The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Thursday won the by-elections on the NA-240 constituency of Karachi in a contest with very low voter turnout that was marred by violence.
According to unofficial results, MQM-P’s Mohammad Abubakar secured 10,683 votes, narrowly defeating Shahzada Shahbaz of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), who secured 10,618 votes. Third position was secured by Muhajir Qaumi Movement candidate Syed Rafiuddin with 8,349 votes, while the PPP’s Nasir Rahim came in fourth with 5,240 votes and the Pak Sarzameen Party’s Shabbir Kaimkhani was fifth with 4,782 votes. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) boycotted the polls. Overall, 25 candidates contested the seat, which had fallen vacant after the death of MQM-P MNA Muhammad Ali Khan earlier this year.
The MQM-P had won this constituency during the 2018 general elections as well, but the significant narrowing of its victory margin—from over 30,000 votes to less than 70—would likely provoke some cause for concern among the party leadership. However, some observers have noted that the by-elections had record-low turnout—just 8.32 percent in a constituency of over 500,000 voters—suggesting this might also have impacted how the votes were tallied.
The thin margin of victory for the MQM-P, meanwhile, has prompted the TLP to seek a recount of the vote. Addressing a rally, TLP chief Saad Rizvi alleged that ballot boxes had been “stolen” from some polling stations and 74 votes for his party had been rejected. “Such incidents are raising questions on the role of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP),” he said, adding that an application had been filed for recounting so the reality could be revealed.
While the polls continued uninterrupted until 5 p.m., the day was marred by violence, with one activist of the PSP shot dead and several others injured. PSP chief Mustafa Kamal blamed the TLP for the violence, rejecting the rival party’s claims of retaliating to attacks on its supporters. He alleged that the TLP had used weapons, adding that if authorities could not control the situation, they should arm his party as well so it could respond in kind.
The TLP, meanwhile, has claimed that several of its party workers were injured in the clashes and it was the “losers” who had resorted to violence. Condemning the incident, MQM-P’s Rabita Committee alleged that it was committed by “thugs” of both the PSP and TLP, adding that it had been intended to hamper the polling process.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah had taken notice of the incident and directed Sindh Inspector-General of Police Ghulam Nabi Memon to take action against those involved in the violence. Speaking with media, Karachi Additional Inspector-General of Police Javed Alam Odho said a case would be registered against people involved in the violence, adding that initial reports suggested over 200 people were responsible.