Pakistani cricket hero Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Party secured victory in a repeat election held in one constituency of violence-plagued Karachi, election officials said yesterday.
Voting was held under tight security in 43 polling stations on Sunday, a day after PTI women’s wing vice president Zara Shahid Hussain was shot dead outside her home in the city.
Khan blamed the killing on the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Party, which has a stranglehold on the city, and specially its leader, Altaf Hussain. The MQM furiously denied the claims and demanded Khan issue a retraction.
Polling was re-run after complaints of ballot-stuffing in Karachi’s upmarket A-250 constituency during the May 11 general election.
The PTI’s Arif Alvi secured 77,659 votes to beat his closest rival, the MQM’s Khushbakht Shujaat, who polled 30,365 votes, Pakistani Election Commission spokesman Najib Ahmed said, giving the unofficial results.
The outcome was not a surprise as the MQM boycotted Sunday’s partial polls after its demand for re-polling in the entire constituency was rejected by the commission.
“Our victory in Karachi marks a new era of peace, tolerance,” Alvi said. “The people have shown their strong will for a change in the political landscape of this city, which is the backbone of the country in all terms.”
The MQM has long dominated in Karachi, but lost seats at the election and senior party leader Farooq Sattar rejected the results of what he called the “farcical” re-run poll.
Altaf Hussain is accused of murder in Pakistan and leads his party remotely from exile in England. His party is designated a terrorist organization by Canada, a charge it strongly denies.
In recent days, he gave a speech which many Pakistanis felt was an incitement to attack political rivals. British police are probing whether it constitutes a hate speech.
The attack in the upscale Defence area, the family neighborhood of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, capped a bloody election campaign in which about 150 people were killed nationwide.
Pakistan’s May 11 general elections handed a landslide victory to opposition leader abd former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. However, Imran’s campaign electrified many Pakistanis, pushing the PTI from a marginal party to Pakistan’s third-largest.
Last week’s general election gave the MQM 18 of 19 Pakistani National Assembly seats in Karachi. Now the PTI has one seat, according to the unofficial results.
Both the MQM and the PTI yesterday called for protests that often turn violent in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, which typically sees about a dozen murders a day.
Karachi generates about half of the central’s government’s revenue and stability in the city is key to stability of the whole country.
Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi yesterday granted bail to former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf over Bhutto's murder, court official Mohammad Aslam Joya said, but he remains under house arrest.
Judge Habibur Rehman has ordered Musharraf to pay two bonds worth 1 million rupees (US$10,000) each, Joya added.
Musharraf has been detained in his farmhouse on the edge of Islamabad since April 19 on charges of conspiracy to murder Bhutto, who was assassinated in a gun and bomb attack in 2007.
The bail does not mean his automatic release as he faces other legal cases.
This story has been amended since it was first published.