During the recent days, several so-called electables from the Punjab PPP abandoned their party to join the PTI.
While it is obvious that they are doing so out of disillusionment about the PPP’s future prospects of returning to power, the PTI may have less to gain and more to lose from following traditional patterns of politics in which ‘electability’ of individuals takes precedence over issues and agendas.
To begin with, the party has emerged as a major political force supported by old loyalists Imran Khan calls ‘ideological workers’. They stood by his side through a long period of struggle.
Indefinable in terms of a political philosophy, PTI’s ideology in the context meant politics based on ethical conduct and democratic principles, which helped mobilise millions otherwise alienated from the political process. During the last elections, several middle class candidates won assemblies seats due to the party’s ‘ideological’ appeal rather than the power of money and/or social status that produce ‘electables’.
Packing the party with people collected from other parties can be seen as a let down by many of those who buy its slogan of change. What it needs is performance to retain and expand its support base.
A recent achievement on that score which has won the PTI widespread praise is a truly independent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission set up last year. It has proved to be confident enough to arrest the provincial Minister for Mines and Mineral Ziaullah Afridi on charges of misusing his authority to grant contracts and make illegal recruitments and transfers.
For the first time in this country a minister has not only been accused of misuse of authority while in office but also detained. The accused, of course, has pleaded innocence blaming Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak for his trouble. Imran Khan while expressing disappointment on learning about the arrest of Afridi who has “put in a lot of work for the PTI” took well-deserved credit for delivering on his promise not to interfere in the Commission’s work.
The minister, he said, will have to resign his post to clear himself of the charges. Actions such this bolster the party’s image in the public eye and increase its prospects of success at election time rather than induction of electables at the expense of old party loyalists.
Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, responsible for reorganising the party in central and northern Punjab, claims to have been consulting with the party’s old activists before accepting politicians from other parties. That though is not the view from the local leadership level.
In Okara, for example, where the first batch of PPP deserters led by Samsam Hussein Bokhari recently joined the PTI, the party’s own loyalists expressed their resentment by displaying banners inscribed with slogans against the new arrivals. The outsider may cause problems of their own when they start strengthening their respective position within the party.
More importantly, many of them are not famous for best ethical practices. The PTI Chairman is where he is today after the long 18 years he spent in the political wilderness waiting for the right time because he had trust in the famous saying ‘you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.’
Now that the time has come for the PTI to become a popular potential alternative to the other two major parties, namely the PML-N and the PPP, it should rely on the idea that lends it strength rather than to start looking more and more like the traditional parties.