Political rivalries and the ensuing violence in Karachi over the years established a governance gap that, despite local government elections, could not be addressed since there was nowhere to function. Karachi’s government has been a disorganized mess for far too long, with no one sure of their own power. The PPP, which has held on to the Sindh government for years, and the MQM, which views Karachi as its primary constituency, have historically been the two dominant political forces in the city. The long-running political conflict between the two parties had significantly hampered Karachi’s governance, halting much of the city’s progress.
The MQM had claimed, perhaps legitimately, that the provincial government had taken away the majority of the authority those belonged to municipal representatives, leaving mayors (mainly MQM members) with diminished authority. The Jamaat-e-Islami, a well-known candidate among Karachi voters, and the PTI, a newcomer that received a sizable number of votes in the 2018 elections, are also present amid all of this.
Murtaza Wahab becomes the first PPP mayor of Karachi in 2023. With charges of gerrymandering, kidnappings, and rigging abounding, a tight race between Wahab and the JI’s Hafiz Naeemur Rehman ended with an elected mayor whose election has been denied by the JI and the PTI both. These are the figures: Hafiz Naeemur Rehman received 160 votes, while Murtaza Wahab received 173 votes. The result is obvious from simple maths; Wahab triumphs. However, that is where the allegations made by the JI get hazy. According to the JI, the PTI UC chairpersons supported it. But that assistance did not materialize. At the time of the vote, 32 members—31 from the PTI and one from the—were not present.
The PPP is accused of using pressure to prevent these votes from passing, according to the JI and PTI. In the local government elections, the JI mostly ran a polished campaign, relying on Hafiz Naeemur Rehman’s credibility and the good memories of Karachi’s residents for when Naimatullah Khan served as mayor in 2001 and provided improved services. The JI had adopted the single motto “service delivery” after identifying the core of Karachi’s issues: governance (or lack thereof). Due to the MQM’s stupid boycott of the polls, the PPP was also in a do-or-die position since the party was finally getting much closer than ever before to winning the coveted Karachi mayor post.
The PPP must understand that it needs to gain the city’s credibility given that Murtaza Wahab is serving as mayor. The residents of Karachi are worn out and irate, and there is an overwhelming feeling of neglect in a city that feels as though it has only once given and never really received anything back. The city desperately needs local organizations that work for its people and can provide them with some level of stability and growth because it has experienced violence, weak governance, and uncertainty for such a long time. It’s time to leave behind the violent, poorly run, and hopeless Karachi and replace it with one that can accommodate all the many stakeholders.
Can we hold hope that Salman Murad, the new mayor and deputy mayor, who is also a member of the PPP, will be able to approach the JI and the PTI and propose to collaborate with them to run this city? The PPP, JI, MQM-P, and PTI will ultimately merely need to cooperate in Karachi, which has declined in nearly all metrics of city governance. Now that we have a mayor who is affiliated with same political group that controls the provincial government, there is practically no justification for poor governance remaining. With enough influence, money, willpower, and backing from the province, Karachi C might finally receive the attention it needs.