Keeping party united despite factionalism
Keeping together figures from different backgrounds and dissimilar views is an art that some of the leaders in South Asia have practiced successfully for their parties’ and countries’ benefit, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto being the last among the grand masters of the art. Even after his ouster, important figures in the PPP and the PML-N, the leaders feared losing support if they left their parties.
Rival factions in the PTI fought over offices when the party was still in the opposition. The rivalries took toll of two election commissioners appointed by PTI chief Imran Khan, leading to the postponement of the intraparty polls. It was maintained by Imran Khan that once the rivals join hands to win elections their mutual bickering would come to an end.
The differences however continued to simmer even after the party won the elections. The old rivalries have now re-emerged publicly despite Mr Khan having held more cabinet meetings in seven months than convened by Mian Nawaz Sharif in four years. Earlier these took the form of proxy wars between Shah Mahmud Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen, during bye-elections where they frequently acted at cross purposes. On Monday the leaders clashed publicly. In a press conference broadcast live by several TV channels, Mr Qureshi strongly criticised Mr Tareen for attending cabinet and government meetings despite being disqualified under Article 62(1-f) which he said amounted to contempt of court and provided an opportunity to opposition to expose the PTI. Besides, this violated the very principles enunciated by Mr Khan which turned him into a great leader.
Responding on Twitter, the social media platform popular among PTI workers, Mr Tareen maintained that whatever he did enjoyed the support of Imran Khan and he did not care what people said about it. More PTI leaders have come out in support of Mr Tareen than Mr Qureshi. But it is widely known that Mr Qureshi too has strong supporters in the party. It should worry the PTI leadership that mutual rivalries between its important leaders are leading them to indulge in polemics in public. It remains to be seen if Mr Khan has the ingenuity to keep heterogeneous elements yoked together during his five-year tenure.