April 25 1996 a new political party called Pakistan Tehreek e insaf was formed in Pakistan. The centrist party under the leadership of Imran Khan failed to win even one seat in the 1997 election. In 2002 it won one seat when Imran Khan won from Mianwali. That’s how it will remain till 2013. This one seat party was subjected to serious ridicule by all and sundry as a “ tonga party”.
However, in 2013 Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf gathered 7.5 million votes and became the third most popular political party in Pakistan behind PMLN and PPP. 2013 to 2018 was five years of political agitation for PTI, the party went through 126 days of “dharna” and ran a highly popular anti-corruption movement against both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari. PTI has already become the biggest political party in one of the provinces Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and had formed a government there.
Challenges faced by PTI
In 2018 PTI faced two serious challenges. One is elected by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the second term. It was a tough call as KP had never in their electoral history ever elected a government for a second term. The second challenge was to put up a good fight in the Federal level and become the largest single party. PTI succeeded spectacularly in both the challenges. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI became the first party ever to win a second term & that too with a two third majority.
At the National level, PTI just fell short of getting the majority but became the largest party by a long margin. After 2018 PTI formed a government in KP, Punjab & Baluchistan with Sindh going to PPP. In Sindh, PTI had produced a good show to become the second largest party and formed the opposition. PTI took care of the 2020 Gilgit Baltistan election quite easily. They were the largest political party by a big margin and formed the government with their allies. Finally, they won the Azad Kashmir election very convincingly becoming the majority political party by themselves and formed the government.
So from not winning a seat in their first election in 1997 PTI now is in government in Punjab, KP, Baluchistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and Federal. The only administrative unit where the PTI is not in power in Sindh. In Sindh, PTI clearly shows a power base in urban areas but very little penetration in the rural areas where the ruling PPP reigns supreme. A political party always struggles to achieve power so that they can implement whatever changes they think fir to govern the country. So PTI has achieved all their first political goals except being in control of Sindh. Thus, it does seem logical to call it the final frontier for PTI.
PPP and the Sindh
What are the permutations and combinations? What are the chances of PTIs mission in Sindh to succeed or fail? What are the implications for PPP and who holds the advantage? Questions galore can only be theorized for answers while the actual scenario will only unfold in 2023. PPP has only two advantages in Sindh one is the Bhutto factor which is gradually dying out because one the charisma of Bhutto is beginning to fade & two nobodies in their hearts accept the Zardari clan as Bhutto and the second advantage is the “wadera” factor which is going strong.
The electable waderas are all for PPP as there is no alternative in interior Sindh but when presented with another option what is going to be their reaction is still to be seen. Bad governance & corruption allegations are severely damaging the credibility of PPP and now it does seem that Asif Ali Zardari is dragging PPP down. PPP also had the bogey of MQM and separate province cards to scare their voters but that seems to have gone awry with the minus scenario of Altaf Hussain from MQM.
So the only viable card seems to be the Sindhudesh card left to play which can be brinkmanship of the highest order. PPP or their support base meaning “waderas” has been in power for a long time under one garb or another. That means they have created a loyal administrative power base which at the time of crisis will serve them. The only problem is that real support of PPP in interior Sindh is debatable and under shadow of doubt as managed elections hardly present any chance of analysis. PPP has unlimited wealth to spend and that will be and can be and should be their trump card.
After winning Karachi, PTI seems to think that winning over Sindh will be easy but that certainly was not the case. Karachi voters disenchanted with MQM, reasonably literate and able to choose went for PTI. However, one or two by-elections showed that they are not really pleased with the development efforts by PTI. The power base which fell on the lap of PTI was frittered away by them. It’s not to say that it can not be cajoled back but interior Sindh is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Going extra miles
PTI will have to really campaign aggressively in Sindh, get a foothold in the masses, come up with a combination of electable with the ideological worker, present a very viable alternative for the rural Sindh, dominate urban Sindh that is Karachi and Hyderabad allied with MQM, and do power politics with GOP in Sindh the PPP. Imran Khan will have to be at his persuasive best & his charismatic self to be able to nullify the effect of Bhutto to beat PPP in rural Sindh. It might be impossible to achieve or on the other hand the card house built by PPP might fall like dominoes once pushed. What is it going to be only time will tell?
For the Pakistan Peoples Party, it will be a battle of survival. PPP which was the romance of the country In the 70s and 80s with the courage of Bhutto facing death, the unflinching stance taken by the party when running the MRD movement against Ziaul Haq and the fact that none deserted the party when threatened by extinction. The damage inflicted by the Zardari clan and the Lilliputian leadership provided by corrupt party men has made the party very vulnerable to be dethroned.
While PTI has won everything in the last few years. One thing is for sure that KP is going to elect them again with maybe a heavier mandate, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan going to remain with them till the end of the term. Out of seven administrative units, PTI has six under its control. So it’s the final battle, the final frontier, the battle cry of “ see who rules the world “ is resonating and PTI and PPP are getting ready for the ultimate battle. It’s certainly going to be interesting. Fasten the seat belt and the fight begins.
The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.