Course correction

Published February 24, 2024

THE PTI emerged from the Feb 8 elections as Pakistan’s largest political party. It should start acting like one.

The party founder’s decision to write to the IMF and urge it to call for an independent audit of the election results before it considers extending more loans was unbecoming and should have been reconsidered. There was no need for the PTI to engage in such tactics to demonstrate its seriousness about recovering its allegedly stolen mandate.

Even with its present numbers, it has more than enough leverage in three different assemblies to keep the pressure on the state without ever needing to involve an external stakeholder.

It must realise that any effort to ‘recover’ its mandate will entail a long legal struggle, during which the party and its supporters will periodically find themselves short on patience. However, resorting to extreme measures will only weaken their cause and could set them back in their efforts.

There is no denying that Pakistan’s present political landscape is much messier now than before, thanks to the ECP’s failure to hold a fair election and ensure transparency in its results. But this does not mean that those who feel they have been wronged should start engaging in acts of political arson to make their dissatisfaction known.

There are many legitimate means to protest, both within and outside parliament. There are also many different forums available through which the election results can and should be challenged. All of these can be resorted to as the PTI continues its fight for what it considers to be its right. If it goes overboard instead, the party risks repeating the mistakes it made in May last year, which only ended up giving room for the state to exercise its oppressive tendencies. There is prudence in acting with restraint.

The country cannot afford a re-run of the past two years. As a major representative of the Pakistani electorate, the PTI has an important role to play. The political configuration today is considerably different than what it was during the PDM regime.

Now that it has returned to parliament, the PTI will get to weigh in on any new deals the incoming government will strike with international lending agencies. If it plays the role of opposition right, the party will be able to pressure the government to make decisions that are in everybody’s best interests. It should not abandon that power and responsibility while expecting an external stakeholder to set things right.

Let the IMF make its own assessments and reach its own conclusions; it has enough experience dealing with the country in any case. The PTI’s job should be to focus on protecting its constituencies’ interests with whatever power it has been able to seize.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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