May 13, 2013

Sindh: No Room For New Political Players

Despite all the enthusiasm surrounding the rise of new political players, the expectations of the religious parties, nationalist factions and smaller groups may not come true after all.

Bellow is an article published by  The International News:

Despite all the enthusiasm surrounding the rise of new political players, there will be no major upsets in Sindh, particularly Karachi, as the country heads to polls today. And the expectations of the religious parties, nationalist factions and smaller groups may not come true after all.

Sindh has been badly affected with terrorist attacks with over 150 people dead in Karachi alone in election-related violence. While Nawaz Sharif addressed more than four public gatherings in rural Sindh, the only party to succeed in staging an election gathering in Karachi was the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

No major election campaigns were organised in Karachi and Hyderabad by the mainstream political parties – Pakistan People’s Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party, which were repeatedly targeted by extremist outfits.

Despite alarm bells ringing for progressive parties, political observers believe there will be no sweeping changes in the political situation in Sindh or Karachi. Neither any worthwhile challengers have emerged against the PPP in rural areas nor is the MQM facing any major electoral threats in urban centres. Both the parties may achieve their desired targets in the elections 2013.

Though the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz managed to form an electoral alliance with 10 parties, including Pir Pagara’s Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, JI, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, National People’s Party and some nationalist groups, the coalition could not get the support of the masses as the leaders bickered over most issues.

On the pressure build by these parties over the election commission, the authorities decided to deploy the army in Karachi for security arrangements. Soldiers will not present inside the polling stations, however, as per the mandate fixed by the election commission. The role of the army and paramilitary forces has been only restricted till providing security to voters and party candidates.

If indeed the army and police doctrine is changed like the 1993 elections, independent observers believe the MQM might lose some seats. The party has been winning in Karachi and Hyderabad since 1988 and still enjoys a strong vote bank and party structure. Its cadres are trained for election duties and have the capability to mobilise the public.

The anti-MQM forces have also been disappointed by the Shia community’s announcement of support to the MQM, which may turn out to be a significant factor. Only till a week ago, this religious community was angry with the party for doing nothing about unabated targeted killings of community members and bomb blasts.

Although the JI has already proclaimed victory on some seats in Karachi, political observers believe the religious party’s “terrorist factor” is a major issue and the people of the metropolis are dead set against terrorism.

The Imran Khan factor, which has recently swept the nation especially the youth, is also not a major headache for the PPP or the MQM in Sindh. The PTI has fielded only one worthwhile name in Karachi in Dr Arif Alvi, contesting on NA-250 – the same seat which has been won by the PML-N, JI and MQM in previous elections.

While the PPP did indeed get sympathy votes in the 2008 elections after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, expecting the same for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the wake of injuries to Khan would be too much.

The observers believe the PTI can put a dent in the vote bank of PML-N alone in Karachi and the MQM and PPP will remain unaffected. Seat adjustments between the PPP and ANP in some Pakhtun-dominated areas will also reduce the threat of PTI for the MQM. The voter turnout might remain low in Karachi but the MQM – if it fears its chances of victory – is capable of bringing people out of their homes to the polling stations.