WEB DESK: Thursday’s by-elections in NA-245 and PS-115, keenly watched for the impact, or lack of it, the MQM dissidents led by Mustafa Kamal might have caused on the party’s constituency politics, but the event produced a dramatic surprise of a different kind.
In an unprecedented move PTI candidate for the National Assembly seat, Amjadullah Khan, stood down in favour of MQM’s Kamal Malick hours before the polling, also quitting his party to join the MQM. An embarrassed PTI leader Imran Ismael accused the MQM of having bribed the candidate to change loyalty. The PPP levelled similar allegations after its candidate managed to secure just 1000 votes against Malick’s 39,800.
For the MQM the results brought a double triumph: an electoral win and the opportunity to get back at its deserters and detractors. Accusing the party critics of following double standards, senior leader Farooq Sattar averred “those who deserted the MQM were declared men of conscience but those joining the MQM are accused of taking bribe.”
The present case is rather different, however. The PTI defector claimed he was disappointed with the party’s policies and the attitude of its leader, Imran Khan, and hence he chose to work with the MQM. Surely, there is nothing new in this country about people changing party allegiances, but this is the first time ever for someone to become a party’s electoral candidate and bolt at a crucial moment. A morally correct decision for him to make would have been to part ways with the PTI before accepting its candidature. His former colleagues would not be so wrong to accuse him of stabbing the party in the back.
His was a side-show though, even if important for the bad light it has shown on the PTI’s internal organisational matters. As regards the main event, although both seats were previously held by the MQM loyalists who had resigned to contest local government elections, given the present trying times for it regaining those seats means quite a lot in terms of the party’s appeal to its traditional constituencies.
Still, it is not without significance that the voter turnout was extremely low, a mere 11 percent in the case of the National Assembly seat, which is attributable to the PTI’s candidate withdrawing in favour of the MQM, thereby rendering the contest-the PPP had a weak presence in the constituency-a pointless exercise from the voters perspective.
But the turnout in the provincial assembly polls was even poorer- just 8 percent. Indeed, by-elections normally are a low participation affair, but not so in high stakes situations like the present one. It is a matter of guess whether the voter indifference had something to do with the traditional MQM voters shifting allegiance to Mustafa Kamal’s breakaway faction or a general disillusionment. Whatever the reason the result does not completely satisfy the curiosity the electoral contest had created.
Source: Business Recorder