Karachi mayor polls: 8 detained as unofficial results trigger clashes between JI, PPP

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Karachi, JUN 15: The Karachi police detained eight suspects on Thursday after clashes erupted between JI and PPP supporters outside the Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) where voting for the city’s mayor elections was under way.

South Deputy Inspector General (DGP) Irfan Ali Baloch told Dawn.com that clashes broke out after reports of PPP’s Barrister Murtaza Wahab winning the polls surfaced.

According to unofficial results reported by a Dawn.com correspondent, Wahab won the election for the seat of the mayor by acquiring 173 votes while JI’s Naeemur Rehman remained the runner-up.

An official result is yet to be announced.

However, immediately after unofficial results emerged, scuffles were reported between JI and PPP workers. Footage run on DawnNewsTV showed huge crowds of supporters pelting stones at security personnel blocking projectiles with their riot shields.

South Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Syed Asad Raza told Dawn.com that some JI supporters started raising slogans against their rivals which resulted in a clash between both parties and a “law and order situation”.

The official said the police attempted to control the situation by charging batons against enraged supporters. “During this, two to three JI members were injured.”

SSP Raza added that currently, a “peaceful sit-in” at the Arts Council Roundabout by the JI workers was under way.

Meanwhile, DIG Baloch said the police had chalked out a strategy to control the situation after 5pm when the official result of the elections would be announced.

“We hope that there would no further clashes but if any one attempted to spoil the situation, force would be used,” he told Dawn.com.

The DIG further stated that the leadership of both parties had given “assurances” to the law enforcers that they would not create any situation that may lead to law and order problems.

He added that all the roads leading to the ACP had now been cleared and reopened for the public.

On the other hand, JI spokesperson Zahid Askari told Dawn.com that the clash was initiated by the PPP, claiming that its workers threw stones at JI supporters.

Askari claimed five-six JI activists were injured during the baton charge and nearly a dozen others were “missing”.

PPP celebrates ‘win’, says peaceful protests allowed
In a tweet, PPP Chairperson and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he was honored for the “trust reposed in me and my party by the people of Pakistan”.

“In a historic first, PPP mayors were elected in Karachi and Hyderabad. The most progressive local bodies set up in South Asia with women, minorities, labourers, farmers, and the khawaja sira communities represented in local govt,” he tweeted.

Bilawal dedicated today’s win to the party’s martyrs and thanked the nation. “God willing, we will fulfill your expectations … this is the first step, we will move forward and also win general elections,” he said.

Separately, in a statement issued by PPP’s Media Cell, Bilawal congratulated Wahab.

He said PPP’s victory today did not just belong to the party but the entire country. “This success is the result of the long struggle and sacrifices of the jiyalas of Karachi.”

The statement quoted Bilawal as saying that the local government problems of every street, neighborhood, and area of ​​Karachi would be “solved without discrimination”.

The PPP’s Media Cell also quoted party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari congratulating all mayors, deputy mayors, district councilors, and “town’s chairman and deputy chairman”.

Especially conveying his felicitations to Wahab, the tweet quoted Zardari as saying, “The success of local elected representatives is the result of the workers’ hard work.” He also directed the victors to start their work from today.

In an official statement, Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah also congratulated, saying, “Today, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s vision of a jiyala becoming a mayor has won.”

On the other hand, talking to the media in Karachi, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon termed the JI a “fascist party”. He said they were allowed to protest peacefully but warned of taking action if they took the law into their own hands.

“A fascist party like the Jamaat handed weapons to students,” he said.

Memon claimed the JI “wanted the PPP to get them votes from the PTI”. He asked, “If the PTI supporters are sitting at their homes [and] no one is voting [for them] then what can we do?”

The PPP leader asserted, “If the JI would do hooliganism, we will not let anyone take the law into their hands. They can hold peaceful protests within the law. If anyone does vandalism, then the law will come into action.”

JI says will go to court, observe ‘Black Day’ tomorrow
In a press conference later in the day, JI’s Naeemur Rehman said that the “theft of public mandate” was unacceptable to the party.

“The people of the city voted for us. These delimitations were fake. They were only done to provide an advantage to one party,” he claimed.

But at the same time, Rehman said that it was his responsibility to protect “each and every vote” and refused to accept the newly-elected mayor. “Our fight is not against the PPP or Murtaza Wahab, it is against theft and dacoity.”

“It is against rigging done by the ECP. Our fight is for the people of Karachi, Pakistan, and the province of Sindh,” the JI leader asserted.

Rehman further stated that his party held the right to peaceful protests and would even approach the courts.

Earlier, JI chief Sirajul Haq also raised questions on the mayoral elections.

“The election of Karachi’s mayor through the kidnapping of elected candidates, buying of votes, and rigging is a big question on the Constitution and democracy,” he said in a tweet.

Terming the polls a “mockery of democracy”, he alleged that the collusion between the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Sindh government was “evident”.

In another tweet, the JI chief said his party would observe “Black Day” across the country tomorrow (June 16) and requested those who respected the Constitution to participate.

Separately, the JI also wrote a letter to the ECP, claiming that the electoral body had failed to fulfill its responsibility of holding free and fair polls.

It stated that the party had been repeatedly writing to the watchdog and apprised it of the “unethical” and “illegal” practices of the PPP but regretted that timely action was not taken.

“On the occasion of the mayor’s election, the gates of the voting hall were locked and 29 PTI members were forcibly abducted from their homes by their elite force in the process,” JI alleged, adding that the “majority was converted into a minority through deception”.

On the other hand, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “⁨PPP may have won but democracy has lost.”

Voting
Earlier, voting for the office of Karachi mayor and the deputy through a show of hands took place, with PPP’s Wahab and JI’s Rehman in a tough contest.

The polling process remained largely peaceful throughout the day. Entry to the venue was closed at 11am and members were not allowed to enter after that.

According to a Dawn.com correspondent, 32 out of the 62 PTI members failed to appear to cast their vote. Subsequently, the total number of UC members present was 333 out of 336.

Both Rehman and Wahab reached the polling venue amid huge crowds of supporters. JI supporters could be heard chanting “Hafiz, Hafiz” repeatedly as the JI candidate entered the Arts Council premises.

Speaking to reporters outside the voting venue, Wahab claimed his party had the required numbers to win the elections.

“Our numbers are complete. If Jamaat-i-Islami’s numbers are higher, will respect them,” Wahab — also the former Karachi administrator — said.

He added, “We will have to come out of allegations. We will have to work together on Karachi’s master plan.”

Meanwhile, three detained PTI leaders, including Firdous Shamim Naqvi, were brought to the Arts Council of Pakistan in armoured police vans.

The PTI also shared a video of Naqvi exiting the van.

As the polling began, PPP Senator Saeed Ghani claimed the PPP had a strength of 173 with the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) supporting it.

In a tweet, he said, “All 173 members of the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F have entered the election hall.”

In a prior tweet, he claimed the JI had not gathered its members even once in a show of power.

He said, “The PPP gathered its members twice during the election campaign for mayor/deputy mayor. The members’ attendance on both occasions was 100 per cent.

“Hafiz Naeem could not gather his members at one location even once. Today’s result is clear,” he added.

Although the PPP lacked a simple majority, it had emerged as the single-largest party in the 366-strong City Council — the electoral college for mayor and deputy mayor — following the January 15 local government elections and subsequent allocation of reserved seats.

On the other hand, the JI Karachi chief had the support of the PTI, in return for which the former has offered the PTI the seat of deputy mayor.

However, not all was well yet for the JI-PTI coalition as cracks have surfaced within the PTI’s city chapter with a group of elected UC chairmen and vice chairmen announcing plans to not follow their party decision and to abstain from the voting process.

JI laments PTI detentions
With several PTI leaders being under arrest following the May 9 incidents, the JI has been claiming that the PPP was pressuring PTI City Council members by having police raid their houses, abducting them and lodging false cases against them.

On May 29, JI’s Rehman also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court (SHC) seeking directives for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that City Council members be allowed to access polling places and cast votes of their free will.

He alleged that the ruling PPP had adopted all malpractices of rigging in the local government elections, including not only polling of bogus votes and causing harassment at polling stations but also tempering the results by pressuring the presiding and returning officers.

The JI chief further said that the ECP and the provincial election commissioner were not taking any action despite the fact that they were bound to arrange fair and free elections.

Subsequently, the SHC directed the provincial administration and police to ensure the production of some detained union committee (UC) chairmen and other elected representatives to enable them to cast their votes.