Political parties win elections to form government on the basis of an ideology. Some seats are won by individuals with the force of their local influence or ability to manipulate the electoral process. Such rent seeking politicians then manage to retain power by jumping from party to party. Differences in party and seat politics have to be understood and managed accordingly.

Seat driven politics are based on self-interest. The state apparatus also plays an important role. Thana and ‘Patwarkhana’ are extensively involved. The police has been politicised for this purpose. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) launched his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the sixties, he opted for an ideological approach. The focus was to win elections with the support of ideology. It was a serious challenge to seat driven politics. He won big in the Western Wing. Thana and ‘Patwarkhana’ were unable to stop his political advances.

On April 26, 1996, a political movement was launched by Imran Khan in Lahore. A handful of people wanting change joined him in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Like PPP, PTI was launched as a progressive political party with call for change. Four think tanks were formed to formulate policies for future implementation. Its appeal was nationwide. Till the Lahore Jalsa of October 30, 2011, the party had a national agenda, which was well received by the electorate. Kaptaan was then convinced by the established old political order to consider seat driven politics. Once they were let in, the party’s focus changed from an overall electoral victory to a few seats of influential with serious compromise of ideology.

It is indeed interesting that once in, the seat politicos started to compete for influence within the party. Powerful candidates like the Leghari brothers (Jamal, Awais) and Siknader Bosan were denied party tickets. They easily won their seats on their own and then joined PML-N. In Mianwali, the hometown of Kaptaan, his cousin Inamullah Niazi a graduate architect from National College of Arts Lahore was shown the door. He went over to PML-N and won his seat against the PTI candidate.

In Lyari Nabeel Gabol a PPP elected MNA decided to leave his party. Despite his local standing, he was not accommodated in PTI as such he joined MQM and won his seat back. Jamshed Dasti’s case is similar; he now sits in the assembly as an independent member. Asad Umar was able to win back IK’s Islamabad seat while the one in Peshawar was lost to Bashir Balour Sahib of ANP as the choice of candidate was very poor. Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind was unable to get elected in his area despite his local influence and Kaptaan’s campaigning.

PTI is a movement led by an honest and credible politician who has countrywide appeal. Constituency based politicos have limited significance in such a situation. Allowing local politicians to control a national party is a great disservice. It is analogous to allowing minor players to take control of the senior league. Naturally it will have a toll on the seniors when small local players start operating on large screens. Perfect example is the case of PTI’s founding member and President Punjab Late Comrade Ahsan Rashid. In order to contain his influence in the party and take control he was first cornered and then defeated through a manipulated inter party elections by these individual seat driven politicos.

Establishment sponsored parties like PML-N and MQM have election winning strategies. Local players exercise very little influence as they rely on party driven electoral manipulation processes to get elected. For a national party like PTI it too needs to develop an election strategy and cannot rely on seat driven politicos as has been the case. Let these local politicians worry about their own constituencies while the party follows a well thought out plan to win the electoral process.

There has to be an Election Cell within the party consisting of individuals who will not contest election themselves to avoid conflict of interest. For the party to prevail at the national level it has to ensure a free and fair election similar to the one in 1970 while the party should push for electoral reforms it must keep an eye on PML-N’s foul play within ECP and NADRA. Allocation of party tickets should be through a defined, written merit based criteria. Only a few constituencies can be allocated to constituency driven players but their influence should be confined to their local areas only High spending players can operate in some areas but the overall election has to be party based. Youth should be preferred and then facilitated to contest elections on the basis of party ideology.

PPP under the youthful leadership of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is gaining ground while PML-N is losing it. An honest ballot will cut the league to size. PTI with its ideology and new faces can cash in on the fall of the party in power but not with the old players. The country is bracing for change. Status-quo and its players have been rendered defenseless. Even Kaptaan cannot save them and restore their sagging political careers at best they can return to their bases (Gaddis) and try to win through an honest ballot. PTI is committed to building a welfare state for which it has win power through a credible electoral process. Ideology can always prevail over the influence of Mirs, Pirs, Sardars, Maliks, Chaudhris and Khans. A welfare state is now un-stoppable. Winning elections not a few seats should be the approach. Constituency based politicos cannot formulate nor dictate party or national policies. Ideological approach is the only way forward for a party of change.