Jamia Ashrafia administrator Asad Ubaid is contesting for the chairman’s seat on a PML-N ticket
The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf candidates in union council no199 (Shah Jamal) allege that their rival from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is using religion to seek votes. They also accuse Hafiz Asad Ubaid, who is the administrator of Jamia Ashrafia – a leading Deobandi seminary in the city – of harassing their supporters.
The UC includes upscale areas of Shah Jamal and Shadman Colony, neighbourhoods in the vicinity of Jamia Ashrafia, Ashrafia Park, and a katchi abadi.
JI candidate Ahmed Raza Butt says he has received several harassment complaints from his supporters. He says bands of students associated with Ubaid routinely visit areas where support for his opponents is strong and threaten people with dire consequences if they don’t vote for him.
Butt, a property consultant, was elected a general councillor in 2001 and 2005 elections. “People are tired of those who use religion to do their politics. They are tired of maulvis (clerics),” he says. He says the election in the UC will be highly competitive but he is not worried. “A close election is good for the people of the area. The contestants will be forced to listen to the people’s demands,” he says.
PTI candidate Sheikh Imran, who is contesting his first election, says in one such incident Ubaid’s supporters had fired gunshots in the air to harass his workers and supporters. He says his supporters had registered a complaint with the police.
“He [Hafiz] uses fear to exert his influence,” he says. Imran says he is asking voters to reject old faces. “They have delivered nothing to the people,” he says.
Ubaid, a former nazim, rejects his opponents’ charges and says the firing incident was related to a neighbourhood feud. “It had nothing to do with politics,” he says. In fact, he says, he advocates interfaith harmony and has reached out to the Christian population in his constituency for support. “There are at least 6,000 Christians in the UC,” he says.
Speaking to The Tribune, he says he has been active in politics of the area from early 1990s. He says he has intimate knowledge of the problems faced by people in the constituency.
He says the absence of elected local governments has taken a toll on the state of municipal services in the area. The Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) has a field office in Fazilia Colony, yet the state of water supply infrastructure in the neighbourhood is quite poor.
About his disqualification from the 2005 local government elections on the polling day, Ubaid says it was done as part of a concerted effort by the then federal government to prevent those associated with the PML-N from contesting elections. In the recent NA-122 by-poll, he says he led his party’s campaign in the area.
An independent candidate is also running for the chairman seat in the UC. Haider Zaman Khan says he is a PML-N supporter but decided to run as an independent after his party refused him the ticket. In 2005, he had won a deputy nazim seat with support from the Pakistan Peoples Party. Khan, an advocate, is a resident of Fazilia Colony
Voters in the neigbhourhood say they will support whoever makes a convincing commitment to revamping the drainage system. They say the poor sewerage infrastructure causes flooding of streets and roads every monsoon.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.