Polling continued in the by-election in the NA-245 constituency of Karachi on Sunday, as voters are set to pick a representative for the seat that was vacated by the late Aamir Liaquat Hussain of the PTI.
The process, which began at 8am this morning and will continue till 5pm, saw low turnout when even more than six hours since polling began, according to DawnNewsTV. Footage broadcast on television showed election officials sitting in a relatively barren polling station.
However, as the day progressed, some citizens could be seen at election camp offices getting information.
The by-election on the seat, which fell vacant after Aamir Liaquat’s sudden death in June, was originally scheduled to be held on July 27, but the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had to postpone it amid torrential rains.
Liaquat was elected on a PTI ticket in the 2018 general elections, defeating Farooq Sattar of the MQM-P by securing 56,673 votes against his 35,429 votes.
As polling was underway, PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry urged the people of the metropolitan city to vote in the party’s favour. “Today, Karachi will stand with the truth, with democracy and true freedom,” he said.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, meanwhile, said that “violence and interference” would not be tolerated. In a statement, he called on citizens to cast their votes at polling stations without fear.
Raja said that swift action will be taken against those violating the law, adding that those spreading unrest would be arrested on the spot.
The ECP also tweeted a video of its by-election control room, in which officials could be seen seated as televisions ran in the background.
In the race
Although there are 17 candidates contesting the NA-245 seat, the main fight is expected among Moeed Anwar of the MQM-P, Mahmood Baqi Moulvi of PTI, Muhammad Ahmed Raza of TLP and Dr Farooq Sattar, who will this time contest as an independent candidate with the ‘lock’ as his electoral symbol.
The PSP has fielded its senior member Syed Hafeezuddin for the by-poll. PPP’s Mohammad Danish Khan and JUI’s Aminullah have already withdrawn their candidatures.
The by-election turns out to be significant in that it is being held just a week before Karachi’s local government elections. The electoral history and voting trends in the neighbourhood suggest that other major political parties like the PSP, which has foothold through their organisational structures in the multi-ethnic constituency, doesn’t seem to have that promising chances in the today’s by-election.
The situation has left more space for the leading contestants after the ruling party in Sindh, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and some other parties in the ruling coalition in the Centre have decided to support the MQM-P candidate.
The MQM-Pakistan had persistently been alleging that its mandate in Karachi had been stolen in the 2018 elections, and was faced with the challenge of proving it at a time when PTI’s popularity appears to be increasing.
Other factors that make things more daunting for the MQM include the TLP and the PSP candidates as well as Dr Sattar who experts believe would divide the anti-PTI votes.
This time, the PTI has given a ticket to Mehmood Moulvi. His opponents include Moeed Anwar of the MQM-P, TLP’s Ahmed Raza and Dr Sattar who was the runner-up in 2018 general elections.
Like the NA-240 by-election, the Jamaat-i-Islami is not contesting the polls but it is taking out a rally today in connection with its ‘Karachi rights movement’.
Areas in constituency
The constituency comprises Jamshed Quarters and Ferozabad sub-divisions that include PECHS, Lines Area, Pakistan Quarters, Soldier Bazaar, New Town, Patel Para, Garden West, Martin Quarters, Teen Hatti, PIB Colony, etc.
People in this area mostly belong to middle-class groups doing small businesses or employed with government departments and private sector and also daily-wage earners.
Various ethnicities live in this area, including Urdu-speaking, Gujarati-speaking, Balochi, Punjabis, Pakhtuns, Sindhis, etc.
There are over 515,000 registered voters in the constituency, indicating an increase of 71,463 voters since the July 2018 general elections.
Presiding officer’s authority
For today’s by-election, the Election Commission has set up 263 polling stations with 1,052 polling booths for voters’ convenience. The Election Commission, on the other hand, claims to have completed all arrangements for Sunday’s by-poll where it has also planned to introduce the use of new technology on an experimental basis.
“The security personnel of [Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) and Pakistan Army troops] are deployed (standby / QRF mode only) from August 20 to August 22, in the above-said constituency for the peaceful and smooth conduct of the poll, while performing the security duties they are supposed to first report to the presiding officer of any irregularity or malpractice they observe outside the polling station and act according to the instructions issued by the officer in that regard,” stated a recent ECP notification for the NA-245 by-poll.
More to follow.