still dominated by reactionary anti-MQM rhetoric, but the event saw an inkling of a positive ideology being presented by the Mustafa Kamal. After the customary pledge to fight for Kashmir – a promise no Pakistani party can do without – he moved on to other almost customary pledges; not seeking power for sake of power, and the elimination of corruption. What was novel in this otherwise tried and tested political speech was the focus on ethnic divide and devolution of government. Where the MQM built itself on the support from the Urdu speaking community and often played on its fears to milk votes, a party that seeks to eschew ethnic politics is sorely needed in Karachi. Similarly, the stance on local government bodies must be appreciated. Where almost all major political parties are hesitant to hand over true power to the local bodies as per law, a party that supports complete devolution is necessary to put pressure on the incumbents.

That being said, electoral promises in this part of the world are notoriously fickle, and politicians say whatever they think the masses need to near to gain votes. Not so long ago Nawaz Sharif was pandering to a conservative voter base and today his outlook is completely changed. Furthermore the official manifesto is being written by “most competent” people according to the former Nazim. Its contents will allow us to make a more informed decision, till then we can only speculate. It does seem however that Pak Sarzameen Party has hit the right notes. The sprawling Karachi needs empowered local government bodies more than any other city, and its multi-cultural populace is tired of ethnic polarisation.