Fugue state

Published June 16, 2024

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one day, a leader tells the media that the party is now open to holding a dialogue with its rivals; just days later, two other senior leaders throw a bucket of cold water all over the initiative. Earlier this week, on Tuesday, PTI leader Gohar Ali Khan said former prime minister Imran Khan had given his blessing to a proposal to begin talks with the government. He said the party could even proceed unilaterally on the matter if needed. He had affirmed that the PTI had reached the conclusion that dialogue was the only option. However, on Friday, two other leaders, PTI information secretary Raoof Hassan and NA opposition leader Omar Ayub, dismissed what they described as “a controversy on the media” about the PTI speaking to “mandate usurpers”, insisting that PTI is still sticking to its demand that the government eliminate all cases against Mr Imran Khan, Bushra Bibi and its workers as a precondition to any talks.

At the outset, it must be said that the PTI expressing openness to dialogue was far from a ‘controversy’ for most observers. It is unfortunate that some of the party’s own leaders saw it so when, in fact, the move had been cautiously welcomed because a grand dialogue seems like the only way the present sociopolitical crisis can be resolved. That the PTI spoiled the effort before giving it a shot is, therefore, quite frustrating for those who believed it may have finally gotten serious about finding a way out of the morass. The party seems to be sleepwalking, muddling its way through politics while its incredibly mercurial leadership obsessively revises and re-revises its plans. It must, at the very least, figure out what it wants, instead of publicly announcing a major decision and then sheepishly backtracking. Just like in the fable about the boy who cried wolf, the people will stop paying attention to the party if it keeps raising false alarms. As regards the talks, the government, too, will need to demonstrate positive intent by making important concessions, such as releasing all political prisoners. However, it cannot be expected to take the process seriously if the PTI continues to flip-flop on what it wants.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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