You are here: Home / Academia / Electoral Evolution – Lahore and Karachi
Electoral Evolution – Lahore and Karachi

Electoral Evolution – Lahore and Karachi

Apart from a whole host of other differences, Karachi and Lahore have had starkly different electoral histories. Plowing through electoral data from 1970 till the 2008 general election, there’s a clear trajectory that both cities have taken, which has seen the transfer of power from one type of political actor to another. The evolution, in some senses, is quite indicative of the changing nature of both cities, and their place in national-level politics. For the sake of this analysis, the starting point is Pakistan’s first general election, held on universal adult franchise basis, in 1970.

As the story goes, the PPP dominated Punjab and Sindh in the 1970 election, securing an absolute majority in West Pakistan based on its performance in the two most populous sub-units of the western wing. The second chapter in this story is that PPP swept urban Punjab with a largely inexperienced candidate pool, many of whom had only entered into politics through Field Marshal Ayub’s Basic Democracies system in the preceding decade.

National Assembly Results, 1970 – Lahore

Seat Winning Party Runners Up Third Place
Lahore I PPP PDP PML (Conv.)
Lahore II PPP JI MJUP
Lahore III PPP PML (Coun) PML (Conv)
Lahore IV PPP JI PML (Conv)
Lahore V PPP Independent PML (Coun)
Lahore VI PPP MJUP NAP (B)
Lahore VII PPP MJAHP PML (Conv)
Lahore VIII PPP PML (Coun) JI

(PPP: Pakistan Peoples Party, JI: Jamaat Islami, PDP: Pakistan Democratic Party, PML (Conv): Convention, PML (Coun): Council, MJUP: Markazi Jamiat-e-Ulema-Pakistan, MJAHP: Markazi Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith, NAP (B): National Awami Party Bhashani)

 Not only did the PPP win every single National Assembly constituency in Lahore, it completely decimated the opposition with hugely demoralizing vote margins. The average victory margin for a PPP candidate in Lahore in 1970 was roughly 35,000 votes.

 National Assembly Results, 1970 – Karachi

Seat Winning Party Runners Up Third Place
Karachi I MJUP PPP JI
Karachi II PPP JI Independent
Karachi III PPP MJUP PML (Coun)
Karachi IV JI MJUP NAP (B)
Karachi V JI MJUP PPP
Karachi VI Independent MJUP PML (Coun)
Karachi VII MJUP PPP JI

 

(PPP: Pakistan Peoples Party, JI: Jamaat Islami, PDP: Pakistan Democratic Party, PML (Conv): Convention, PML (Coun): Council, MJUP: Markazi Jamiat-e-Ulema-Pakistan, MJAHP: Markazi Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith, NAP (B): National Awami Party Bhashani)

 On the other hand, the story in Karachi is quite different. The religious parties, specifically the Jamaat Islami and the Markazi Jamiat-e-Ulema-Pakistan, did quite well. The seats were closely contested, but the PPP could only secure 2 out of the 7, and was runners up on two more. The religious parties won 4 out of 7, while the remaining seat was won by Maulana Zafar Ahmad Ansari – contesting as an independent candidate, backed by the Jamaat Islami.

Without passing judgment on the social fabric of either city, it is reasonable to assert that the religious parties were, electorally speaking, better organized in Karachi, while the same was true for the PPP – a left-of-center party –  in Lahore.

The reason why I brought this particular facet of urban politics up is because of certain tropes related to the social milieu of Pakistan’s two largest cities. Karachi, a far more cosmopolitan, capitalistic city, is said to be socially more liberal than the rather staid, deeply provincial, largely homogenous capital of Punjab. The thing is that by most accounts, this is probably true. What’s even more interesting is that this is an evolutionary outcome, one that is quite adequately captured in the electoral history of Karachi and Lahore.

The next party-based general election – held in 1988 – gave an indication of things to come for Lahore. The PPP retained its grip over Lahore, jubilant after Benazir’s arrival amidst much fanfare a year or so ago, and captured 6 out of the 9 seats on offer. Its biggest rival was the center-right coalition, Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, comprising Mian Nawaz Sharif’s faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (then known as the PML-Forward Bloc, JI, JUI (D), Khakshar Party, Markazi Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, Azad Group, Nizami-i-Mustafa Group, Hizbe Jihad, and Jamiah Masheikh.

National Assembly Results, 1988 – Lahore

 

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Lahore I Pakistan Awami Ittehad PPP
Lahore II PPP IJI
Lahore III PPP Independent
Lahore IV IJI PPP
Lahore V PPP IJI
Lahore VI PPP IJI
Lahore VII IJI PPP
Lahore VIII PPP IJI
Lahore IX PPP IJI

 

The situation however had completely changed in Karachi during the previous decade and a half. The religious parties, once dominant in local government and general elections in the city, lost out to the secular, and (at the time) ethno-nationalist, MQM. It remains pertinent to note that all 11 of MQM’s winning candidates had contested as ‘independents’, and not on an MQM/Haq Parast Group ticket.

 

National Assembly Results, 1988 – Karachi

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Karachi I PPP Independent
Karachi II MQM PPP
Karachi III MQM IJI
Karachi IV MQM IJI
Karachi V MQM IJI
Karachi VI PPP IJI
Karachi VII MQM Independent
Karachi VIII MQM Independent
Karachi IX MQM PPP
Karachi X MQM IJI
Karachi XI MQM PPP
Karachi XII MQM PPP
Karachi XIII MQM PPP

 

By 1990, the tide had completely turned in Lahore. The conservative right-wing coalition led by Nawaz Sharif outmuscled the PPP in the city, ably helped by the latter’s abdication of its traditional support base – the working class and rural population, and the middle-class intelligentsia’s preference for a Muslim League faction populated by socially conservative businessmen.

The shift, nonetheless, is very stark, and leads to three possible explanations: 1) Damage to the left-of-center PPP had been done during the eighties, and its success in the 1988 election was an anomaly due to Benazir’s arrival. 2) The 1990 election was massively rigged, and denied the PPP its share of seats in Lahore, 3) An 18 month long stint at the federal government level was enough to dissuade Lahore’s voting population from choosing the PPP over the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad. (Personally, explanation 1 in the light of explanation 2 makes a lot of sense to me).

 

National Assembly Results, 1990 – Lahore

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Lahore I IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore II PPP/PDA IJI
Lahore III IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore IV IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore V IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore VI IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore VII IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore VIII IJI PPP/PDA
Lahore IX IJI PPP/PDA

In Karachi, the MQM tightened its grip, the PPP won only one seat, and the right-wing parties struggled to make an electoral impact in the city.

National Assembly Results, 1990 – Karachi

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Karachi I MQM PPP/PDA
Karachi II MQM PPP/PDA
Karachi III MQM IJI
Karachi IV MQM PPP/PDA
Karachi V MQM Independent
Karachi VI PPP IJI
Karachi VII MQM JUP
Karachi VIII MQM IJI
Karachi IX MQM IJI
Karachi X MQM IJI
Karachi XI MQM PPP/PDA
Karachi XII MQM PPP/PDA
Karachi XIII MQM PPP/PDA

 

National Assembly Results, 1993 – Lahore

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Lahore I PMLN PPP
Lahore II PMLN PPP
Lahore III PMLN PPP
Lahore IV PMLN PPP
Lahore V PMLN PPP
Lahore VI PMLN PPP
Lahore VII PMLN PPP
Lahore VIII PMLN PPP
Lahore IX PPP PMLN

 

National Assembly Results, 1993 – Karachi (MQM boycotted)

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Karachi I PMLN PPP
Karachi II PPP PMLN
Karachi III PMLN JI
Karachi IV PPP JI
Karachi V JI PMLN
Karachi VI PMLN PMLN
Karachi VII PPP PMLN
Karachi VIII PMLN PPP
Karachi IX PMLN PPP
Karachi X PMLN Independent
Karachi XI PPP PMLN
Karachi XII PPP PMLN
Karachi XIII PPP PMLN

 

National Assembly Results, 1997 – Lahore

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Lahore I PMLN PMLJ
Lahore II PMLN PPP
Lahore III PMLN PPP
Lahore IV PMLN PPP
Lahore V PMLN PPP
Lahore VI PMLN PPP
Lahore VII PMLN PPP
Lahore VIII PMLN PPP
Lahore IX Independent PMLN

 

National Assembly Results, 1997 – Karachi

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Karachi I PMLN MQM
Karachi II MQM PPP
Karachi III MQM PMLN
Karachi IV MQM PMLN
Karachi V MQM PMLN
Karachi VI PPP PMLN
Karachi VII MQM PMLN
Karachi VIII MQM MQM
Karachi IX PMLN PMLN
Karachi X MQM PMLN
Karachi XI MQM PMLN
Karachi XII MQM PMLN
Karachi XIII MQM PPP

 

Despite Musharraf’s coup, and the eventual fracturing of PMLN’s candidate pool, the party still managed to win 4 out of 13 seats in the city – more than any other party. It had seat adjustments with three Islamist party candidates, who contested and won under the MMA banner, and the PPP bagged three seats – its best haul in Lahore for over a decade. Musharraf’s PMLQ won two seats, in extremely dubious circumstances.

 

National Assembly Results, 2002 – Lahore

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Lahore I MMA PMLQ
Lahore II PMLN PPP
Lahore III PMLN PPP
Lahore IV MMA PMLQ
Lahore V PMLN PTI
Lahore VI PMLN PPP
Lahore VII PPP MMA
Lahore VIII PMLQ PMLN
Lahore IX MMA PPP
Lahore X PAT PMLQ
Lahore XI PPP PMLN
Lahore XII PMLQ PMLN
Lahore XIII PPP PMLQ

 

National Assembly Results, 2002 – Karachi

The Islamist revival in Karachi – short lived and heavily influenced by the powers-that-be, resulted in 5 seats for the MMA in 2002, while most of the rest were taken up by the MQM. The PPP could win only one seat.

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Karachi I MMA PPP
Karachi II MQM MMA
Karachi III MMA MQM
Karachi IV MQM MMA
Karachi V MQM MMA
Karachi VI MQM MMA
Karachi VII MQM MMA
Karachi VIII MQM MMA
Karachi IX MQM MMA
Karachi X PPP MMA
Karachi XI MQM MMA
Karachi XII MMA MQM
Karachi XIII MQM MMA
Karachi XIV MMA MQM
Karachi XV MMA MQM
Karachi XVI MQM MMA
Karachi XVII MQM (H) MMA
Karachi XVIII MQM MMA
Karachi XIX MQM MMA
Karachi XX PPP Independent

 

All of this brings us to 2008, and what were probably the fairest elections in over two decades. This is, for all purposes, the status quo in the two cities, which Imran Khan – amongst others – are hoping to unhinge.

 

National Assembly Results, 2008 – Lahore

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Lahore I PMLN PPP
Lahore II PMLN PPP
Lahore III PMLN PPP
Lahore IV PMLN PPP
Lahore V PMLN Independent
Lahore VI PMLN PPP
Lahore VII PMLN PPP
Lahore VIII PMLN PPP
Lahore IX PMLN PPP
Lahore X PMLN PPP
Lahore XI PMLN PPP
Lahore XII PPP PMLQ
Lahore XIII PPP PMLN

 

National Assembly Results, 2008 – Karachi

 

Seat Winning Party Runners Up
Karachi I PPP MQM
Karachi II MQM PPP
Karachi III MQM ANP
Karachi IV MQM PPP
Karachi V MQM PPP
Karachi VI MQM PPP
Karachi VII MQM PPP
Karachi VIII MQM PPP
Karachi IX MQM PPP
Karachi X PPP Independent
Karachi XI MQM PPP
Karachi XII MQM PPP
Karachi XIII MQM PMLN
Karachi XIV MQM PPP
Karachi XV MQM PPP
Karachi XVI MQM PPP
Karachi XVII MQM PPP
Karachi XVIII MQM PPP
Karachi XIX MQM PPP
Karachi XX PPP MQM

Percentage seat-share in Lahore

(Center-Right/Right-Wing includes all factions of the Pakistan Muslim League, and all religious parties)

Percentage Seat Share Lahore

 

Percentage seat-share in Karachi

(Center-Right/Right-Wing includes all factions of the Pakistan Muslim League, and all religious parties)

Percentage seat share Karachi

 

From being a city dominated by a left-of-center party till 1988, Lahore’s become – electorally speaking – a staunchly conservative place, where a particular kind of political entrepreneur from a particular kind of party does really well. On the other hand, Karachi has gone from being a city politicized by Islamic parties to one largely controlled by a secular, anti-Taliban party. The graphs and tables both show a firming up of these trends over the last few electoral cycles, and I suppose that should remain a primary point of interest for this election as well. That said, there’s little to suggest that path-dependency hasn’t kicked in, and that these electoral preferences will not stick for the current election. Even if the PTI makes headway in Lahore, it would’ve done so by utilising a middle-tier of politicians schooled in center-right/right-wing parties in Punjab, and by tapping into the electoral preferences of Lahore’s conservative population. As far as I see it, the status-quo – in terms of voter preference – will continue for this election as well. And that’s one prediction I don’t need to think twice about before making.

About Umair Javed

Umair is a political economy researcher based at the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP).

Comments are closed.