Amidst protests and allegations of high handedness, MQM preserved their lead in a close contest

After a head-to-head contest in PS-128 between Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) candidate Syed Waqar Hussain Shah and Aurangzeb Farooqui of Muttahida Deeni Mohaz, Waqar Hussain has kept his lead after re-polling was held at 6 polling stations.

The constituency had been won by MQM on May 11 by securing 23,496 votes, while Aurangzeb Farooqui secured 21,332 votes. The results were challenged by Farooqui contending that due to a bomb blast on ANP election office on the polling day, voting process had been affected at 6 polling stations. ECP ordered re-polling on those polling stations. According to unofficial results, the MQM candidate maintained his lead by securing 23,822 votes and defeated Farooqi, who secured 23,570 votes. It must be noted that Farooqui is known for his rabid anti-Shia speeches and a threatening video of him vowing to make the lives of the Shia community miserable,has been making the rounds on social media.

The elections on these polling stations got special attention when two of the other contesting parties boycotted the re-polls, resulting in a one-on-one contest between MQM and MDM. The decision to boycott the re-polling process by ANP and PTI was not received well and was interpreted by some sections as providing Farooqui an opportunity to get all the anti-MQM votes there. Both the boycotting parties have a common demand of re-elections on the whole constituency, though both have underscored different grounds for said demand.

According to Awami National Party (ANP) senior leader Rana Gul Afridi, they had demanded re-polling on the whole constituency because elsewhere in the same constituency, twin bomb blasts at their election office in Quaidabad Dawood Chali claimed 11 lives and left 30 other workers and supporters injured. It was believed to be an attempt on the life of ex-MPA Amanullah Mehsud who narrowly escaped the attack, while his car was severely damaged. “The incident compelled us to halt[all] activities on polling day in the entire constituency as we were busy burying our dead workers and were not in a position to continue polling,” says Rana Gul Afridi. He termed the ECP’s decision to conduct re-polling only on the 6 polling stations “unjust and undemocratic”.

On the other hand, the PTI’s demand for re-polling in the entire constituency is a part of their demand to conduct re-elections in all of Karachi’s constituencies, based allegations of widespread rigging leveled against the MQM. But this demand is not consistent with what has been accepted by the PTI on NA-250, PS-112 and PS-113, where re-polling was held on 43 polling stations. MQM and PPP had boycotted re-polling, demanding that entire constituencies be re-contested. PTI participation there had earned them all threeseats.

It is interesting that the MQM vote bank in many constituencies was dented by PTI in the general elections. In many localities considered MQM strongholds, PTI candidates have managed to bag thousands of votes. These surprising statistics have been interpreted by some analysts as indicative of growing support for the PTI among the urban middle class. This segment of society has chosen a more inclusive political party as compared to MQM’s ethnic support base.On the other hand,many argued that the Shia community in Karachi had also supported the PTI following Imran Khan’s remarks against banned and rechristened sectarian organizations, such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat  and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi; following the barbaric attacks against Shias in Quetta and Karachi.Also they have reacted unfavorably to Farooq Sattar’s remarks after the Abbas Town blast, who had tried to give an ethnic spinto the massacre of Shia community.

It seems MQM’s neck and neck contest and an eventual defeat to the ASWJ candidate, succeeded in hindering Farooqui’s bid to enter the lower house of parliament. This will help them swing the tide, which was temporarily favouring the PTI due to their graveling stance on the issue of Shia killings, back in their favour.This has been another ugly chapter in the unending violence plaguing Karachi and with the results of the general elections, the MQM has reasserted its position as the major stakeholder in the city.