Pakistan: Political parties in talks to attract Shia voters

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SHAFAQNA – The News: The Shia community’s vote bank in some of Karachi’s constituencies has attracted the attention of major political stakeholders, who are flexing their muscles to win the maximum number of seats in the city’s electoral battle scheduled for July 25.

Political parties have started negotiating with Shia political parties, local groups and clerics to muster support from the community to get their candidates elected.

According to Shia political parties, there are more than 25 neighbourhoods in the city where the Shia population live in a sizable number and their support help major political parties’ candidates in winning. Prominent among these neighbourhoods are Soldier Bazaar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Abbas Town, Malir, Jaffar-e-Tayyar Society, Kharadar, Ancholi, Federal B Area, Dastageer, Rizvia, Hussainabad, Hussain Hazara Goth and Mughal Hazara Goth.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Karachi chapter has managed to enter into an electoral agreement with the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, a leading Shia political party, to win the community’s support for their candidates in the constituencies that include the major Shia-populated neighbourhoods of Soldier Bazaar and Jaffar Tayyar Society.

The MWM, which was formed after the killing of Shias in Quetta and Karachi in 2012, has emerged as key religio-political party in the recent years in the country, including Karachi.

According to the agreement between the two parties, MWM leader Syed Ali Hussain Naqvi will be their joint candidate in PS-89, a District Malir’s constituency that consists of Jaffar Tayayr Society and other Shia-populated neighborhoods of Malir.

Naqvi, who is the MWM’s provincial political secretary, has been contesting polls on the PTI’s electoral symbol ‘bat’.

In return, the MWM will support PTI candidates Amir Liaquat Hussain and Muhammad Ali Aziz in NA-245 and PS-105 respectively. These constituencies consist of Soldier Bazaar and the neighbouring Shia localities, where they live in a sizable number.

MWM Karachi leader Asif Safvi confirmed that an electoral alliance had been made by the two parties for certain constituencies. “The PTI and the MWM will support each other in these constituencies,” he told The News on Friday.

Separately, the MWM has fielded Allama Muhammad Ali Abidi, son of prominent Shia cleric Allama Irfan Haider Abidi, in NA-254 and Mir Taqi Zafar in PS-125. The constituencies comprise Shia-populated areas of Ancholi, Karimabad, Gulberg and FB Area. ITP in MMA

The Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP), another key Shia political party, is part of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an electoral alliance of five religious parties, and fielded only one candidate under the banner of the coalition in provincial constituency PS-105, where the group’s leader, Sarwar Ali, has been contesting polls.

Led by Allama Sajid Naqvi, the ITP is the new name of the Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan, which had banned in 2002 by the federal government. The ITP has been supporting the MMA candidates, especially those of the Jamaat-e-Islami, in other constituencies of the city.

Split Shia votes

In the past general and local government polls, major Shia parties, including the MWM and the ITP, took part but did not achieve any significant results. It was mainly because of scattered demographic distribution of the Shia community in the city.

However, in some constituencies that include major Shia localities, such as Ancholi, Soldier Bazaar and Jaffar Tayyar Society, Shia parties and local groups try to form local level alliances or make seat adjustment arrangements with other players, said Munir Ahmed Shah, a Karachi-based journalist, who cover religious parties extensively. “Because various Shia groups are operating in the electorate, the community has never voted as a bloc,” Shah told The News.

In the past general elections, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement polled the majority of Shia votes in Karachi, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The MQM has also sent several Karachi Shia clerics, including Allama Abbas Kumeli, to the Senate, and made its Shia leaders members of the national and provincial assemblies.

But the PTI managed to woo Shia voters in the 2013 polls, and for the upcoming election, they have forged an electoral alliance with the MWM.

 

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