Tensions Surge in Karachi Ahead of General Elections

Violent clashes erupt between political parties as election fervor rises

Karachi: Tensions are escalating in Pakistan's largest city of Karachi as the country gears up for the general elections on February 8 with several clashes already taking place between the contesting parties vying for national and provincial assembly seats.

On Monday, violent clashes erupted in Nazimanad, resulting in the death of a worker from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM Pakistan) and injuries to three others during an exchange of gunfire with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers.

A day earlier on Sunday, heavy contingents of police baton charged, fired tear gas shells and forcibly dispersed an election rally of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in Clifton area. At least 25 people, including some policemen, were injured in the fiasco.

The PPP stronghold over the southern Sindh province, particularly Karachi -- also Pakistan's financial hub, faces a challenge as various parties compete fiercely in the upcoming elections.

The Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto-led PPP's hold on Sindh and Karachi has remained even when the Khan-led PTI formed the government in the last elections in 2018 and also during the Shahbaz Sharif-led coalition government formed in 2022 after a vote of no confidence ended the PTI governance.

However, despite the PPP's enduring influence in Sindh and Karachi, in the prevailing political scenario, there is a potential for shift in power dynamics, according to political observers.

The PPP, MQM-P, PTI, Jamaat-e-Islaami, and some independent candidates are the key players for the elections in Karachi. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which is predicted to win the national elections, appears to have a limited stake in the port city, and is directing its focus on other provinces.

The intensifying pre-election violence in Karachi is exacerbated by the participation of former elected MQM members and its splinter groups as well as PTI members contesting as independent candidates. Reports of clashes between supporters of PPP, PTI, and MQM-P have surfaced in various areas since the commencement of the poll campaign last week.

Complicating the situation further, the rival parties view each other as sworn enemies. Accusations of strong-arm tactics by the PPP, particularly against MQM-P and Jamaat-e-Islaami, add to the animosity.

In the incident on Sunday at the Teen Talwar in Clifton, a favoured venue for political events, police crackdown on the PTI rally, claiming they did not obtain prior permission for holding the campaign in the Red Zone. However, the party said it was being deprived of its constitutional right to campaign.

According to eyewitnesses and officials, several workers of the PTI reached the venue, responding to a call of their incarcerated party founder and former prime minister Khan.

“The trouble broke out when heavy contingents of police attempted to break the rally, which was resisted by the PTI workers, leading to baton charge, tear-gassing and other violence confrontations,” an eyewitness said.

Videos circulating on social media showed policemen stomping on PTI banners and flags and hitting the workers with batons. The PTI workers retaliated by pelting stones at the police, causing injuries to some of them.

PTI's spokesperson for Karachi, Falak Almas, said at least 30 workers were injured in the police action

( Source : ANI )
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