Distraught by the announced lists for party tickets in constituencies, aggrieved PTI party members assembled outside Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence and protested in the quintessential style of their leader- by organising a sit-in and refusing to move until their demands were met. Unfortunately for them, the PTI Chief snubbed them, telling them he would never succumb to the pressure of their protests, and admonishing them for holding a mini-dharna without going the constitutional route of forwarding a review petition to the PTI.
The concerns of the protesters stem from the fact that PTI has allegedly deserted old loyalists and recruited electables, giving a third of its tickets to recent entrants. Electable candidates are those who have little to do with party ideology and loyalty, but are recruited due to their dominance in the personalised politics of rural areas. Giving electables tickets is certainly unfair to old party members but in all honestly, not an unusual thing for a party to do, and is a tool used by all parties.
What sets PTI apart from the other parties, however, is its claim that it will revolutionise the old corrupt political structure and bring forth a new Pakistan. This seems a difficult boast to swallow when the party is recruiting all the old players. PTI’s promises of imposition of tax on large landholders and elimination “thana” culture look unlikely when its candidates are the same large landholders that have always been in place.
The irony of Imran Khan disavowing sit-ins is not lost on anyone. PTI’s “azadi march” was a four month long fruitless exercise of exactly what Khan now condemns his workers for, and can be called the start of this toxic protest culture that has arisen in Pakistan the past few years, where hoards of protesters take to the streets and make daily functioning of the country difficult, in order to pressure the state to fulfil their demands, whether legitimate or not.
Khan is right; the demands of the disgruntled PTI members’ sit-in were not reasonable, as there is already a complaint mechanism in PTI. However, PTI’s reasons for the dharna don’t appear legitimate either; Khan’s claim of massive rigging had not been corroborated by Fafen or the Supreme Court. Yet still a sit-in with people seemed more forceful and likely to get the job done-so Khan shouldn’t fault his supporters too harshly for following in his footsteps.