NIAS Pakistan Reader

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NIAS Pakistan Reader
Karachi: The race and new alignments for the Mayor

  D Suba Chandran

Though the PPP and JI have emerged with more seats, neither of them have enough numbers on their own to win the Mayor’s seat. Will they work together? Will Imran Khan spoil their party?

With the election for the local government in Karachi and Hyderabad concluded last week, the real struggle is taking place in terms of which party will win the Mayor’s election in Karachi. Though the PPP has secured more seats, it does not have enough majority on its own to win the coveted Mayor’s seat. The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) is the second largest, however, the case for the party also is the same. Of the 230 plus union committees, the PPP has emerged victorious in 96, followed by the JI (83) and the PTI (43).

Karachi is the most important city in Sindh; and Mayor’s seat is equally important, for he/she controls the local government. Politically and financially, the position is perhaps the most important. Hence there is no surprise for the intense politicking between the PPP and the JI. But, neither of them have enough seats to win the Mayor’s seat. 

If the primary competition is between the PPP and the JI, then the PTI, with the third largest number should be able to play the role of the kingmaker. However, national politics and the equation between the PPP and PTI leadership will prevent the former from approaching the latter. So, the PPP will rather take the tough pill and try reach an understanding with the JI. The PTI did the same thing in Punjab; despite the PML-Q being an insignificant partner, Imran had to offer the chief minister’s position to Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. Will Zardari be able to strike a similar deal with the JI?

But the equation between the PPP and JI is not as simple. While the leadership may want to forge a partnership at the top level, the party cadres may not be open to that idea. Given the numbers this time that the PPP had won more than the others, the cadres would want the Mayor’s position for themselves, and not give it to the JI. Though the JI has demands including stopping the counting process and wants another count, it is willing to work with the PPP, if the latter is willing to accept its candidate for the Mayor’s seat. The JI had earlier approached the PTI; according to open sources, the talks between the two have not reached any conclusion. 

Now the PML-N is mediating between the two – PPP and JI. The PML-N has seven seats; it does not have the number to make any difference. However, the local leadership has contacts with both the JI and the PPP. 

According to the news reports, the PML-N seem to be trying to mediate between the PPP and the JI. For the PML-N, keeping the PTI away is more important, than yielding to the JI. Even for the PPP leadership, that should be the case. According to a Dawn report, “a JI delegation, led by its Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, visited the residence of the PML-N’s Sindh chapter president Shah Muhammad Shah,” and the latter has promised to “establish a consensus between the two leading parties,” with a desire “that the two parties should join hands for the development and betterment of Karachi.”

The development and betterment of Karachi will become the buzzword for any agreements between two parties, despite their ideological coherence.

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