Imran to nominate ‘lieutenants’ for anti-govt mobilisation

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Monday, June 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Gearing up for its post-Ramazan mass mobilisation drive, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will begin nominating regional heads later this week.

After the party’s entire organisational structure was dissolved ahead of intra-party elections that didn’t happen earlier this year, the party leadership is under a lot of pressure to bring in office-bearers, who are essential if the party wants to launch an anti-government push over the Panamagate.

PTI’s chief spokesperson Naeemul Haq told Dawn that detailed consultations had been held and party chairman Imran Khan would soon start nominating office-bearers to positions at various levels.

For example, Mr Haq said, there would be four regions in Punjab — north, west, central and south — which would be headed by regional presidents who would answer to the chairman. In the next step, district presidents would be announced.

Asked if the party had decided to bid farewell to its much-touted intra-party elections, Mr Haq said that “circumstances” had forced the party to postpone the exercise — a reference to the Panama Papers scandal.

Mr Haq was quick to add that Mr Khan was fully committed to bringing “true democracy” to the party, which was only possible through elections.

However, independent observers feel that as the Panamagate continues to dictate the national political agenda less than two years before the next general elections, it is unlikely that the party will be able to hold intra-party elections anytime soon.

Mr Khan was quite excited about the intra-party elections which were scheduled for May this year. However, he first developed differences with the party’s chief election commissioner, former bureaucrat Tasneem Noorani, over the mode of election. Then, he publicly announced that following the emergence of the Panama Papers, the party needed to focus on its anti-government campaign.

But political analysts and those privy to developments within the party insist that it was the serious differences within top party leaders, which came to a head in the run-up to the scheduled intra-party elections, that forced Mr Khan to postpone the electoral exercise.

In April this year, Shah Mehmood Qureshi had publicly criticised senior party leaders, including Jahangir Tareen, an incident that didn’t go down well with the party chairman.

“For me, the intra-party elections were primarily deferred to stop fault lines within the top party leadership from deepening further; the Panama Papers just proved to be a blessing in disguise,” explained a PTI lawmaker who didn’t want to be quoted on the record. He argued that if held on schedule, the intra-party elections would have been completed by now.

When asked about the delay in holding intra-party polls, another senior PTI office-bearer quipped, “We have learned the hard way that the people of Pakistan are not attuned to complete democratic norms.”

He was referring to the party’s first intra-party polls, held just prior to the 2013 general elections, which Mr Khan admitted wasn’t a good move, as it affected the party’s preparations for the all important elections.

The story of how former election commissioner, retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmad, accused senior party leaders of influencing election results and recommended the cancellation of their membership, is well-known.

The office-bearer also said that in the nomination of district and tehsil-level leaders, key figures such as Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen would be able to install their own people, something they couldn’t do if elections were held. “Hence, their bruised egos will be satisfied,” he said.

But for the party spokesperson, while new office-bearers would be nominated by the chairman, a lot of consultation had gone into the selection process. “Since we are heading for a challenging task, the party needs pro-active leaders at all levels who have a proven record on mass mobilisation,” Mr Haq said when asked if the nomination process was impartial.

At the same time, he said, the party was in no hurry to hit the road and would allow the Panama Papers committee all the time it could afford.

“Protest is the last option, which is our right as a political party, and we will want to take all likeminded parties on board,” Mr Haq concluded.

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Written by Khawar Ghumman

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