Political detente

PTI announced staging peaceful protests across country against electoral irregularities and alleged rigging

By Editorial Board
February 16, 2024
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) activists and supporters hold PTI flags and the founder of PTI's poster. — AFP/File

Ever since the February 8 poll results were announced, we have been hearing a lot about how there is a genuine need for a political dialogue between all political parties. This is why the PPP extended an olive branch to the PTI and asked them to come to the negotiating table if they wanted to form a coalition government. Shehbaz Sharif also asked the PTI to form a government since the PTI-backed independents have the most number of seats in the National Assembly. However, Imran Khan has refused to talk to the PML-N, the PPP and the MQM. In fact, the PTI on Thursday announced staging peaceful protests across the country against electoral irregularities and alleged rigging. The party has also rebutted reports of forming an alliance with the PPP in the centre and PTI-Parliamentarians (PTI-P) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is because of Imran's announcement that no alliance would be formed with other political parties that the PML-N and PPP were left with limited options except to go for another PDM alliance with different modalities. These are of course uncertain times because, against all odds, the PTI challenged the establishment and took the lead in the National Assembly and is well on its way to form a government in KP. But the party has not changed its style of politics and has chosen to stay away from politics of reconciliation – something that both the PML-N and the PPP have paved the way for over the years and adhere to despite all differences.


Many analysts have warned the PTI against this but it seems that Imran believes he is in a position of ‘confidence’ and thinks that the system is under pressure and on the backfoot. This gamble can go either way. The logical and rational way forward would have been for the PTI to come back into the system, form a government and try to bring the political temperatures down. If the PTI was willing to form a government, political wisdom suggests that both the establishment and the judiciary would have had a reason to step back and PTI workers as well as Imran Khan would have eventually gotten some relief. By taking the course of street agitation after the election results, Imran's message to the state is more aggression and not less. We have seen how he failed to bring a ‘revolution’ on May 25, 2022 and on May 9, 2023. In fact, May 9 resulted in the dismantling of his party, crackdown on party workers and him ending up behind the bars.

A silent but democratic ‘revolution’, however, was witnessed on election day when PTI voters turned out to vote for their party despite no bat symbol and other problems. Imran should realize that his voters and supporters do not want a bloody revolution on the streets but a democratic revolution through the ballot box. Under these circumstances, he should have made some way for his party to remain within the system and to bring up alleged rigging and electoral irregularities formally on the floor of the house rather than once again asking his supporters to come out on the streets on Saturday, which could either be a failure again or lead to riots. Peaceful protest is a democratic right but we have seen a tendency of violence in PTI protests. Instead of raising temperatures that can lead to further uncertainty, the PTI should learn from the PML-N and PPP who signed a Charter of Democracy because they had learnt their lessons the hard way. We need a new ‘Charter of Reconciliation’ signed by all political parties, where they ask for an end to non-elected institutions taking on political roles and also commit that they will not be used against each other. If political parties don’t mark their own red lines and don’t come up with their own rules of the game, there will always be a willing partner and this hybrid system will become a permanent part of our government.