LIKE some grotesque phoenix, the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party has risen from the still-smouldering ashes of the PTI. Jahangir Khan Tareen — who was once regarded as something of a hero by PTI’s supporters for rounding up and jetting in independents after the 2018 elections to help ensure Imran Khan had the numbers to form a government — on Thursday unveiled his own political party. The presence of familiar faces by the powerful sugar baron’s side would have greatly stung PTI’s supporters. They need not lose much sleep over the betrayal. These electables and independents had once parachuted into their ranks in droves only because the kingmakers wanted to see Mr Khan as prime minister. Now that that romance is over, the parachuters are leaving just as quickly to join the latest king’s party. If Mr Khan really believed he’d come to power on the basis of his own popularity, he should disabuse himself of the notion and reflect on the choices he made in 2018. There will be lessons aplenty for the future. What is left of his party may even rise up stronger from the experience if it can focus on internally strengthening itself; learning from the experiences of the PPP and the PML-N may offer some insights.
The PML-N has made it clear it will be angling for the new party’s support. Mr Tareen enjoys good relations with the N-League leadership, and the two may leverage each other’s strengths in Punjab. However, it is unclear how much the new party will cannibalise the PTI’s vote bank. As someone wryly commented, it is impressive that the IPP has 100 ex-MNAs and MPAs, but it also needs actual workers. Meanwhile, Mr Khan still believes anyone handed a ticket by him will win a free and fair contest. Instead, will the IPP attempt what the TLP accomplished in 2018 — ie, spoil different parties’ vote banks and set the stage for another government that is dependent on the whims of smaller parties and spoilers? The parties invested in this project should seriously reconsider if such an outcome suits the country. Our decision-makers are thinking short term and may be about to make a blunder by introducing fresh variables into the political equation. Pakistan is experiencing one of its worst crisis periods in history. It needs stability. The solution is unadulterated democracy, not continued experimentation.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2023