Although Sheikh Rashid and senior leaders of PTI have denied any formal alliance, it is believed that the two parties concurred to support each other, such that PTI will not nominate a candidate for Rawalpindi NA 55, home constituency to Sheikh Rashid and AML will support PTI in PP-11 ad PP-12 constituencies. Rawalpindi occupies an important place in electoral politics as it includes 7 National Assembly and 14 Punjab Assembly constituencies.
It is quite easy to understand Sheikh Rashid’s incentive for such an alliance. Since 2008, he has lost elections thrice in a row against PML-N. His previous successes were noticed when he was backed by either Sharif or Musharraf. Now with Musharraf no where in sight and Sharifs showing spite for Rashid’s alignment with Musharraf, Awami Muslim League serves to benefit from Khan’s popularity. There are rumors about Rashid rejoining PML-N but the threat of resignation of Hanif Abbasi and Shakil Awan did not permit this. In order to enter mainstream politics, Sheikh Rashid needs to affiliate himself with a strong party. PTI was thus the only recourse left to him.
The more interesting aspect of this alliance is, however, Khan’s motivation. One reason could be an agenda of uniting an anti-establishment opposition for achieving common goals like elimination of corruption. Sheikh Rashid’s contemporary stance against the government is a contradiction to his past political career. Furthermore, much of Khan’s support comes from the youth, a vote bank where Rashid hasn’t done much wonders. Who can forget his role in the Lal Masjid operation?
PTI is seen to be rapidly closing the gap in its race against the PPP and PML-N. Realistically speaking, however, Khan has great ideas but an unclear plan to materialize them. Furthermore, he does not have the same kind of rural support which PPP and PML-N have. So siding with Sheikh Rashid might be a move made to build up support. Although it must be recognized that Sheikh Rashid would only benefit PTI with his candid remarks and inspiring speeches for AML has little resources to offer.
In one of his recent interviews, Khan explained his steadfastness to his objectives. He claimed never to compromise and to use all of his efforts to achieve his goal. If he really wants to eliminate corruption, restore security and facilitate economic growth in Pakistan, is he ready to compromise on his methods by consorting with age old politicians of controversial backgrounds who have failed to deliver before? Sheikh Rashid is the same “Sheeda Talli” whose success Khan prayed would never befall him. Is it then appropriate to call PTI’s tsunami as an agent of change? Since Khan lacks strong political roots to buffer his mistakes, his every move becomes a test. When attending Liaqat Bagh’s procession has warranted Khan’s explanation to his party members, one can only wonder how much this convergence will damage his reputation.
The change that Imran Khan so often calls for cannot come about when he does not have a majority in the parliament. At the end of the day, no matter what method he adopts Khan has to make sure that he can make it into the government. In that case, we might be willing to let him hold off the campaign for change and indulge in traditional politics. Senior PTI member, Jahangir Tareen, places his faith in Khan’s leadership which will prevent any deviations. But does that also render a member’s background insignificant?
A recent Gallup poll showed that PPP’s popularity had diminished while that of PML-N and PTI was increasing. PML-N bet PTI by acquiring a popularity vote of 33% as compared to PTI’s 17%. PTI thus needs to up its game in the next few months. If the overall objective was to garner support against establishment parties then PTI and AML put together are still not a formidable threat to PML-N. Analysts therefore believe that this alliance will not have much of an effect on the overall state of politics. The repercussions of this alliance may not be as serious as being portrayed by the media but it’s a trailer to the upcoming electoral drama heading Pakistan’s political industry.
By Ahsan Waheed