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MQM’s jailed leader Waseem wins mayor poll

MQM’s jailed leader Waseem wins mayor poll

KARACHI: Waseem Akh­tar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement on Wednesday became the first candidate in the city’s history to have won the election of Karachi mayor from behind bars, defeating his rival candidate fielded by a six-party alliance formed to contest against the embattled party, which has been dominating city politics for decades.

“I thank the people of Karachi and congratulate them that they have finally elected mayor and deputy mayor for whom they had voted overwhelmingly des­pite a tough situation,” a jubilant Akhtar said after polling.

Mr Akhtar was brought to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s British-era building — the venue for the mayor election — in an armoured personnel carrier by jail authorities on the order of the election commission. He was taken back to the Karachi central prison after polling closed as per schedule.

The mayor-elect asked the government to set up an office for him in the central prison, where “I can run the day-to-day affairs of the city or pass a law to help me undertake my duties”.

“Thanks Karachi! You chose us in the historic vote despite all odds and hardships,” Mr Akhtar said on the KMC building premises, with his elected deputy, Arshad Vohra, standing beside him.

Unlike the past when successful MQM candidates would wax lyrical on their party’s prowess in the city, he focused on the reconciliatory mode with the government and the security establishment in line with the party’s modified policy of keeping its leader Altaf Hussain at bay.

In the beginning, he thanked his leader for nominating him for the post, but refrained from taking Mr Hussain’s name. Most television channels later transmitted the whispers of the deputy mayor-elect who was advising Mr Akhtar to be cautious.

“From now on, I am not the MQM’s mayor, but the mayor of entire Karachi.”

Mr Akhtar held out an olive branch to the government and paramilitary Rangers, saying together all the stakeholders could serve the people of Karachi better.

“Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah should lead us. He is our leader and custodian of the municipal system in Sindh according to the law. I pin my hopes on him and am confident that he will take us forward. We’ll have to do it jointly,” said Mr Akhtar.

“I have great respect for our law enforcement agencies — police and Rangers. You are the ones who are sacrificing your lives to keep us safe. We are with you. Bilal [Akbar, DG Rangers] Sahib! We’ll work jointly and make the city peaceful and bring its glory back.”

Mr Akhtar said he would work with all parties in the opposition and those who had won the election for district municipal corporations. Answering questions about allegations that he was responsible for the May 12, 2007, violence in Karachi, Mr Akhtar became his usual combative self and said: “If you have guts, go and implicate [retired general Pervez] Musharraf in the May 12 case.”

Mahfooz Yar Khan, an MQM lawmaker and Mr Akhtar’s counsel, expressed the hope that the mayor-elect would open an office in jail and establish a video link during sessions of the KMC. “He can run Karachi through video link for five years,” he said.

Besides the KMC, the MQM won DMCs East, Central and Korangi on its own. Its chairman won DMC West with the support of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. However, the results were withheld by the election authorities because of controversy.

Pakistan Peoples Party candidates clinched DMCs South and Malir and the Karachi District Council.

PPP candidates had already won eight districts in the interior of Sindh unopposed. They are: Sukkur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Jamshoro, Tando Muhammad Khan, Matiari, Sujawal, and Thatta. The MQM had secured Karachi Central unopposed.

The MQM’s Tayyab Hussain won the mayor seat in Hyderabad, along with his deputy.

The PPP’s Mohammed Aslam Shaikh and Anwar Ali Luhar were elected mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, of Larkana.

MQM candidates won the Mirpurkhas municipal committee, while almost all the remaining districts were secured by the PPP candidates, which included a six-vote victory in Badin against a son of the PPP’s rebel leader Zulfiqar Mirza.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016

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