Angry protests at Bani Gala must not deter Khan’s resolve to win upcoming polls

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News Analysis |

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) local leaders, from different constituencies, are continuing their protest in front of the Party Chairman Imran Khan’s residence in Bani Gala over the issue of distribution of tickets for the July 25 elections.

When PTI emerged as a strong contender for the 2013 elections, Imran had opted to field unknown names, majority of which were trounced in the elections.

The protesters attempted to climb the main gate and enter Khan’s residence. After the incident, more police was called in and was deployed to replace the private guards on duty. The group of angry protestors – around 1,500 to 2,000 in number – was dispersed by the police from the main gate of Khan’s residence. 

Imran Khan appeared in front of protestors a number of times and addressed the demonstrators. He urged them to end the protest and made it clear that he was not going to change his decision over ticket allocation. He assured the workers of reviewing the issuance of tickets. He asked the workers to give him three days to personally review all their appeals against the unfair awarding of tickets. 

Read more: Imran Khan’s entrance in Medina sparks debate

Khan urged them to file the review petitions and promised that he would sit with the parliamentary board to decide on the issue. 

While addressing the workers, Khan said “I swear by Allah, I have not given even a single ticket to any of my family members or close friends. All the decisions have been made purely on merit by the parliamentary board. “If I change my decision because of your pressure today, more people will come here tomorrow and will demand to change my decision,” he added. 

Despite Khans assurances, the charged crowd is not willing to leave the camp. The protestors announced that they will only leave Bani Gala after Khan announces his decision on tickets. The crowd has also increased over time and threatened Khan’s security at his residence. He told the angry party workers that he has been working for 12 hours at a stretch to resolve their grievances about the allotment of election tickets. 

Amid the ongoing protests, PTI has delayed the announcement of new candidates for the remaining constituencies for 72 hours. Imran Khan presided over a session of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Parliamentary Boards at Bani Gala on Tuesday. 

He urged them to end the protest and made it clear that he was not going to change his decision over ticket allocation.

Khan remains adamant amid relentless pressure from protestors and critics, who are bashing Imran for awarding tickets to electable. But he maintains that tickets were awarded on merit by the parliamentary members of the party. The scrutiny process of candidates is in process and after deliberation, the candidates for the controversial constituencies of Islamabad, Sindh, Balochistan, and KP will be announced. 

PML-N and PPP have also been vocal over PTI’s decision to allow tickets to big-wings in the country. Other parties are trying to portray Imran’s PTI as a party of turncoats.  Its decision to overlook the old ideological local leaders for newly entered electable has drawn a barrage of criticism from all corners. 

Read more: Will Imran Khan win elections from Karachi?

Prior to announcing its tickets for national and provincial seats, the party’s Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhary announced that the party has devised a strategy to deal with the high amount of applications received for the party tickets. 

PTI had formulated a set of eligibility criteria for choosing the best candidate from among the applicants.  The party had decided to not field the candidates who lost by more than the margin of 20,000 votes in the 2013 elections. Such weak candidates will be replaced by an electable, the party had already declared. 

The protesting candidates may have credentials being the ideological supporters of Khan, but their inability to win the elections cannot elect Imran Khan as a Prime Minister. When PTI emerged as a strong contender for the 2013 elections, Imran had opted to field unknown names, majority of which were trounced in the elections. Critics rued the decision to field weak candidates when more powerful electable could have been installed instead. 

Having seen the trend in rural and even in some urban constituencies, where masses vote on the bases of baradari, clan and commitment to local leadership, without paying much heed to which party they stand for. 

Imran’s decision may not be ethically right, but given the ground realities, to win a majority in the Parliament, electable become a necessity. Imran will have to handle the protests with care to avoid any undue controversy to concentrate on the upcoming elections. 

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