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Saturday June 22, 2024

Belligerent politics

We saw the PTI indulge in this from 2013 to 2018 when the PML-N was in power

By Editorial Board
May 29, 2024
Supporters of the PTI party shout slogans and protest to demand the release of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, in Karachi on January 28, 2024. — AFP
Supporters of the PTI party shout slogans and protest to demand the release of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, in Karachi on January 28, 2024. — AFP

The PTI is down a self-created rabbit-hole of confrontation and belligerence – both of which may add to its populism online but will do little for its strategic prospects. Many had predicted that it will continue its aggressive politics if it remains out of power in the centre. This is of course nothing new. We saw the PTI indulge in this from 2013 to 2018 when the PML-N was in power. At that time, of course, it had the backing of powerful institutions. From April 2022 till the February 8 polls this year, the party repeated its brand of indignant outrage mixed with aggression after the successful vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan. In the midst of this agitation, the May 9 incident took place last year. And now – with the PTI still on the outs following the February 8 polls – it is at it once more. The recent online campaign by the party – invoking Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and East Pakistan – can only be seen as provocation by a party that is now getting frustrated and lashing out without thinking of its consequences. Many have warned that by using certain imagery and calling out ‘traitors’, the PTI is taking a calculated risk but one that may just backfire.

It is also important for the PTI to understand that it can’t possibly sustain its on-again-off-again stance when it comes to those whose favour it very obviously is clamouring for. Only last month, PTI leaders had said that the party would only hold talks with the establishment. This had led to all sorts of speculations on backchannel talks. That turned out to be just a rumour when the ISPR held a press conference before the first anniversary of the May 9 attacks, and later a strong statement was issued by the army chief about the perpetrators of the attacks. To the discerning political observer, the current Sheikh Mujib campaign is most probably a result of the failed attempts at getting through to the most powerful stakeholder in this whole equation. A party that was virtually the darling of the institutions is suddenly seeing itself be considered a pariah; it is too much of a change and so it has chosen the only way it thinks will work – more chaos, disruption and provocation.

It may be too late in the day for the PTI to start offering some form of an olive branch – though one hopes all sides do agree to talk and negotiate at least. But for many, this time the PTI’s carrot and stick policy may not work as the party has seemingly gone ‘too far’. Many still advise the PTI to talk to its political rivals, the PML-N and the PPP, but there are those who say that after the path that the PTI has taken, it may well be difficult for the government to hold talks with it as it may not be ‘acceptable’ for the powers that be. Whatever the future has in store for Pakistan’s politics, one thing looks imminent: the solidification of the hybrid system.