EDITORIAL: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to dissolve Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) countrywide organisational structure, as well as new nominations of all important party offices, smacks more of a displeased cricket board chairman swinging the axe than a party head, that too the sitting PM, moving pieces across the political chessboard when the game is turning against him.

The reaction of onlookers, political pundits, and even the PTI rank and file, seems to suggest that this is precisely how not to reorganise a party when the chips are down. This reaction was triggered by PTI’s embarrassing, almost humiliating, performance in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) local government election, and the urgent need to rule out a repeat performance elsewhere, no doubt, but the manner in which it has been done raises far more questions than it answers.

For example, it is difficult to see how appointing sitting ministers to senior party positions and expecting them to do justice to both their responsibilities is a workable idea. There are only 24 hours in a day, after all, and matters of governance ought to require the full attention of sitting ministers. But when they are also tasked with reorganising the whole party all over the country, and deliver results that must be very different from the drubbing in KP, then it doesn’t take too much to figure out where their operational priorities are going to lie for the next few months at least.

There’s also the pretty obvious fact that almost none of the new guard, like Asad Umar, Khusro Bakhtiar, Shafqat Mehmood, Ali Zaidi, etc., are rank politicians and can hardly be expected to do better than give yet another version of the top-down approach just when connecting with the grassroots is needed. Unless this is just one more way for the captain to micromanage the whole thing; which is what he said in his first Twitter reaction to the KP loss.

Something should also be said about the shakeup extending beyond KP, especially in Punjab so close to the local government election there. Shafqat Mehmood might have a stellar record as a bureaucrat and then Imran Khan’s deputy, and Khusro Bakhtiar might have impressed the boss as successfully managed to avert the sugar inquiry, but what can they possibly be expected to do in Punjab on such short notice other than upset whatever kind of applecart Usman Buzdar had finally got running? And since there is no action in politics without planning for contingencies, whose heads are going to roll in case this experiment turns into a sour experience as well? Will Usman Buzdar come out unscathed once again as others are condemned to the bench?

Most of all, though, this reorganisation exposes how disorganised PTI has become as a party. That the KP loss was very bitter is understandable; not the least because the memory of creating history by becoming the first party to get reelected to the provincial government, by a bigger majority no less, was still fresh. But this unforgiving lesson typical of high-stakes politics also proves that PTI had taken KP, at least, for granted and therefore become complacent.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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