The political ups and downs of Karachi’s hills

Posted: December 3, 2015 in The News
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Karachi

Once infamous for ethno-political violence and being a Taliban stronghold, the neighbourhoods in the shadow of Kati Pahari are now buzzing with activities for the upcoming local government elections.

Kati Pahari is a hill that was cut to connect the areas of North Nazimabad and Orangi Town during Mustafa Kamal’s tenure as the mayor of Karachi.

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Under the new delimitation of constituencies, the neighbourhoods along the hills have been divided into two union committees of the West district. The road passing through Kati Pahari divides the areas in the Peerabad and Islamia Colony union committees of the Orangi sub-division.

Hundreds of people were killed in these areas in ethno-political violence between 2007 and 2010.

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However, in early 2011, the ethno-political violence ended but the areas then fell under the influence of Taliban militants until January this year when the law enforcement agencies, especially Rangers, launched a crackdown on them in the city.

Peerabad UC 

The Peerabad union committee or UC-10 comprises Peerabad, Muslimabad and Muhammad Pur, all three Pashtun-populated areas.

When constituencies were carved out during former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s regime, these neighbourhoods were included in UC-9 of the then SITE Town, along with Qasba Colony, an area where Urdu-speakers are in majority.

However, in the fresh delimitation, Qasba Colony was turned into a separate union committee that includes the localities of Bukhari Colony and D-1 Area.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement boycotted the local government elections in 2001, and Pakistan People’s Party leader Siddique Akbar, currently the party’s West district general secretary, easily won the poll in then UC.

However, in the 2005 local government polls, the MQM’s Mazhar Amir won the election, fetching votes from the Urdu-speaking majority in Qasba Colony.

However, as Qasba Colony does not fall in the UC-10 this time, the political dynamics are very different in the newly formed constituency that comprises hilly Pashtun localities.

The PPP, the Awami National Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and independent candidates are in the run for the UC’s slots. The MQM has not fielded its candidates there.

After forming an electoral alliance with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, the PPP has fielded Haroon Rasheed, the party’s president in PS-96, for the chairperson’s seat, along with the JUI-F’s Maulana Fazal Qadeem for his deputy’s slot.

A disgruntled leader of the PPP, Nadir Mujibur Rehman, son of slain party leader Mujibur Rehman, is contesting polls too as an independent candidate after the ticket was allotted to Rasheed.

The ANP, instead of contesting the polls with its electoral symbol, a lantern, has fielded Nabi Sarwar Afridi and Noor Muhammad Agha for the chairperson and vice chairperson’ slots respectively, as independent candidates.

The PML-N has formed an alliance with the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP), the political front for the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

The PML-N’s Sajid Ali Khan and the PRHP’s Akbar Baacha are contesting the polls together for the seats of the chairperson and the vice chairperson.

Talking to The News, the residents expressed mixed reactions over the new delimitation of the constituency.

Usman Ghani, a candidate for the general councillor slot in the area, said following the electoral boundaries, violent clashes on ethnic lines had ended in these areas. “Besides, whoever is elected in the UC will be its resident, making it easier to contact him for addressing our civic issues,” he added.

“When there were fierce ethno-political clashes in these areas in 2007, the residents of the hills couldn’t go down to Qasba Colony to meet their nazims and naib nazims and neither could the latter visit here for resolving our issues.” However, Qadir Khan, a political analyst who lives there, said the PPP carried out the delimitation to benefit its candidates in the UC.

“Now there is nothing in the Peerabad UC. All schools, water pumping stations and stadiums are in Qasba Colony,” Khan told The News. “The recent delimitation would further deprive the residents of these basic facilities.”

Islamia Colony UC 

The Islamia Colony union committee or UC-9 comprises Islamia Colony No 1 and 2, New Miawali Colony, and Kunwari Colony. Although it is a Pashtun-majority UC, there is also a sizable number of Niazi-clan residents and because of their unity, their community members were elected in the past two local government polls.

In the 2001 local government polls, Saifullah Niazi and Najibullah Niazi, two prominent political figures of the neighbourhood, were elected nazim and naib nazim respectively. In 2005, Aurangzaib Niazi and Muhammad Khan Niazi, two elders of the same community, replaced them.

However, in the current local government polls, the Niazi-clan vote bank would be split as the PML-N and the PTI have fielded candidates from the same community. The PML-N has fielded its Karachi vice-president, Najibullah Niazi, for the slot of the chairperson. The PTI has fielded Haji Khan of the same community for the seat.

The PPP and the ANP have formed an electoral alliance. The PPP’s Lala Shamsul Akbar and Painda Khan of the ANP are running the poll for the seats of the chairperson and the vice chairperson respectively.

A disgruntled PTI leader, Hazrat Omar, is contesting polls as an independent candidate.

The MQM has not fielded its candidates in the UC-9 too.

Civic issues 

There has been almost no development work in the Kati Pahari neighbourhoods for the last 15 years. The residents face an acute water shortage and also lack a proper sewerage system.

Ghani said residents were supplied with insignificant amount of water once in two weeks. Most residents depend on underground water for their daily consumption.

Slain PPP leader Mujibur Rehman’s efforts compelled the government to build a water pumping station in Kunwari Colony costing Rs160 million.

However the residents complain that they have yet to see the provision of water from it.

Most residents are daily-wage workers and can’t afford to buy water from tanker trucks by paying Rs3,500,” said Ghani. Residents have been lodging their complaints for several years, but they have always fallen on deaf ears. However, they hope that their elected UC representatives will address their civic issues.

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