Shahbaz Begins Poll Campaign From Karachi–‘Gotham City’ In Search of ‘Spiderman’

IRSHAD SALIM (JUN 25, 2018): Former Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif arrived in Karachi today on a two-day visit to kick-start Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz’s (PML-N) election campaign from NA-249 Karachi West-II constituency vowing to be an ‘agent of change’ for the metropolis’ down and under neighborhoods facing basic needs and civic issues for decades.

Addressing an event at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Karachi, the president of PML-N said,”Karachi is the nerve center of Pakistan” — a reality long ignored by parties competing for turf at the expense of its over 20 million populace of mixed socio-cultural, cast, creed, language and ethnicity.

Having effectively delivered results in Lahore– Punjab’s capital city, the ‘Khadim-i-Ala’ (as he’s called by his supporters and critics alike) appears to be laying groundwork of PML-N’s plan to declare the two of country’s largest metropolis twin cities, say some politicos.

He told the business community that Karachi was not given the recognition it should be given in the Middle East, as every government whether political or military failed in their endeavor.

So what are his plans?

Shahbaz said all that had happened to Karachi should be forgotten and everyone should focus on the present and future of the port city mindful that the city is still a stronghold of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) whom he visited twice within a week several weeks ago including inviting City Mayor Wasim Akhtar (of MQM) over to Lahore for a chit-chat.

He claimed that if his party PML-N gets the chance, they would try to resolve four major issues faced by Karachiites for as long as 1990s. Ironically, PML-N was in power in the Center thrice during the period, and failed to create enabling environment so that successive provincial governments led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — its Charter of Democracy partner — could go easy on political vendetta the latter engaged in with the Muttahida at the cost of country’s economic powerhouse ultimately becoming a Gotham City. Muttahida is equally to be blamed though.

Shahbaz said they would resolve the issue of water, power outage, garbage dumps and public transport infrastructure in the city.

The PML-N president further claimed that during PML-N’s tenure, 90% issue of load-shedding had been solved but the results did not significantly trickle down to the metropolis — partly to be blamed on K-Electric and Wapda evergoing fued on supply/demand and outstanding bills.

While he also gave the credit to the PML-N for ‘starting’ China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Shahbaz said all these efforts were made by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. That would be according to many observers gerrymandering decades old collective effort first launched back in 2006 as “energy corridor”. Yes, piggybacking the CPEC with $24b to $30b costs of power plants the country needed urgently and in near future on a $12 billion roads, highways and railway infrastructure project  was an afterthought — again included sometime between 2010 and 2012.

Other things being equal, Shahbaz’s foray in Karachi politics could yield surprise results, and given his personal style and administrative acumen, he could be the ‘Spiderman’ but he has a strong contender in Imran Khan — both hate each other’s guts. But many economic migrants say it’s good for the city’s progress and cleanup.

According to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PML-N president will hold a rally in NA-249 from where he is contesting election. She said during his visit Mr Sharif would also meet workers in Lyari and Malir, party minority wing, businessmen and senior journalists.

Shahbaz will also visit NA-249 constituency to woo constituents to vote for him.

The main political parties contending for NA-249 Karachi 2018 seats are MQM, PTI, PPP, PMLN, JI and PSP. But he’s expected to face tough competition from PPP and PTI. As for MQM which has been winning in the original constituency, PML-N might cut a deal, some politicos say.

The constituency has undergone some changes and modifications made by the Election Commission. Nevertheless, it comprises of a mix population including Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabis, Pashtuns and the Urdu-speaking ‘Muhajirs’. No single ethnic group forms established majority in the district, say independent observers.

Major portions of Lyari, Baldia, Keamari, Orangi and SITE areas of the metropolis fall within the NA-249 District West-II. Over the years, the populace in these localities have been  particularly witnessing growing negligence in delivery of water, power, garbage and transport needs, several observers have said.

The PML-N President had earlier announced contesting the polls from Karachi’s three constituencies: NA-248, NA-249 and NA-250. Now he’s focused on NA-249 with an eye to win and possibly make history if his team has done their homework right — and most importantly no gang-war hero or villain appear or black swan event occurs, the observers say.

On Sunday, Shahbaz said in Lahore that Pakistan will suffer an irreparable loss if the July 25 polls are not held in a free and transparent manner. He may be alluding to NA-249 also.

“If this happens it will undermine all the progress that has been made in the past few years and the real essence of democracy and supremacy of ballot will stand compromised. Preventing rigging and promoting fair, free and transparent polls is our goal,” Shahbaz said during a meeting with a delegation of PML-N lawyers wing in Model Town, Lahore.

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