by Zia Ur Rehman

April 9, 2015


The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership is busy trying to persuade the Jamaat-e-Islami to withdraw its candidate from the race for NA-246, but the latter seems all geared up for the by-elections.

Analysts believe that the JI has been trying to remove the perception that its traditional bases in Karachi have been encroached upon by the PTI.

Both parties are coalition partners in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and have also decided to participate jointly in the upcoming local bodies polls there.

However, they have fielded separate candidates for the NA-246 by-polls, a constituency in Karachi seen as the bastion of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The by-elections for the national assembly seat are scheduled to be held on April 23.

It fell vacant after the resignation of Nabil Gabol, who had won the seat on the MQM’s ticket. Now, the MQM has chosen former Hyderabad mayor, Kanwar Naveed Jamil, to run for the seat.

The JI has fielded Rashid Nasim, the party’s central deputy chief, who had also contested for this seat in the 2002 and 2013 general elect ions.

Zahid Askari, the JI Karachi information secretary, said the party had a solid support base and organisational setup in the constituency and had secured significant votes in the past elections.

The PTI has fielded Imran Ismail, a central leader of the party. PTI leaders said the party’s central leadership, including Imran Khan, is persuading the JI to withdraw Nasim in favour of Ismail to prevent the anti-MQM vote bank from splitting in the constituency.

“Our candidate Amir Sharjeel had secured significant votes in 2013 polls. It shows that we can fight the MQM in a better way and, therefore, the JI should support us in this contest,” a PTI leader in Karachi told The News.

However, Askari said the votes polled in the constituency in the past elections clearly showed the JI’s popularity in the area.

In the 2002 general polls, Nasim had secured 32,879 votes running for NA-246 from the platform of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) against MQM candidate Haji Azizullah Brohi, who won the seat by grabbing 53,134 votes.

In 2008, the JI, along with other component political parties of the All-Parties Democratic Alliance, a coalition that included the PTI and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, had boycotted the general elections.

In those elections, Pakistan People’s Party’s Sohail Ansari had secured only 6,741 votes against MQM candidate Sufyan Yousaf, who succeeded by bagging 186,033 votes.

In the 2013 general elections, Gabol had secured 137,874 votes. Though PTI’s Amir Sharjeel was the runner-up with 31,875 votes, Nasim managed to secure 10,321 votes despite the party’s midday boycott of the polls.

The JI had also secured the seats of town and union council nazims in the constituency in the 2001 local bodies elections when the MQM boycotted the polls.

PTI setback for JI

Analysts believe that the PTI, in many ways, has disturbed the political equation in the city. Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a Karachi-based political analyst, is of the view that the PTI as an emerging force in the city and is creating problems for other parties, especially the MQM and the JI.

“After the MQM, it is the JI that has suffered because of the PTI’s emergence in Karachi,” Khan told The News.

“Now the JI is seriously working for its survival in the city by putting in so many efforts for the NA-246 by-elections.”

A JI leader in Karachi, requesting anonymity, said the party’s city leadership, from the beginning, was reluctant to have a working relationship with the PTI.

In the 2013 elections, JI candidate and West District head Abdul Razzaq, who had not obeyed the party leadership’s decision to boycott the polls, was defeated by PTI’s Syed Hafizuddin in the contest for the PS-93 Site Town.

He had filed a petition in the high court accusing Hafizuddin of rigging the polls. In August last year, the high court had unseated Hafizuddin, who is the PTI’s provincial secretary general, and now the appeal case is with the apex court.

“The PS-93 elections have also created a gap between the leaderships of the two parties in the city,” the JI leader maintained.

Insiders in both parties said the JI had placed a condition for withdrawing its candidate in favour of the PTI for the NA-246 polls – that Hafizuddin should withdraw his appeal case from the Supreme Court.

Criticism against JI

Many political observers having sympathies with the JI have expressed their concerns over its working relationship with the PTI. They say that the JI’s policy of forging alliances with other parties, especially the PTI, has damaged its popularity in the country, particularly in Karachi.

In essays discussing the defeat of the JI in the 2013 general polls, they advised the party leadership to avoid forming electoral alliances and keep its distance from the PTI.

“In Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the JI has become the PTI’s B-team. It seems that tomorrow the JI will merge with the PTI as the Tehreek-e-Ahrar had merged with Muslim League after consecutive electoral defeats in 1935 and 1946,” commented Dr Javed Akbar Ansari, a Karachi-based intellectual and economist in his essay.

Similarly, Maulana Khalilur Rehman Chishti, another scholar, wrote that many JI members, especially those associated with Shahab-e-Milli and Pasban, were now part of the PTI.

He also criticised the JI leadership for unnecessarily criticising the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl that brought an end to the MMA.

The JI, with support of other component parties of the MMA, especially the JUI-F, had not only won several National and Sindh assembly seats from Karachi, but also emerged as a key parliamentary party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata in the 2002 elections. But in the 2013 polls, it had only secured seats from Dir region.