KARACHI: Despite the incident of stone-pelting on the opening day of Pakistan Peoples Party’s election campaign, people of Lyari are seemingly little moved to go for another political choice in the coming vote as the congested neighbourhood is getting adorned with the flags of the PPP along with the ongoing World Cup’s South American favourites Brazil.
Though almost all parties and individuals have their share in expressing themselves through banners and flags, the banners carrying pictures of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and South American football heroes are generally seen together in many localities of NA-246.
Apart from 1985’s party-less elections, conducted during Gen Ziaul Haq’s military regime, when the PPP abstained from contesting elections, which it later regretted, Lyari’s constituency has always voted for the PPP since the 1970 general elections.
‘After so many years, the residents will vote without fear of gangsters’
With slashing of a National Assembly seat from Karachi South — now two from previously three — in the wake of new delimitations, this district, encompassing the historically original boundaries of the city, has still little to offer to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which has been ruling the roost in the sprawling metropolis for the past three decades.
In the previous delimitations, the areas falling in the now non-existent third seat would normally support the MQM’s veteran leader Dr Farooq Sattar.
The new Lyari seat — NA-246 (previously NA-248) — still covers entire Lyari. However, now it also contains the areas of the erstwhile and abolished NA-249 such as Bhimpura, Jinnahabad, Ghanchi Para, Ranchhore Lane, Dharamsivara, Nishtar Road, Garden West, Dhobi Ghat, Ghazi Nagar, Rexer Lane and Usmanabad.
A total of 16 candidates are contesting in the coming election of which five are independents. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, like his mother, is also contesting his first election from the Lyari seat as well and is regarded as the favourite to win it again for the PPP.
Abdul Shakoor Shad, formerly a PPP member, is now representing the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, while Saleem Zia of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Mahfooz Yar Khan of the MQM-Pakistan are among the key opponents.
Singer Jawad Ahmed, who heads the Barabri Party Pakistan, is also among the aspirants.
Besides, Maulana Noorul Haq of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and Mohammad Arshad of the Grand Democratic Alliance are there to vie for the same seat.
Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Ahmed, Pak Sarzameen Party’s Ejaz Ahmed, Awami National Party’s Hazrat Gul and retired Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Pakistan Justice and Democratic Party’s Mohammad Anwar are also lined up for a contest, which, as many believe, has little surprises to offer.
The constituency, comprising congested localities in the south of the city, has a total of 536,688 eligible voters — 305,940 males and 230,748 females.
Some 244 polling stations will host the voters with a total of 976 polling booths — 488 each for men and women.
The constituency had just 224,479 voters in 2002 elections of which 72,594 cast their votes which made the turnout 32.3 per cent. The election was won by PPP’s Nabeel Gabol.
The number of registered voters swelled by around 40pc in 2008 elections when it was 351,345 of which 106,414 votes were polled offering 30.3pc turnout. Mr Gabol won it again. PPP’s Shahjahan Baloch won it in 2013 elections.
Since 1988, the largest turnout in this constituency was recorded in 1988 when former assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto contested in her first election and won. Relatively impressive 46.1pc voters thronged to polling stations to vote.
The lowest turnout here was in 1997 elections when just 26.8pc voters showed up and the PPP’s Waja Ahmed Karimdad could hardly edge past his PML-N rival Younus Baloch by a thin margin of 312 votes.
Though most of the present Lyari constituency still supports the PPP and could visibly go for it as interviews with voters conducted by Dawn in its different parts suggest, yet, the MQM-P, despite facing worst bickering in its ranks, could muster a good number of votes from the areas which had been voting for its candidates in the past from a different constituency. These areas form around 20pc of NA-246.
Nevertheless, there are no heavyweights from other parties. The PTI and the PML-N could also bag chunks of votes — especially the latter, which had performed well in the area during the past local government election.
With a chequered history of being a bastion of movements for democracy during military regimes and then dominated by drug mafias in the past for more than a decade, Lyari has begun to express its soul again — both in its love for football and penchant for political discourse.
“After so many years,” said a veteran footballer who runs a local club and wants to see Brazil win the Cup again, “we are enjoying the World Cup without fear of gangsters; and we are going to vote at will too after so many years.”