Sunday March 26, 2023

PTI – riding on wave of popularity

April 18, 2022

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) doesn’t seem to withdraw its demand of holding the general election as early as possible as it doesn’t want to lose the popularity it gained recently.

There are a host of reasons as to how the PTI gained popularity in the public but it is now in a better position to contest elections compared to its rank three-four months ago.

A few months ago, particularly after the first phase of the local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI lost to other political parties and was in serious trouble due to its poor performance in the elections.

In the first phase of the local government elections, the party suffered due to the negative role of the party leaders, lack of preparations for elections as well as choosing wrong people for the PTI tickets. Tickets were mostly allotted to family members of the party elected representatives against the wishes of genuine party workers.

PTI had mostly lost to Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) in the first round and it was widely believed that JUIF was due to replace it in KP.

It had sent a strong message to the party top leadership as well as elected representatives.

It was a shock for the ruling PTI when its candidates lost major cities, particularly the provincial capital of Peshawar, to JUIF and Mardan to the Awami National Party (ANP).

Some people in PTI had lost hopes and had even started consultations with their near and dear ones to set future plans.

The top party leaders had held former governor Shah Farman responsible for awarding the party ticket to an unknown person to contest for the mayor seat in Peshawar.

Shah Farman denied all these charges against him.

Some of the party senior leaders believed that they suffered due to infighting and some of their people close to Imran Khan misled him on different important issues.

A cold war between Pervez Khattak and Shah Farman and between Ali Amin Gandapur and Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan Marwat stated to have damaged the party in the province, particularly in the Peshawar Division and southern districts.

To some of the party leaders, Shah Farman was the biggest intriguer, doing nothing other than poisoning the mind of Imran Khan against many good people

In KP, JUIF and Awami National Party (ANP) were the two most favourite parties for the PTI people, as they believed they had bright hopes of winning the next elections.

Some of the PTI elected representatives had even developed contacts in JUIF and ANP and wanted to ensure if they would get party tickets in case of joining.

However, the second phase of local government elections in KP proved a game changer, enabling PTI to regain its strength and popularity.

Keeping in mind their previous mistakes, the party leadership this time ignored their MNAs and MPAs in ticket distribution.

Another major reason that restored trust of the party workers was the PTI prepared for the election and campaigned in different areas.

Former prime minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Mahmood Khan personally went to different district headquarters and addressed public rallies and galvanised party workers.

It did help and PTI emerged victorious as the single leading party in the second phase.

The results encouraged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government led by Mahmood Khan as it was stated to be a challenge to him as well.

The chief minister had also swept the election in his native Swat district, where his brother was elected for the mayor of their hometown Matta Tehsil.

Then came the no-confidence motion against former prime minister Imran Khan. Some of the PTI leaders in KP believed they didn’t handle the situation in Islamabad accordingly, saying a select group of people in the party had encircled the party chairman and misled on important issues.

It damaged the party and its cause for no obvious reasons, they believed.

According to the party leadership, the KP government had performed better than the PTI government in the centre and Imran Khan had realised it but then it was too late.

Also, none of the PTI lawmakers from KP, except Noor Alam Khan, who was brought to the party by Pervez Khattak, deserted Imran Khan in the middle of the crisis.

It was apparently due to the harsh reaction of the party workers towards the dissident MNA Noor Alam, which made it difficult for him to go into the public. It sent a message to the rest of the party parliamentarians if they quit the party they would be in trouble.

It is stated to be a reason that nobody in the party was willing to quit the PTI. The PTI MPAs rejected attractive offers but stood with the party.

In the meantime, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) then diverted its attention to KP and had good offers to the PTI stalwarts, believing that they would buy some PTI MPAs and will form a coalition government.

It didn’t happen as the two PTI MPAs from Mardan and Swabi gave them shut-up calls.

Then Taimur Jhagra, health and finance minister and a trust worthy of Imran Khan and Mahmood Khan, was approached but his reaction was severer than the two MPAs.

Even then the no-confidence motion was tabled in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly against Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

According to well-placed sources, a senior PDM leader from Sindh was supposed to arrange funds and others in KP will buy the PTI MPAs.

Despite hectic efforts, they could not snatch a single MPA from the PTI and thus the joint opposition withdrew the no-trust motion to save themselves from embarrassment.

Now that the PTI MNAs have resigned from the National Assembly and wanted the election commission to hold fresh elections, the party is still indecisive about the fate of provincial assemblies.

Since the party leadership is of the view that they are in a better position to win elections, therefore, PTI would utilise all means to force the election commission to hold elections as soon as possible.