The decision of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) chairman, Imran Khan, to contest the upcoming elections from Karachi comes as a shock to many. Karachi has been one of the most chaotic constituencies in the past four years. We have witnessed the Rangers Operation targeted especially to rooting out extremist elements in the city, the break up of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) into two factions, and at the same time Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) dedicated effort to regain ground.

Karachi is going to be an important constituency in the upcoming elections. The breakup of MQM has created a divide amongst the voters. It is a good opportunity for PTI to cash in on this divide and lure voters their way. However this is traditional PPP ground. The party may not have succeeded in retaining influence over the rest of the country but they know their area well. PTI, if it wants to get that seat, will have to have an organised strategy that focuses entirely on party organisation, the mobility of people, and putting out an agenda that focuses on policies rather than just criticism of the opposing parties. It is definitely going to be an intriguing race to follow as the traditional PPP and MQM rivalry will be jolted.

At the same time, it must also be considered that PTI as a party has completely ignored Karachi and its problems in the last four years. After the 2013 elections, in which Imran Khan did make a couple of visits to Karachi, the constituency has been left untouched. Their main focus has been Punjab. It will be challenging for the party to situate itself in the political scene of the city right around the time of the elections. It would take more than just criticism of institutions, mafias and the infrastructure to convince the voters that PTI is dedicated towards working for the area.

While the party succeeds in pointing out issues relevant to the masses, that narrative never translates into votes. PTI now needs to think of effective policy choices that will encourage people to vote for the party because winning legal battles has only translated into more support for mainstream parties. While this risky decision of the party will create momentum in the political scene of Karachi, Imran Khan contesting in the area will not result into votes.