The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, after forging an electoral alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami for the upcoming local government polls in Karachi on December 5, has ramped up its campaign in the city.
The party staged rallies led by its chief Imran Khan on Saturday and Sunday in different areas of the city in a show of power.
The PTI leaders are confident about the party’s victory in the polls. But how? The News talked with Firdous Shamim Naqvi, a PTI central leader and one of the party’s two aspirants for the Karahci mayor’s slot, to discuss the party’s politics in the city. Naqvi is a member of the PTI’s core-committee and head of its training council. He is contesting the polls in UC-25 of the East district for the chairman’s seat and in UC-18 for the vice-chairperson’s slot.
The News: Will Karachi opt for the PTI or the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the local government polls?
Firdous Shamim Naqvi: For the residents of Karachi, the PTI is the only viable alternative. In the past, Karachi supported Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan. During the regimes of Bhutto and Ziaul Haq, they chose the JI. Then the MQM emerged, successfully exploiting the sense of ‘haves and have-nots’ among Karachi’s residents. In the beginning, the MQM created batches of good party cadres, especially among the Urdu-speaking community’s lower-middle class. But after reaching the corridors of power, it also started enjoying perks and privileges, became a status quo party by sitting in the parliament with landlords and industrialists and engaging in corruption. Also, it introduced ‘fascism’ in politics. The MQM, which is in the government for the last 30 years in one form or the other, has been involved in destroying institutions instead of establishing them.
In short, Karachi has been witnessing a political vacuum and the PTI’s entry in the city’s politics has provided its residents with an option. The party had enjoyed a popularity wave since late 2011 and emerged, despite large-scale rigging, as the second largest party in the city, in the 2013 general polls, securing votes in every pocket across the ethnic composition and neighbourhoods of all classes. There are two factors behind it: first, the disappointment of the city’s residents with the MQM and second, the charismatic personality of Imran Khan.
TN: But after the 2013 general polls, the party chairman largely ignored Karachi and focused on Punjab?
FSN: Punjab is the main battleground where most of the constituencies are located. That is the reason why the central leadership focused on it. But, we did not ignore Karachi and continuously carries out our political activities in the city.
TN: Why did your party choose the JI for an electoral alliance?
FSN: We formed an electoral alliance with the JI for several reasons. There is a public perception, whether it is true and not, that the MQM has a strong organisational set-up in the city and it is very difficult to defeat them. To dispel such notions, we structured the alliance, where the PTI has a popular vote bank and the JI has a plant-level organisational presence in the MQM-dominated pockets. It [the JI] had ruled the city in 1980s and between 2001 and 2005 and understands the city’s issues very well. Secondly, it is the PTI’s strict policy not to form alliances with the parties involved in violence and corruption.
TN: How is the PTI preparing for the polls in the city?
FSN: We are satisfied with our campaign and confident that city’s residents will present a surprise on December 5. Karachi has been witnessing a change because of ongoing operation and environment of fear is vanishing. We are receiving tremendous response from the constituents. Of the 209 UCs, we have fielded joint candidates for 179 seats and for 11 seats; the PTI and the JI are competing against each others
TN: But the recent NA-246 by-poll shows that the MQM is still stronger in the Mohajir-dominated constituencies?
FSN: The participation in NA-246 by-election was linked to the local government polls and we have achieved our goal from it. It was a symbolic election in the electoral history of the city, where our party shattered many myths in the constituency.
Today, we are expecting peaceful local government elections in the city on December 5 because of our participation in the NA-246 poll.
TN: Why does the PTI lack a proper organisational set-up in the city?
FSN: The first reason is fear as a certain political party has not allowed us to open our offices in the city. Secondly, there’s the party’s inner struggle. The PTI in the city witnessed an exponential expansion in last few years and it is very difficult to accommodate all new and old people in the party. Also, the city’s Pashtun community, because of Imran Khan’s maternal family background, has been joining the party in large numbers and during they won the party’s internal polls, which served as counter –productive in city’s specific political dynamics. Therefore we try to ensure a check-and-balance system and accommodate all ethnic communities living in the city.