Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party

Despite its image as a group of wealthy, politically-savvy independents, IPP is grappling with its identity and the daunting task of asserting its significance in the post-poll power dynamics.
Published January 30, 2024

Jahangir Khan Tareen’s Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP), another group birthed from the original PTI, is navigating its first political storm in Punjab.

Its leadership had previously been part of Imran Khan’s party for over a decade, but was still ‘permitted’ to continue in politics and establish a political alternative to the PTI in the aftermath of May 9.

This was commonly perceived as happening due to the IPP’s leadership strong ties with the powers that be. At the time, the PDM was struggling under the burden of its own economically disastrous policies, putting its electoral chances in serious jeopardy. Adding to this, the self-exiled PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif was still considering his options upon his return and political future.

All these elements contributed to the formation of a new group of hopefuls, culminating in the birth of the IPP.

“When the PTI big bang happened on May 9,” Talat Hussain, a TV host and analyst, explains, “the splintering politicians were faced with three choices: leave the PTI, quit politics, or join a party they were directed to.”

The IPP fit this role, especially in Punjab. Since it symbolised the first significant split in the PTI under tumultuous circumstances, it became the preferred choice for those leaving the mothership. Its members, spared the harsh treatment meted out to others, naturally came to represent those dismantling the PTI, according to Mr Hussain.

‘Junior partner’ to PML-N?

However, the IPP finds itself wrestling with its own set of challenges. Despite its image as a group of wealthy, politically-savvy independents, it is grappling with its identity and the daunting task of asserting its significance in the post-poll power dynamics. The party is gingerly navigating the treacherous waters of political alliances and seat adjustments, often finding itself in the shadow of the larger and more entrenched PML-N.

When Nawaz Sharif returned and the PML-N regained its legal and political footing — positioning itself as the next head of the ruling clique in common political and electoral circles — the fortunes of the IPP fluctuated correspondingly. It appeared to be reduced to a junior partner. The PML-N expedited this process: leveraging its established position, it relegated the IPP to a role of a “dependent entity at its political mercy”.

With the post-poll scenario in mind and the IPP’s dreams of electoral relevance before them, the primary objective for the Nawaz League became to curtail its influence and diminish its post-poll significance. This oppo­rtunity arose as discussions on alliances and seat adjustments commenced betw­een both establishment factions.

As negotiations began, according to IPP leader Ishaq Khan Khaqwani, his party requested 90 seats — 32 national and 58 provincial (Punjab). The PML-N initiated talks with an offer of around 30 seats, but then prolonged the negotiations, assessing how much support the IPP would receive and how much pressure the PML-N faced from concerned quarters.

With no active pressure applied and the talks left mainly to both parties, the initial alliance offer was withdrawn, and seat adjustment was limited to only 18 seats — seven for the National Assembly and 11 for the provincial assembly — where the PML-N agreed not to field candidates against IPP members.

In an attempt to further capitalise on its position, PML-N leaders alternated between condescending terms such as “gifting” and “accommodating” for the IPP and never publicly acknowledged the agreement between the two parties. The final blow to the IPP came when even party chief Tareen was not given a seat in his native Lodhran constituency, but instead allocated a seat in Multan. Consequently, the IPP saw its identity being absorbed by the PML-N, expected to be content with playing a secondary role, essentially being “accommodated on someone’s recommendation”.

“Yes, the IPP’s image has taken a hit,” admits Khaqwani. He acknowledges that the PML-N negotiated better, or that the IPP inadvertently walked into its trap. Regardless, the outcome remains the same: the IPP is in a disadvantageous position concerning its electoral and political persona. Khaqwani suggests that the IPP would have been better off without such a political and electoral arrangement, which the PML-N refused to acknowledge even after extensive negotiations.

Despite the condescending overtures from PML-N and diminishing seat adjustments, the IPP is not ready to be relegated to the sidelines.

Don’t write it off just yet

Political analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi notes that the PML-N went into negotiations with the IPP “because it was told to”, but kept the seat adjustments to a bare minimum due to its own electoral compulsions. The complex interplay of cooperation and competition across various constituencies will ultimately unravel only after the election results are declared, he says.

IPP’s fortunes may yet see a turnaround in the post-election scenario, particularly if it performs well in the 192 parliamentary seats (51 in the Punjab Assembly and 141 in the national legislature) that it is contesting, either independently or with PML-N support.

If the IPP manages to secure 20 to 25 seats based on its electables and attract a dozen or so independent candidates, the total could reach around 35 seats — a decisive number when it comes to forming a government.

“It is too early to judge the IPP as a party, or to assess its political and electoral relevance,” says IPP president Abdul Aleem Khan. “The party will play a key role at both the federal and Punjab levels in the next government. We are contesting the elections on our own symbol, with seat adjustments in different national and provincial assemblies, and also competing against all other parties. We have a strong position in many of them. The next election will establish our place as a new political force.”

The IPP, with its contested alliance with PML-N and the ambitious claims of its leaders like Abdul Aleem Khan, is gearing up to assert its presence, refusing to be dismissed as a mere political footnote.

In this dance of power, influence, and ambition, the words of Mr Rizvi resonate as a reminder of the unpredictability of political tides: “Do not rule the IPP out till the post-election scenario unfolds.”