Karachi by-elections and the politics of ethnicity?

In the run up to the by-election of NA-246 on 23 April, the political trends seems to be shifting, and the PTI is developing into a key player in the city’s politics.  

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has historically been the dominant force in large parts of the city. Azizabad, especially, is considered their stronghold. The party has always thrived in Karachi because of the ethnicity slogans it gives to Muhajirs, the overwhelming majority of country’s biggest city.

But the trends seem to be changing lately. A whole new generation that was born in and around the period of ‘globalisation,’ is now taking interest in politics. This new tech-savvy generation’s take on culture, ethnicity and politics is different from its predecessors and it is desperate to find political expression.

The PTI has been successful in attracting this new generation as its first line of voters. The party not only secured the second slot in Karachi in 2013, it also occupied the same position in the second biggest urban centre of Pakistan, Lahore, where 11 of its 13 candidates stood second while one won.

The PTI still lacks maturity, and might have made some questionable decisions during the last year. The party also lacks the depth and breadth structurally that the MQM has built over the years. But despite these shortcomings, over half a million people in Karachi voted for the PTI in the 2013 elections and there appears to be a huge support for the party, as evident again by Imran Khan’s Thursday rally in Azizabad.

These developments make one wonder if the middle classes across Pakistan’s diverse ethnic map finally struck a common chord?

1500 hours
Friday 10 April 2015

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