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Senior leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement have been trotting the country in recent months, rallying support for the party in Punjab and the Hazara belt. But the party’s main support continues to be in the port city.
Karachi is the MQM’s political fortress.
When MQM leaders took part in the 1998 General Elections for the first time; they had contested as independent candidates. Since then the party has bagged the lion’s share of National Assembly seats from this city. In the most recent elections, the party won no fewer than 17 out of 20 National Assembly seats from Karachi.
In 1997, the MQM which at that time had fielded candidates under the Haq Parast Group label, had bagged 10 out of 13 NA seats from this city. In the 2002 General Elections, the party managed to win 12 seats, while the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal bagged five NA seats from Karachi.
At that time, MQM had initially planned to boycott the polls, only to field candidates at the eleventh hour.
Even so, the three NA seats lost to the MMA were lost by paltry margins. In NA-241, the MQM candidate lost by just 479 votes. In NA-250 and NA-253, the margin was less than 3,000 votes. On the other hand, the party’s lead in the constituencies it won in 2008, was hefty as it led by an average of more than 28,000 votes.
After a stellar performance in the 2005 Local Government Elections, the MQM initiated and completed a number of mega-projects for infrastructure development and civic services. The citizens of Karachi appreciated the effort put in by then-Mayor Mustafa Kamal and the MQM’s Local Government.
As a result, voters turned out like never before in the 2008 General Elections. The MQM didnt just win 17 NA seats in those elections; it annihilated the competition. Of course, Jamaat-e-Islami’s decision to boycott those polls, also helped clear the field for MQM.
In eight constituencies, MQM’s candidates won by a margin of more than 100,000 votes. In another seven constituencies of the NA, the party’s candidates led by more than 30,000 votes each.
Three NA seats from the city have so far eluded MQM. NA-239, NA-248 and NA258 have been won by either Pakistan Peoples Party or Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, in both the 2002 and 2008 General Elections.
Recent delimitation of constituencies in Karachi has been interpreted as a threat to election prospects by MQM, which has also challenged the same in the Sindh High Court. Besides, NA-249 and NA-250 can be considered constituencies where the party may feel threatened, despite having bagged both in the previous election.