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Karachi

October 22, 2018
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Karachi clings to change as PTI wins two more by-polls

Karachi

October 22, 2018

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‘Tabdeeli Ai Re’ (Here comes the change) was already blaring out of car stereos on the main Sea View road as results from polling stations in NA-247 and PS-111 started flashing across TV screens, showing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates leading in the by-elections.

Over the anticipated win of the PTI, activist Uzair Siddiqui, 24, was happy that his struggle of seven years with the party was paying off. He felt even better when people passing the streets of DHA showed him the victory sign and he responded with a wide grin.

“Credit goes to the law enforcement agencies,” he said. “They dismantled the MQM’s militancy, which then made a level playing field available to other political parties in Karachi. Not only the parties but the residents of the city were also relieved by this. Now they are free to choose.”

A resident of Liaquatabad, Siddiqui joined the PTI in December 2011, just after he completed his matriculation. He had had enough of the city’s political landscape. “It was based on fear. You say one word against the MQM and you’re out. Even the party’s own workers were disappointed with their modus operandi.”

He said: “Like many, I saw hope in the PTI. I went to Imran Khan’s rally at Bagh-e-Jinnah and joined the party. Since then I have been with the party.” Siddiqui now works in the PTI’s media communication department. “It took us years to take Karachi from the MQM, and I hope that we will be able to materialise our claims.”

He said that the results of Sunday’s by-elections and those conducted on October 14 show that the city had wanted a change and it achieved it finally in 2018. “People had voted for us in 2013 as well, but quietly. They could not open up about it because they feared a backlash from the MQM. Now they are on the streets with PTI flags because they feel safe to be themselves.”

Courtesy of the ballots of the July 25 general elections and this month’s by-polls that fell in heavily with the PTI, a large chunk of the population seems to support Imran Khan’s vision. Not to mention that there is a considerable number of people who do not like him. For them, Khan’s Tabdeeli (change) is just a farce, as he was “brought into power” the same way his predecessors were.

Mohsin Ahmed*, 26, resident of Gulzar-e-Hijri, believes that Khan, who made the headlines for speaking against the status quo in his Islamabad sit-in, turned out to be an agent of the existing affairs.

“We have been told that a change has come. Yes, there has, but only virtually. The situation on the ground is the same,” he said. A University of Karachi graduate, Ahmed is a supporter of Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder who has been living in London in self-exile for over two decades.

The Lahore High Court had imposed a media blackout on Hussain, and his party, disintegrated, faces a blanket ban. Once, thousands would take to the streets on his call, but now no one, at least publicly, associates themselves with him.

“What the MQM did was wrong,” said Ahmed. “I feel strongly about our people wreaking havoc on others. There is no justification for the violence that we used to maintain our sway. Most of us were already afraid of it and then our fears turned true. We have been reduced to nothing.”

But he blames the state as well. “They are repeating our mistakes. A society should always decide its fate itself. No one should try to mould it by force, because then it starts getting bitter from the inside, which is dangerous. The workers of today are the leaders of tomorrow. They shouldn’t be left with permanent scars.”

Unofficial results gathered until the time this report was filed, suggested that PTI candidates Aftab Siddiqui and Shahzad Qureshi had won the by-elections for NA-247 and PS-111 respectively, with a lead of around 50 per cent over their MQM-Pakistan rivals.

Though the by-polls appeared sluggish as usual, with the day feeling especially hot, people stepped out of their homes to cast their votes. The roads and streets in the constituencies appeared politically vibrant and, fortunately, no clash was reported.

A gesture of harmony and tolerance was let loose when Pak Sarzameen Party chief Mustafa Kamal and rights activist Jibran Nasir, a PS-111 contestant, visited PTI camps and greeted workers over there. Women’s participation was also considerable, but only in the affluent areas of the constituencies.

* Name changed to protect privacy

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