With all eyes set on by-elections for a vacant National Assembly seat (NA-249) in Karachi, candidates from various parties have intensified their election campaign to woo voters with promises to solve the issues plaguing them.
The by-elections for the NA seat that fell vacant after PTI’s Faisal Vawda resigned will be held on April 29. The NA constituency consisting of areas of Baldia Town has a total of 339,591 voters, out of whom 216,566 are males and 137,935 females.
The constituency has large pockets of Pashtun, Punjabi and Mohajir communities. Comparatively, the presence of Sindhis and Balochs, who are traditionally PPP voters, is slim here.
The PPP and PML-N candidates clinched this NA seat (previously known as NA-184) in 1988, 1993 and 1997 general elections respectively in the past, after which the seat went to the MQM. In the past, late PML-N leader Mian Ejaz Shafi had won this seat twice.
In the 2018 general elections, Faisal Wawda defeated PML N President Mian Shahbaz Sharif after a tough contest. The PTI won the seat by just 718 votes.
The constituency has been held by four parties, but even today, it is in dilapidated condition.
The shortage of potable water is one of the major issues facing the constituency.
Residents queueing up with plastic drums, buckets and bottles outside water supply tanks and hydrant pumps to get water is a common sight in the constituency.
“We spend an average of Rs5,000 per month on purchasing water. The tanker mafia and illegal hydrants are working in the neighborhood forcing us to purchase water, which is utter cruelty and injustice”, a resident of the constituency named Abdul Razzaque Brohi told ARY News Digital.
“Politicians disappear after they get into the parliament,” complained Razaque Baloch, another resident of Baldia Town Union Council 31.
In addition to the water woes, locals often complain that they also face load shedding of up to 10 hours on a daily basis. Gas shortage is also one of the issues tormenting residents.
The two prominent names vying for the seat are PML-N’s Miftah Ismail and Pak-Sarzameen Party’s (PSP) Mustafa Kamal.
PPP has fielded Qadir Khan Mandokhail while MQM-P has nominated Hafiz Mursaleen for a crucial National Assembly seat. A tough contest is expected between PML-N, PSP and PTI.
AMJAD AFRIDI (PTI candidate)
Afridi was confident PTI will once again emerge victorious from this constituency as the party. He said the party has spent Rs20 million worth of funds in the entire constituency between 2018-2021, as a result of which, PTI is now getting positive feedback from locals during the election campaign.
“When the PTI came to power it started different development projects worth Rs20 million and solved several long-standing issues of the Baldia Town area,” Amjad said.
To a question about the water crisis, the PTI candidate was of the view that water distribution was not fair in the area and blamed the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) as the main reason behind the crisis.
“All linemen here in the constituency were appointed by PPP and they are involved in water theft. PTI tried twice to construct a 19-D Pumping Station in the area and released funds but the pumping station has been occupied by PPP goons and they are making money and not letting fair distribution of water supply,” he alleged.
Afridi said that he has been living in this constituency for the past 22 years and knows the basic problems of the locals as compared to other party candidates who do not belong to this constituency.
“I am the only local candidate from this NA-249 and familiar with all problems being faced by the residents of this constituency. All other candidates vying for NA-249 seat belongs to some other areas of Karachi and not aware of the basic issues.”
Speaking on the issue of PTI MPA from Baldia Town Malik Shehzad Awan, who earlier tendered resignation after being sidelined for NA-249 ticket, Afraid said that “he is with the party and running campaign in different areas of Baldia.”
When asked about his recent meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan during the latter’s latest visit to the port city, the PTI candidate said that he had raised some major issues facing the area with the PM and he assured that all issues of the constituency would be resolved.
“I asked the PM for three things: the resolution of water and sewerage issues and establishment of a hospital and a university in the town,” he added.
MIFTAH ISMAIL (PML-N candidate)
Former finance minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Miftah Ismail while speaking exclusively with ARY News Digital claimed that PML-N will win the by-elections this time as “PTI has completely failed to address basic issues of the constituency and people are fade up with it due to the burden of rising food inflation”.
He said that former MNA and now Senator Faisal Vawda completely failed to resolve the basic issues of the constituency especially the water problem despite being the water resources minister. Miftah claimed that Vawda did not even visited his constituency after he became the minister.
“Faisal Vawda was made the federal minister for water resources, but he did not do anything to resolve the water problem in the constituency”, said Ismail.
When asked about how he would resolve the water crisis if he wins the seat, Ismail promised the first thing he will do after winning from this constituency is the provision of water to every resident and will take the matter to a court, if need be.
“My first priority will be resolving the water problem and for that, I will take the water issue to court. If they [KSWB] can provide water to residents of Clifton, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and other areas of the port city then why not to citizens of NA-249”? He questioned.
The PML-N leader said that both the federal and provincial governments have failed to resolve the water crisis. “PPP is ruling the province for the past 13 years but it did not even try to sort out the water issue.”
Miftah further said that he will construct a water pumping station in the constituency and if the Centre did not provide him funds he will collect donations/charity from multinational companies and will do whatever needs to be done for the installation of the pumping station and water pipelines.
“PML-N in its tenure had carried out several mega-developmental projects. So providing water to the constituency is not a big deal. Even the slogan of my election campaign is “Paani ko vote Sher ko vote do,” he said.
Miftah said that PTI candidate Amjad Afridi is not a prominent candidate and had lost even a Union Council (UC) chairman seat in the last local body polls.
The PML-N leader hoped that since PML-N has a huge vote bank in the constituency, he will win the NA-249 by-election with a big margin.
To a question, he said that PML-N requested PPP for support in NA-249 by-elections but it did not give a positive response, adding that PML-N has the support of ANP and other member parties of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
Qadir Mandokhail (PPP candidate)
Pakistan Peoples Party candidate from NA-249 said that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had announced a Rs 400 million package for the constituency after the 2018 general elections and the Sindh government has since carried out several development projects in Baldia Town including the laying of water pipelines.
“People usually ask what PPP has done for citizens despite being in power in Sindh province for the last 13 years. I want to ask them what MQM, who had won from NA-249 in 2013 and won majority seats from Baldia during local body elections have done for the people of the constituency?” he questiined when asked about the PPP’s services for the constituency.
“Mustafa Kamal and Waseem Akhtar, two former Karachi mayors, ruled the city for 10 years in the metropolis, why they did not provide water to Baldia Town?”
When asked about the accusations by the PTI candidate that wall-men deployed for distribution of water were hired by PPP and they are taking bribes for the supply of water, Mandokhel rejected the allegations and added that linemen do not belong to PPP, but they take money from residents for water supply.
“Wall-man appointed for water supply in the Baldia are involved in some wrongdoings. They provide water on a priority basis to those who give them money. I have raised this issue with the provincial government.
When asked how would he resolve the water issue in the area, Qadir Khan Mandokhail vowed that after winning the election, he would ensure water supply in the area at all costs. He said that water will be provided to the area through the under-construction K-IV water project.
The PPP leader added, “PPP after winning the election will provide water to the entire constituency through Hub Dam and K-IV water project scheme. In case, I lose, PPP will still work for the residents of NA-249 and provide them basic necessities including water”.
He claimed that ANP had officially announced support for PML-N’s candidate but some of their local leaders of Baldia Town have met him and assured him of their support in the upcoming by-election.
On being approached for an interview, MQM-P candidate Haji Mursallen refused to talk to this author, citing violation of party policy.
PSP candidate too was unavailable for an interview despite approached several times. The Jamaat-e-Islami, whose candidate ranked fifth in the 2018 elections is not contesting the by-poll.