- Shireen Mazari’s opportunist return to the party fold
- Intra-party elections weaken party unity, defections imminent
- Internally elected party leaders ignored in allocation of party tickets
Last year, the Let Us Build Pakistan blog had catalogued a series of events, occurring in the period of the month of September, that seemed to show an unraveling process underway in the Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) party of the former cricketer turned Islamist politician Imran Khan. These events, such as the departures of party veteran and prominent Pakistani intellectual Shireen Mazari along with her daughter (and the ensuing abuse they suffered on social media) and the defection of a major politician in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province who went on to join PTI’s dominant rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz group, were astoundingly followed by more departures and defections in the very next month.
Party stalwart Admiral (Retd) Javed Iqbal, one of the earlierst converts to Imran Khan’s cause, found himself disillusioned by the stream of controversial, tried-and-trashed names that were finding pride of place in the top echelons of the party.
“Companions of former army ruler Pervez Musharraf have assumed control of the party and have introduced the philosophy that has no link with the PTI’s established viewpoint. The foreign minister of Musharraf regime (a reference to Khursheed Kasuri) is now formulating PTI foreign policy. People dealing with the party’s important policies are those who have been in power when the US carried out drone attacks in Pakistan and they remained silent on the unlawful act. Notwithstanding the opposition from all quarters I worked for the PTI for over eight years but no one recognized my sacrifices.”
His resignation was followed on by that of PTI’s UK President Rabia Zia, another old guard party loyalist dismayed by the fraudulent electoral process being used to benefit the recent entrants into the party. Her long resignation letter reads, in part:
“The final straw for me has come after 5 years, and it’s a tough realisation when I believed with such intensity that PTI would change the corrupt to good & transform the destiny of Pakistan. But the lawlessness in the party is demoralising to the extent that I am now unconvinced that PTI can deliver what it has been promising. I have decided to part ways with the party which cannot hold people accountable within, provide the rule of law and Justice to its own die hard ideological workers, constantly takes ’U turns’ and lacks democracy & collective decision making power – this has resulted in its inability to correct all wrongs.”
In March of this year, Dr Mazari surprisingly returned to the party that rebuked her so badly a few months ago, for reasons that, by her own admission, had more to do with winning the election than the redress of her own complaints. Absurdly, she also put in a good word for the “youth…of the party”, many of whom were active members of the campaign of verbal abuse unleashed at her and her daughter on social media.
“Just as I had left the PTI on September 25 with a heavy heart, so today I am rejoining the party with a clear mind and a commitment to the vision of change. In my resignation letter, I had raised a number of issues relating to the party, but, somehow at the juncture the country is in right now, there is a greater task to be tackled…the youth and old ideological workers of the party kept my faith going in PTI even while I was out of it.Things may never be perfect, but we must unite to change the status quo and work towards constant improvement.”
Dr Mazari seeks to justify her return in the letter with the mention of the intra-party elections that PTI undertook in its cadres throughout the country that resolved her “misgiving that big money was taking over the party.” The same intra-party elections that seem to be generating controversy after controversy instead of fulfilling the benign purpose they were carried out for.
First, there were the fist fights and brawls that made the party’s mundane internal electoral process an amusing part of the national news. Soon amusing turned to alarming as violent clashes marred electoral activity in many cities.
Firing during PTI elections
“At least three people were injured in Lahore in a firing incident during the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf’s (PTI) intra-party elections held on Monday whereas police arrested eight suspects accused if disrupting law and order, DawnNews reported. The incident occurred when an argument erupted between two contending groups of the PTI, both of whom accused each other of rigging the intra-party polls.”
Vandalism, hooliganism mar intra-PTI election
“SIALKOT – The intra-party elections of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) were postponed for an indefinite time after vandalism and hooliganism by some armed workers during polling at main polling station here at Baitul Aroos on Tuesday. A spokesman for PTI Khawaja Arif told newsmen that polling was underway in a peaceful manner when armed PTI men belong (sic) to both PTI rival groups namely Shah Nawaz Group and Umer Farooq Mayere Group stormed into the polling station set up at Baitul Aroos on Paris Road. They took hostage the workers, agents and polling staff and stopped the polling. The accused also badly tortured physically polling agents and other staff there and broke the furniture on the premises,” he added. Polling remained suspended for four hours – from 12:00pm to 04:00pm as all the groups were not ready to resume polling. Meanwhile, armed PTI men led by Umer Ehsan of Sambrial, a candidate for tehsil president ship of Sambrial, also stormed into a polling station set up at a local hotel in Uggoki for holding PTI inter-party polls there. The accused also brutally tortured polling agents, staff and voters. They snatched ballot papers and all ballot boxes at gunpoint and fled away from the scene by firing into the air.”
In the LUBP post referenced to at the start, we had asked our readers whether the month of September of that year could be considered PTI’s ‘mensis horribilis’ (horrible month) for all the bad news that came about it in the same month. One would not know what to call the date of April 4th this year (yesterday) when two conflicts in two separate provinces over PTI’s internal elections occurred on the same day, almost simultaneously!
In Balochistan, PTI’s provincial chief and another party leader publicly quarreled in the midst of the former’s press conference at the Quetta Press Club over the awarding of party tickets for the May general elections. An ensuing brawl between the “youth” of both leaders got so ugly that the police and FC had to be called to boot them out of the QPC.
“Besides hurling shoes, they also punched each other. Two of the journalists, who tried to stop the fighting, received punches on their faces. Members of the press club asked the PTI workers to immediately leave the premises, which was turned down. As a result, administration of the club called in police and personnel of police and Balochistan Constabulary pushed the enraged PTI workers out of the club premises.”
Meanwhile, PTI leaders in the Punjab issued party tickets sought to return them in protest at the bypassing of internally-elected PTI leaders who were denied party tickets for constituencies in the politically important and hotly-contested city of Lahore.
“The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf elected members revolted against party’s Central Parliamentary Board’s (CPB) controversial decision of awarding tickets “to outsiders and non-elected persons” for national and provincial assembly seats in the city. About a dozen PTI candidates announced returning their party tickets in protest to express their unity with the elected members from 10 towns in Lahore, who were ignored. PTI Lahore president Abdul Aleem Khan also announced returning party tickets issued to him for NA-127 and PP-147. He said PTI must adhere to its slogan that “party members will elect their leaders”. CPB did not honour the recommendations of the Lahore District Parliamentary Board and re-shuffled candidates like “public servants”. Most of Lahore town’s elected members said that they were shocked for being ignored. An elected representative from Lahore Cantt said that as many as eight candidates were recommended (to select from) for award of party ticket but all of them were ignored. The visibly agitated elected leaders said the party had also awarded tickets to such candidates, who had not applied for. They also stated that party’s workers and elected representatives including Shoaib Siddiqui and Farrukh Javed Moon were denied party tickets. Aleem Khan strongly criticised the nomination of Hamid Khan (NA-125) and Hafiz Farhat Abbas (PP-155) stating that they were outsiders in the respective constituencies. He also lambasted Shafqat Mahmood for imposing decisions on elected representatives.”
With each passing day, the troubles of PTI continue to get worse, seemingly exacerbated by the controversial process and result of the party’s much celebrated internal elections. Only time will tell whether more big names and old party stalwarts leave the party as part of it’s repercussions or the elections do achieve the objectives they were supposed to accomplish; increase public support for the party and prepare its youth for the next and official general elections in May.