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July 29, 2018

Secret behind Imran’s success


July 29, 2018

"To tell the truth, I had no interest in politics in the 70s and much of the 80s," he wrote in his book, “Imran Khan Pakistan, A Personal History”. Today, he is going to be elected as the prime minister of Pakistan, and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which he formed in 1996 at Zaman Park, Lahore, is country's leading party, which swept the July-25 polls. What is the real secret behind his journey to success, both in cricket and politics. To me, it is his determination and consistency.

He created history in his 22-year political career on July 25, on three accounts:-

(1) He becomes the only leader who has won from five constituencies, breaking Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's record of three win.

(2) PTI becomes the first party which retained its position in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for the second consecutive term, rather improved its position, and

(3) for the first time, the PTI brought Karachi into mainstream politics as never before, any party, which formed the government in Centre, had secured majority in Karachi.

His determination and consistent position brought him success after initial setbacks, both in cricket and politics. In the last three elections, he attracted the majority of new voters, registered since 2008, particularly of the youth and women. Secondly, his slogan of 'tabdeeli,' reflected promise, something missing in the manifestoes of other mainstream parties.

One of the main reasons why majority voted for Imran was the tag of an 'untested politician’, whereas his rival parties – PPP and PML-N – could not attract voters with their past record and an element of disappointment was there.

Imran made his presence felt after 2008, when the death of Benazir Bhutto (BB) had created a huge vacuum, particularly for the PPP supporters and voters, as former president, Asif Ali Zardari, with the kind of perception he carried, allowed space for the PTI and Imran to fill the vacuum. The PTI caused major dent in the PPP circles in Punjab, and the PPP-PML-N friendly opposition also allowed Imran to become the lone opposition leader.

Similarly, split after split in the MQM factions and its style of politics also allowed Imran and the PTI space in 2013 elections in Karachi. The Karachiites did not return to Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Instead, they opted for the PTI as an alternative both in 2013 and especially in the recently held elections.

Imran has also caused serious dent in the religious parties vote bank, as reflected from the results of KP and Karachi in particular. Both the JI and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) suffered most and their leaders, Sirajul Haq and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, also lost from their home constituencies in KP.

PTI's first surprised Karachi in 2013, when it secured around eight lakh votes. Though it won only one NA and three Sindh Assembly seats, the tally could have been enhanced by three to four more seats had they been more organised.

There are three main reasons why the PTI won from Karachi:-

(1) Major split in the MQM into four factions and confusion, which its leadership created. The MQM-Pakistan also faced apolitical pressures from certain quarters.

(2) Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) factor, which surprised many. In its very first election, each of their candidates secured from 14,000 to 40,000 votes and as a result, they won two Sindh Assembly seats from Karachi. The most surprising was Lyari, where the TLP candidate got more votes than Bilawal Bhutto, who secured the third position.

The PTI got almost double vote than in 2013, which was reflected from the vote which Imran Khan and Dr Arif Alvi got i.e. 90,000 plus. It also created serious dent in the vote bank of the JI in Karachi. The scribe still believes that the MQM and the JI need serious soul searching. Although, there is a fact that what happened with the MQM in the last five years and particularly since August 22, one could not take the credit from the PTI, which had made its presence felt in the MQM strongholds in 2013.

It is also an eye-opening result for Pak-Sarzameen Party (PSP), as it missed the opportunity of joining hands with the PTI, as offered by its leadership including Imran Khan.

Imran's success in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2013 and the performance of former chief minister Pervaiz Khattak under Imran's guideline led to party's countrywide success in 2018, on the basis of its performance in areas like police, education and health.

PTI's critics and Awami National Party (ANP) veteran Ghulam Ahmad Bilour showed the grace of not only accepting the result after he lost to the PTI candidate in Peshawar, but also admitted the fact that Imran is the most popular leader in KP.

Thus, Imran has made inroads into the strong vote bank of almost all parties and all classes from lower class to middle-class and upper class. Like in the case of the MQM and JI, it is also time for the PML-N to revisit its politics and policies.

If the PML-N lost at the national level because of Nawaz Sharif's narrative, it did not perform badly in provincial assembly elections due to Shahbaz Sharif's narrative. Had Nawaz narrative come before June 28, it could have made more impact. But, he tried to become a 'Nazariati' after being disqualified by the Supreme Court. He also failed in addressing the ground situation and could not resolve differences within the party and with someone like Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

In his 22 years political career, Imran Khan had proved his critic wrong by establishing himself as Pakistan's most popular leader after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB).

On his political debut, he lost election from Karachi in 1997, but after 21 years, he won with a big margin by securing 91,000 plus votes against MQM's Ali Raza Abidi.

It is true that Imran brought change in his politics of status quo, after 2013 election and at present his party had accepted dozens of such electables from the PML-N and the PPP, but remained consistent in his criticism of Sharifs and Zardari over their alleged corruption.

But, it was the Panama leaks in April 2016, which gave the real boost to his campaign after his 126-day dharna in 2014 against alleged rigging in 2013 election.

It was his determination and will to fight back after a judicial commission rejected his allegation of rigging, which gave a new life to his otherwise demoralised workers.

Panama was the turning point and it was badly managed by Nawaz Sharif, which ultimately not only resulted in his fall, but also led to his disqualification and conviction.

Pakistan's mainstream parties including religious parties never took Imran seriously in the initial years of his politics. Now, he will be the prime minister and a very powerful PM, as well.

Those who know Imran for long also know that he has always been a fighter, and the quality of a popular leader is that he also has the capacity of taking unpopular decisions, if he feels such decisions are crucial.

Naeemul Haq was among those 12 to 15 people who were present in the meeting at Zaman Park Lahore in 1996, when they decided to form the party, followed by leaders like Dr Arif Alvi, Imran Ismail looked most happy to see Imran's dream come true.

Imran has now started his new career and the most crucial innings, which often saw the decline of many popular leaders. Now, he is the government and the powerful leader, who enjoys support in all four provinces. Challenges are immense and there is no way to look back but to look forward.

His accountability has started from July 26, and his first speech was appreciated by cross sections of society. His supporters and critics, along with media and Pakistanis around the world, expect a lot from him as they always see him as a ray of hope.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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