Hung out to dry: Karachi caught between PPP & JI
Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, gave an ode to its plurality, albeit muted, in Sunday’s local government elections. But what has emerged will likely only add to the headaches of the megalopolis’ residents and parties alike rather than offer the panacea they were hoping for.
Karachi is a major economic hub of Pakistan and has a population that some say is over 30 million people. However, the city faces several problems: inadequate housing, poor sanitation, and clean drinking water.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which currently finds itself comfortable in the provincial assembly with an overwhelming majority apart from making up a key component in the federal government, was hoping to finally make deep inroads into the crown jewel that has always eluded it: Karachi.
The PPP frustrated coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) mayor Wasim Akhtar for three years before all but taking over directly for three years through Karachi Administrator Dr Murtaza Wahab for a period where they initiated several major projects in the city.
It had hoped they would have built sufficient social capital with the city’s residents thanks to projects such as the Red Line and Green Line bus projects, apart from other infrastructure projects to sweep the local government polls. It did pay dividends, with the party securing the most seats of any party with 93.
However, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) – a long-time political force within the city – took the opportunity of MQM-P’s boycott to entrench itself – just like it had done 20 years ago when Naimatullah Khan was elected as the city’s Nazim (mayor).
JI secured 86 seats, believes it got even more and has moved the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a recount on at least ten seats, which it believes it won.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which had emerged as a surprise package in the 2018 general elections in Karachi, winning many seats where the MQM-P was previously comfortable, was expected to take several seats.
Even though the party enjoys immense support in central areas, demonstrated by a massive impromptu gathering in April after the removal of party chief Imran Khan as prime minister after a successful vote of no-confidence, it failed to clinch any seats in the central district. It did, however, finish as runners-up on many of the seats, on some with just a difference of a few score votes.
The PTI, though, did manage to become the third-largest party, securing some 40 votes from around the city.
The matter is now evenly poised.
Neither of the two major parties has sufficient votes to form a government and must take on coalition partners.
With PPP and PTI strongly at odds with each other, they will unlikely sit together to form a coalition. Further, the other parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and independents, lack sufficient numbers to be able to form a government with the PPP either.
This has set the stage for a potential coalition government between the JI and PTI.
The PPP has been the ruling party in the province for some time. Their strong showing in the local government elections can be termed a reflection of their growing influence in the city – whether directly due to the recent projects or gerrymandering as alleged by MQM-P and the cause of their boycott.
However, the JI’s strong performance in the election indicates that they have a significant support base in the city and are a force to be reckoned with in the political landscape of Karachi.
JI and PTI coalition
Recognizing this, the PTI has already reached out to the JI with an invitation to form a coalition.
It remains to be seen how forming a coalition government between the JI and PTI will affect the city.
The two parties have differing ideologies, and it will be interesting to see how they unite to govern the city.
The JI is primarily seen as a religious party that advocates for an Islamic state. At the same time, the PTI is a more secular party focusing on economic development and good governance.
On the other hand, the PPP considers itself to be the main solution to Karachi’s myriad of ills, least of all are water supply, sanitation, transport and critical infrastructure, having worked on the provincial and federal level for major projects such as K-IV, city-wide bus service and garbage disposal service.
Sewerage, though, could be a bridge too far.
But as the MQM-P said on Tuesday, should the JI and PTI form a coalition to form its government in the city, for which they are entitled given their mandate, they would lack both power and resources to do what they want.
The MQM-P is acutely aware of what happens when the provincial government is ruled by one party and Karachi by a different party when their mayor Waseem Akhtar spent his entire tenure complaining about these issues.
However, after his departure, when the PPP appointed its administrator to the city, it granted him power and money to bring about all the needed changes.
Regardless of who comes, one of the major challenges the new government will face is addressing the issues of poverty, unemployment and poor infrastructure in the city.
The new government will have to work towards improving these conditions to improve the lives of the people of Karachi.
Another key issue that the new government will have to address is the problem of crime and violence in the city. Karachi has been plagued by growing street crime over the past year, and the new government will have to take strong measures to curb this problem and ensure the safety and security of the people.
Overall, the local government elections in Karachi have resulted in a hung assembly, with the PPP emerging as the largest party, followed by JI and PTI.
The formation of a coalition government between the JI and PTI will be watched closely, as it has the potential to bring about positive changes for the people of Karachi.
However, the government will have to address the pressing issues of crime, violence, poor infrastructure and water, sewerage and other amenities.