By: Zia Ur Rehman
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The leaders of the three key political parties in race for the NA-246 by-polls on April 23 have been trying to woo sectarian religio-political groups and neighbourhood-based religious associations at mosques, imambargahs and madrassas for support.
Many religious parties have already announced which party they will be supporting for the elections, and the others are expected to inform the public soon.
The polls are believed to a contest mainly between Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Kunwar Naveed Jameel, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Ismail and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Rashid Naseem.
The JI has able to gain the support of a key component party of the defunct Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan-Noorani led by Dr Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair.
Zahid Askari, the JI Karachi information secretary, is confident that other component parties of the defunct alliance, including the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl, another faction of the JUP led by Owais Noorani, the Shia Ulema Council and the Tehreek-Ahle Hadith, will also support their candidate.
However, Noorani has unexpectedly announced that his party would support the PTI candidate.
In the general elections 2002, six religious parties representing different schools of thought had formed made an electoral alliance across the country.
In those elections, JI’s Naseem had secured 32,879 votes from the platform of the MMA in NA-246 against MQM candidate Haji Azizullah Brohi, who won the seat by grabbing 53,134 votes.
The Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslimeen, a leading Shia political party, is supporting the PTI in the by-polls.
PTI candidate Ismail, along with the party’s central leaders, Arif Alvi, Ali Zaidi and Firdous Shamim Naqvi, met with MWM leaders at Wahdat House on Sunday after which the announcement was made.
“Other parties, including the MQM, contacted us for support. But we are supporting the PTI after observing the public opinion and receiving our organisational leadership’s decision,” said Ali Hussain Naqvi, an MWM leader.
Political analysts believe that with the MWM’s support, the PTI can easily fetch votes from the Shia community in the constituency. “Although the MWM is comparatively a new Shia party, it has emerged as a popular group across the country because of its bold stance over the killing of community members,” said a Shia political leader.
However, several other Shia groups, including the Jafaria Alliance, the Tahafuz Azadari Council and the Tehreek Nifaz Fiqah Jafaria, are supporting the MQM candidate. The Ahle Hadith Rabita Council too is backing the MQM.
Shia activists believe that the JI has never received votes from the Shia community in the past elections and it is highly unlikely that it will do so in the upcoming by-polls.
“The community has traditionally supported the MQM in the city in the past polls but after the emergence of the MWM, the Shia vote bank of the MQM has cut down,” the Shia leader said.
Munir Ahmed Farooqi, a Karachi-based journalist who has extensively covered religious parties, believes that the support of sectarian parties and groups matters in the city’s electoral politics.
“Although the support of mainstream religious parties in the elections is very important, political parties have also started giving importance to neighbourhood- and street-level religious organisations that mainly organise events such as Eid Miladul Nabi and Muharram processions,” he added.