How the PTI is killing its own electoral momentum | Pakistan Today

How the PTI is killing its own electoral momentum

There are bigger problem than just bad advice

The PakistanTehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) doesn’t appear to be ready for the next general elections. The party continues to show that it doesn’t have a solid workable plan in terms of governance, which is far from managing rhetoric of change. The challenge for Khan in this regard comes with putting together a good team, mitigating brewing political rivalries in the party, undermining local and regional interests and above all, ensuring that decisions he takes are based on counsels from political ideologues rather than political opportunists.

There are a number of challenges in the run-up to the next general election which if left unmanaged, may cost PTI another election, not only at the federal level but in KP as well.

First, when it comes to managing a big political team, Khan has failed miserably. A few years ago, Khan’s political team comprised of workers who had been with the party for many years, or perhaps from the beginning of his political struggle. When Khan sat with PTI’s genuine workers, he got advice, which was not only above individual political differences enabling him to be well informed before making decisions. This has changed altogether in the last few years – practically after the last general election. While a wave of opportunist political entrants has filled the party’s ranks from top to bottom, the party’s loyal workers have been filtered out gradually. Now, Khan finds himself in the middle of interests which care less about Khan’s call for change – beyond rhetoric – and are more interested in managing their own political interests and rivalries by using PTI’s platform. It’s an open secret that there are a number of groups in PTI’s core committee, particularly from the Punjab region. Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jahangir Khan Tareen’s feuds in terms of awarding tickets in Punjab have already cost the party a number of seats in the recent by-elections. The problem is same in KP where Khan doesn’t have much control when it comes to dealing with local politics there as he remains uninformed until the media has made a hue and cry about it.

A few recent mistakes which don’t help build party’s electoral agenda, are quite telling if one is to analyze how deeply divided the party is. The fact that Khan accommodated Farooq Bandial, a convicted rapist and eventually expelled him from the party due to media’s pressure shows that he remains uninformed about who is coming to the party and whether new entrants help build the party’s narrative of change. Moreover, the blunders which the party has made in KP and Punjab in proposing names of interim Chief Ministers for the provinces shows that the party is ill-prepared to say the least. It’s nothing less than embarrassing that Khan – on someone’s recommendation – decided to propose Nasir Khosa’s name as the interim Chief Minister of Punjab but retracted from the decision when an incongruous intra-party narrative forced him into taking back his own decision. After Khosa’s blunder, the party proposed the name of Orya Maqbool Jan, a controversial figure who is known for his conservative and far-right views. As it emerged, the party’s opposition leader in Punjab and the official spokesperson offered two different statements, one claiming that Khan had himself asked for his name while other claimed that his name was not in the list of proposed names for the interim Punjab Chief Minister.

While the power of this rhetoric for change has been remarkable, which also drew throngs of political bigwigs into the party, Khan still lacks exposure and expertise when it comes to dealing with constituency-based politics

The bottom line: Khan is not getting factual and precise counsels; rather, his counsels are from people who are not worried about the party’s future but their own. Moreover, this also shows that when it comes to managing local politics, Khan remains unprepared. He has seldom made decisions which come from his own understanding of local politics. While the power of this rhetoric for change has been remarkable, which also drew throngs of political bigwigs into the party, he still lacks exposure and expertise when it comes to dealing with constituency-based politics.

This is the area where the ruling party, PML-N stands to gain. While the ruling party has been weakened due to Khan’s opposition, the party still remains strong in Punjab when it comes to drawing constituency based comparisons. Moreover, PML-N with all its differences – particularly between Shahbaz and Nawaz – have never allowed its differences to come in public. Moreover, PML-N’s central leadership has always mitigated intra party dissent with a heavy-handed approach, thus undermining interests beyond what the party’s central leadership desires.

Unfortunately, Khan appears to be losing in this domain: unless PTI manages its internal differences, handles the heavy presence of incomers aptly and worked out its constituency level politics well, the party’s chances of winning the next general election remain dismal.

As of now, it’s a party which appears unable to carry its own burden.

Umair Jamal

Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.