By Zia Ur Rehman
Monday, November 09, 2015
Away from the local government elections frenzy in the Karachi urban areas, the rural and coastal neighbourhoods of the city have their own politics, where an electoral alliance comprising tribal chieftains, local politicians and social activists is set to give a tough fight to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.
In March, the PPP revived the District Council Karachi (DCK), a separate local body for the rural and coastal areas of Malir and West districts, accepting a longstanding demand of their residents.
At the time of the DCK’s revival, there was a perception that the PPP would easily win in these areas, mostly Sindhi and Baloch-populated, in local government polls scheduled on December 5 as they are considered to the party’s strongholds in the city. However, recent political developments, especially the formation of the powerful alliance, have caused worries for the PPP.
Revival of DCK
The DCK has 38 union councils – 32 of them in the Malir district and six in the West. The rest of the city will be governed through one municipal corporation and its six district municipal corporations – Korangi, Central, South, East, West and Malir.
The DCK was formed during the Ayub Khan regime in 1960s and continued to exist until it was abolished during Pervez Musharraf’s rule and its areas were divided in Bin Qasim, Gadap and Malir towns run by the then City District Government Karachi.
At the time of reviving the DCK, some of its areas were deliberately left out to benefit the PPP in the local bodies polls. The excluded areas included Ibrahim Hyderi, Rehri, Gaghar, parts of the defunct Bin Qasim Town, Mangophir and some areas of Mauripur and the DCK was limited to 17 union councils. However, rival political leaders, terming it pre-poll rigging, submitted a case in Sindh High Court against the DCK’s delimitation. The court ordered the inclusion of all areas in the DCK which were part of the district at the time of its abolition.
Unlike the local government polls in rest of the city where residents of a union committee will cast two votes – one for the chairperson and the vice-chairperson and other for the ward councillor, voters in a DCK union council will cast three votes – one for district councillor, one for the chairperson and the vice-chairperson and the for the ward councillor.
Since 2001, the residents of the city’s rural areas have been raising the issues they are facing, but were ignored by the then city district government.
“Whether the mayor of the city belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami or the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, nobody tried to address our civic problems,” said Ikram Ali, a resident of Ghaghar.
Now with revival of the DCK and upcoming local bodies polls, Ali feels that they have an opportunity to be heard by the new elected representatives.
PPP vs Awami Ittehad
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the JI and a few religious parties are contesting the local government polls against the PPP and the MQ in the city’s urban areas, but in the areas falling in the DCK, the electoral politics is totally different as groups are formed on the basis of biradirism (kinship, clan and caste associations) there and their politicians have formed an alliance to challenge the PPP.
The alliance, named Awami Ittehad Karachi (AIK), also known as Rajooni Ittehad in Sindhi, has been formed under the leadership of Jam Abdul Karim Bijar, the head of the Jokhio clan; Abdul Hakim Baloch, the state minister for communication; Haji Shafi Jamot, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz parliamentarian; Khuda Dino Shah, a former nazim of Bin Qasim Town; Saleem Kalmati, a leader of the Karachi Indigenous Rights Movement, and the chieftains of different clans.
The Karachi chapter of the National Party, the ruling party in Balochistan, has also announced that it would support the AIK.
MB Baloch, an AIK candidate in Old Thano union council, said as the politics of the local government polls in their areas is based on biradirism, they had opted for contesting them with the support of the clans there instead of a political party.
“The residents of Malir’s rural areas always voted for the PPP but the party has nto tried to address their civic issues,” Baloch told The News.
He said that AIK had fielded its candidates in almost all 38 union councils of the DCK.
The PPP has awarded tickets to its candidates for 15 union councils of the DCK on Wednesday at the residence of PPP Malir district president Raja Abdul Razzaq.
“Malir’s abandoned politicians and parties form alliances against the PPP but are always rejected by the people,” Razzaq told The News.
Analysts believe that in almost every union council, there will be a tough competition between the candidates of the PPP and the AIK.
Javed Jokhio, a Malir-based veteran journalist, said the PPP was the ruling party and had recently won the local bodies polls in eight districts of the province that took place in their first phase, while the AIK had the backing of elected MNAs, MPAs and tribal chieftains.
“We are expecting a close competition in the DCK,” he added.
Although there has been no official announcement by the PPP or the AIK, analysts and politicians believe that Salman Murad, son of a slain PPP parliamentarian, is a strong candidate for the DCK chairperson.
The DCK has nominated Bijar for the DCK’s top slot, while Kalmati and Shah are two strong aspirants for the positions of the vice chairperson.
Other political parties including the PTI, the JI and the PML-N have also fielded candidates in some union councils of the DCK. Jokhio said these political parties were active in union councils with Pashtun and Punjabi residents and challenging the PPP.