The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) seems to have become a party of perpetual protest. Undoubtedly its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is doing its constitutional duty and its lawmakers are performing their legislative functions, but the party itself seems to be devoted to one purpose only; protesting against Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan and his lieutenants are well within their rights to characterise their party as such, but at what point does this protest extend into the realm of misguided?

According to several members of the party itself, that moment is November 17.

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Pakistan next week to address a joint sitting of parliament on November 17, apparently bringing with him a large delegation that will lead to several agreements being signed. According to a statement made by PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, his party will not be attending this summit in protest; not to protest the Turkish President, but the Prime minister instead. The party leadership feels that it cannot attend a joint session held under “controversial” Prime Minister who was facing charges of corruption.

The motive behind the move is clear; to reiterate the party’s stance and to put pressure on the government while it tries to put on its best face for the visiting dignitaries. However, with the government having agreed to the Panama probe – the hearings in the Supreme Court are already at an advanced stage – what does the party hope to achieve by piling pressure on the government? With the matter already in court, there are absolutely no concessions that the PTI could wring out.

The “not participating under a controversial Prime Minister” stance is also a confused one. PTI senators are allowed to go to the Senate, but MNAs are not allowed to go the the National Assembly – both of which function under the same “controversial” Prime Minister. PTI lawmakers, including Imran Khan, make an appearance in the parliament when it suits them and boycott it when it doesn’t. The stance is not a principled one, but a shifting strategic one.

The only rhyme or reason visible behind recent boycott seems to be simply this; PTI is protesting the Prime Minister and this is another opportunity to do so. The only smart move would have been for Imran Khan to lead his party out of this restrictive worldview. Surely their presence in the joint sitting would have led to a more mature discussion of the matters at hand, as would the PTI’s presence in the legislative sessions. Alas, the party only knows how to protest.