The NA-249 by-elections have exposed the faults in our electoral system. The constituency was closely contested as anyone could emerge as the winner given the varied demographics and the electoral history in the area.
The elections saw much lower voter turnout possibly due to the ongoing holy month, strict restrictions amid the pandemic and the scorching temperatures. The much-hyped election did not match the activity on election day as polling booths remained deserted for much of the day. The by-election will be, however, remembered for various reasons.
The ruling PTI received a thrashing in the by-polls and was placed sixth. The party had won the seat only three years back with a narrow margin. As the noose tightened around lawmaker Faisal Vawda, he quit the post to become a Senator and left the seat up for grabs. It was an oversight of the PTI leadership to give up the seat knowing well that it has a fragile coalition and every seat matters. The loss will require some soul searching on what the PTI needs to do for the people of Karachi to retain their support.
The election will be known for surprise victory of PPP’s candidate Qadir Khan Mandokhel. The win came late at night leading to rigging accusations by runner-up Miftah Ismail of the PML-N. The victory has also reignited a feud between the PPP and PML-N which had intensified after the PPP quit the PDM. The PPP has hailed the win as a sign that it remains popular in Karachi while opponents allege that it used the power of the provincial government. Whether the PPP will be able to retain control and deliver will only be seen in the next elections.
PML-N’s Miftah Ismail had an impressive run possibly due to his aggressive campaigning even though he did not have the influence of the government and Maryam Nawaz had also called off a visit for electioneering. The elections also showed that outlawed TLP remains a portent force to be reckoned with. The party was placed third and remains a serious challenger in the polls. Meanwhile, PSP’s chief Mustafa Kamal and the MQM are washed out from Karachi’s politics for now.
The PTI has urged the opposition to work together on electoral reforms so that accusation which we see after every election end. This is perhaps the only way for the public to ensure that the most deserving candidate gets the vote.