No sooner did the controversy regarding PTI’s nominations for caretaker CM Punjab fade than there surfaced several controversies relating to award of party tickets by PTI to the candidates contesting elections for various national and provincial seats across the country. Last week, PTI parliamentary board announced party tickets for as many as 173 seats for national assembly and 390 seats for provincial assemblies. Ignoring the diehard party leaders and workers, most of these tickets were awarded to the so-called electables, especially those who just joined PTI during the last couple of months. Currently, a large number of PTI activists and neglected candidates are protesting against this ‘unfair’ award of party tickets. Though PTI chairman Imran Khan has promised to personally look into this matter to redress workers’ grievances against unjust allocation of tickets, PTI is now very unlikely to make any significant change in its award policy. A number of neglected PTI candidates have hinted at contesting the forthcoming general elections in their personal capacity as independent candidates. Similarly, some disgruntled candidates are also considering the option to join other political parties. This large-scale ‘revolt’ within PTI on the eve of general elections, coupled with a general unacceptability of the electables among PTI’s voters, would adversely impact the party’s prospects of winning the upcoming polls in the country.
The term ‘electable’ is rather a decent one, which is being alternatively used for a turncoat, defector or ‘Lota’. In fact, electables are simply a group of political opportunists who are best known for repeatedly changing their political loyalties. They readily join every rising political party and instantly leave when it is in trouble. Following its ‘game-changing’ rally in Lahore in October 2011, a large number of political heavy-weights jumped on the PTI’s bandwagon. Ever since, PTI leadership has keenly been inducting them to the party without questioning their political credentials. Having failed to make a major breakthrough in the 2013 general elections, PTI just desperately intensified its electable-hunt drive rather than seriously evaluating its performance in these elections.
Since the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the apex court in July last year, PML-N has steadily been disintegrating. PPP had already become politically irrelevant in the country except the rural Sindh. So, naturally, opportunists from both PML-N and PPP readily chose to join PTI in the hope of grabbing some better political positions in future. On the other hand, irrespective of their character, reputation and ideological orientation, PTI has been receiving these defectors with open arms. PTI never seriously tried to devise a policy, or at least set a minimum standard, for inducting them. This wholesale induction of electables in the party has been a serious concern for the old and diehard workers and leaders of PTI. They are viewing these electable as ‘parachuters’. It is a fact that these workers have been standing shoulder to shoulder with party’s leadership while PTI has been holding public rallies and staging dharnas against PML-N government during the last five years. And during this period, these electables have been criticising PTI and its political strategies.
PTI is endeavouring to achieve its ambitious political goal through a number of complex, inconsistent and conflicting means. It stands for a political change. But at the same time, it also adopts the very tools which have been the hallmarks of the political status quo. It also depends and looks towards the complimentary and supplementary components of the status quo to break the same. Over a period of time, PTI has visibly switched from the political idealism to the political pragmatism. At present, the PTI’s political strategy is just revolving around inducting political heavy-weights from other parties in addition to undermine the political strength and relevance of PML-N in Pakistan by hook or by crook. Its current manifesto comprises some ambiguous, ambitious and rather impractical plans to instantly make a ‘Naya Pakistan’. Coming into power appears to be an end for PTI rather than a mean to an end. So, things will improve in Pakistan overnight if PTI succeeds in forming its government in Pakistan.
PTI is currently actively employing various tools of the realpolitik to achieve its cherished political goals. Considering the political loss of PML-N a political gain of it, PTI is relying on a sort of zero-sum game in the country’s politics. Probably, in line with this game policy, PTI is now extensively inducting electables to defeat PML-N in the electoral battle. Therefore, it is no surprise that PTI prefers these electables over its old workers and supporters when it comes to awarding party tickets for upcoming elections.
The outcome of the polls will tell how beneficial these electables are for PTI. However, at this stage, they are essentially distorting the public image of PTI- a party which is a flag-bearer of change and development. Therefore, a lot of PTI supporters and voters simply don’t like the party’s policy towards these electables. Similarly, PTI ideological workers have also been critical of this policy. Therefore, PTI leadership should have been a bit cautious while taking these electables into the party. Similarly, it should have preferred its loyal workers over these electables while awarding party tickets to contest forthcoming elections. Or at least, it should have taken these workers into its confidence before announcing this award.
The Nahj al-Balagha (peak of eloquence) is the most celebrated collection of sermons, letters and narrations attributed to Hazrat Ali (AS). This book includes a famous letter written by Hazart Ali to Maalik Ashtar, his newly-appointed governor in Egypt. Containing a set of useful instructions, this letter was primarily aimed at ensuring the efficient and people-centric governance in the province of the Caliphate. In this letter, Hazrat Ali exhaustively elaborated and discussed some important aspects of public governance. Among many other things, Hazrat Ali also issued detailed guidelines to his governor to choose and appoint his advisors or counsellors. He advised, “Do not accept the advice of misers; they will try their best to keep you away from acts of kindness and from doing good to others. Similarly, do not allow cowards to act as your advisers because they will make you timid in enforcing your orders, will prevent you from handling important affairs boldly.”
Hazrat Ali further advised, “Your worst ministers will be the men who had been minister to despotic rulers before you and who had been a party to atrocities committed by them. Such persons should not be taken into your confidence and should not be trusted because they have aided sinners and have assisted tyrants and cruel rulers. In their stead, find persons who are equally wise and learned but who have not developed sinful and criminal mentalities, who have neither helped the tyrants in their tyrannies not have they assisted them to carry on their sinful deeds.” So Hazrat Ali categorically instructed his governor not to appoint a person as his advisor who has earlier served an unjust or tyrant ruler. Therefore, the policy and practice of receiving and inducting so-called electables or opportunists, who have been part and parcel of previous corrupt or despotic regimes, by a political party needs serious consideration in the light of instructions issued by Hazrat Ali, the greatest Muslim ruler, administrator, jurist and statesman.
Electables in PTI essentially stand for a status quo. They would oppose any radical change in the polity as they are aspiring beneficiaries of this political status quo in the country. They would only promote political expediencies rather than supporting tougher decisions to cure the country of its chronic national maladies. Therefore, PTI may succeed in coming into power after winning the next polls. However, it will hardy be successful in bringing about a genuine and lasting change in the country.
The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.