Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) seems committed to evade the dangerous waters of intra-party elections, after sacking two internal election commissioners, postponing the elections and finally, cancelling them altogether. Instead of a poll to elect the Vice Chairman and General Secretary, Imran Khan nominated both Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen to retain the top spots of the party. There is no way to put a positive spin on this, the word ‘nominated’ could just as well be replaced with ‘handpicked’ in this scenario.

Sources from within the party claim that Imran Khan genuinely wants intra-party polls, but it is hard to explain what Mr Khan was expecting would happen; both election commissioners asked for complete autonomy to oversee electoral affairs, which incidentally, is what Imran Khan wants for the Election Commission of Pakistan. Clearly, the same rules do not apply to one’s own party if he/she wants to retain absolute control. It is clear that the rift with retired Justice Wajjiudin Ahmed was still on the PTI chairman’s mind with his dealings of Tasneem Noorani, the retired judge’s replacement. Complete autonomy could not be granted because it meant pointing out holes in the party’s structure. The elections caused the same problem, because the various groups were attacking one another and the public would have witnessed all the ugliness that followed.

If anything, the internal strife within the party could have led to its growth and resurgence, had the election fervour been channelled the right way. Instead, Imran Khan acted like any demagogue would, and called off the elections in a bid to organise the ranks along pre-existing spheres of influence within. This was an opportunity for PTI to evolve and prove that it was not like the other popular political parties, but the leadership only looks focused towards gaining political mileage at the expense of the ruling party in the short run, not realising that the real way this party can make its mark is by showing that it is different from the parties of the proverbial status quo.

The opposition is dithering on the issue of financial accountability vis-a-vis the Panama leaks. Imran Khan has ordered his party to fall in line and focus on the external battle, but it looks like the PTI leader is holding on to the existing leadership structure by sheer will alone. If the fight does not go his way, how long will it be before the opponents of his handpicked men start voicing their concerns? Will desertions follow? PTI has made lofty promises of accountability and fairness to the people, but how can it keep its word to the people if it cannot apply the same practices within its own structure?