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“PTI’s Dilemma: Formulating the Narrative”

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Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
The PTI, despite its unique circumstances, is facing numerous dilemmas. Its incarcerated leader has emerged as one of Pakistan’s most popular and powerful figures, a testament to the overwhelming support the party received in the February 8, 2024 elections. This victory, however, sparked fear among undemocratic forces, both political and non-political, which allegedly stripped the party of its rightfully won seats, denying the party governments at the center and in the province of Punjab. Yet, this act only served to further empower PTI’s charismatic leader, solidifying his position in the hearts of the nation.
At this critical juncture, PTI needs absolute clarity in its narratives to capitalize on its political gains and to stop disillusionment of its supporters. However, PTI’s newly emerged leaders have been injecting divergent viewpoints lacking coherence on key issues raising many questions which need sensitive and delicate handling to steer the PTI ship out of troubled water.
These questions inter alia include: Why do the PTI refuse to hold talks with the politicians and want to negotiate with the establishment?. Does PTI violate the constitution when it declares the Establishment as the source of all powers?. If the Establishment agrees to talk, what would be the fate of the PTI anti establishment narrative?. Allegedly, PTI was brought to power by the establishment in 2018, what moral ground does it have to object to the other parties when they are using the same crutches to grab power?. When the PTI says that the army should confine itself to its constitutional role, what leverage is it inclined to use to do so?.
The current narrative of PTI declares all politicians, especially those belonging to PML(N) and PPP as thieves who have looted the national wealth, kept it in foreign countries, and once they are out of power, they would flee abroad. They have willfully kept the country and people poor and uneducated. They consider ruling over Pakistan as their birthright, therefore PTI will not talk to these politicians on any matter of national importance.
The pros of this narrative are that PTI as a party stands against corruption and aims to hold accountable those who have allegedly looted national wealth. Anti-establishment sentiments resonate with people who are disillusioned with traditional political parties and their perceived dynastic politics and corruption. It calls for change in the status quo and presents PTI as a party that represents a departure from traditional politics.
The cones are equally compelling. It is seen as a divisive rhetoric that is polarizing and may deepen divisions within Pakistani society, especially among supporters of other political parties who may feel unfairly targeted. By refusing to engage with other political parties, PTI may be limiting its ability to build consensus and work towards national development through political cooperation. The narrative focuses heavily on personal attacks and allegations against specific politicians, which may distract from addressing substantive policy issues.
Though choices with PTI leadership are very limited, it has to choose very carefully the right narrative aligned with the people’s inspiration and hopes, and move towards national reconciliation to fast track growth and development of the country.
Therefore, the PTI should engage all political parties in constructive and meaningful dialogue, with the goal of uniting political and democratic forces to regain their space in managing the national affairs, restore civilian supremacy and build firewalls against any outside interference in the civilian domain. This can only be achieved, if the PTI agrees to enter into negotiations with all political parties, and sign a charter for “Civilian Supremacy”.
The key to ending PTI’s woes lies in the independence and empowerment of the judiciary from top to bottom. The six high court judges’ letter has provided PTI with a unique opportunity to liberate the judiciary from the shackles of the executive. Once the judiciary will become free, most of the cases against PTI leaders will be quashed in no time. Therefore it should support this momentum and include judicial reforms in the Charter of Civilian Supremacy to shield the judiciary from all kinds of outside interference whether political or non-political.
It should include parliamentary reforms to ensure that all bills, amendments and other business presented before the parliament are purely on merit and do not serve the vested interests.
It includes reforms in the executive to ensure that all organs of the executive strictly follow the law of the land.
It should do away with the caretaker governments, and instead empower the Election Commission to conduct the election fairly, transparently and judicially.
It should ensure that elected representatives, who are accountable to the people, have the ultimate authority in decision-making.
Internally, PTI should articulate clear guidelines for its spokespersons on civilian-military relations to prevent conflicts and crises that may arise from ambiguous or contested authority.
Moreover, PTI should be extremely careful while injecting its opinion on all past, current and emerging matters. Instead of discussing the merits and demerits of the government’s policies and initiatives, it should adopt a common narrative that since the current governments do not enjoy the mandate of the people therefore all its actions both positive and negative lack legitimacy, credibility and therefore are illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful.
Interestingly, the second tier leadership, on the average 30 years old, is a double-edged sword of sorts. Where they bring a youthful spirit in the party, they lack the political experience needed to navigate Pakistan’s complex political landscape. However, the coming back in action by former President Dr. Arif Alvi, Mr. Fawad Hussain and Mr. Shibli Faraz and other such experienced and seasoned politicians, will provide a much needed maturity and acumen needed to create enabling conditions for the signing of the Charter of Civilian Supremacy.
The political and civilian supremacy can be established only and only when the peoples mandate is respected in both letter and spirit, politicians start trusting the people more than the establishment and in no manners or ways accept any help from the establishment to gain power.

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