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PTI Leadership Resignations and Army's Role: A Challenge to Pakistan's Democracy

(Ex-PM and PTI Leader Imran Khan)

PTI’s Downfall: The Great Resignation

As PTI’s senior leaders start to leave the party in droves following the aftermath of May 9th. Most of these PTI leaders have expressed great distress over the violence that ensued on May 9th while others are claiming they are taking a “break” from politics. Khan himself is banned from travelling outside the country as a means to block him from escaping potential punishment from the army. 

Some pundits are speculating that many of these leaders are resigning due to the army establishment threatening to try them under military courts. While others argue that the resignations of PTI leaders come directly as a response to PTI’s lack of viability in the upcoming election because of political blunders.

In either case, PTI is in shambles; they have lost many senior leaders that hold connections to the army, government, and political insiders. These leaders are vital to aboard internal bureaucrats and army generals to PTI’s politics, without them, Khan is left to fend for himself. It also means that PTI has lost the political capital needed to win the October elections. The only factor chugging along PTI and Khan are his dedicated workers and supporters that have supported him for years. And even they are increasingly becoming doubtful of Khan’s future in politics.

Khan was coming into the October election as the favourite to win but as of May 9th, Khan’s chances of winning the election are the lowest they’ve ever been in his political career. The only hope for PTI now is to focus their efforts on the provincial legislatures and plan for a comeback in a post-2023 federal election.

Not to mention further pressures from the army indicate subtle inclinations from Pakistan’s Minister of Defence, Khawaja Asif, on banning the PTI party from politics. The fact that a ban is potentially being considered showcases the aggressiveness of Pakistan’s army and political establishment in undermining PTI to the ground. 

Interestingly, some pundits, knowing Pakistan’s history, predicted that martial law was imminent on May 9th. But the army made the more intelligent move of letting the protestors strike them in exchange for trying them profusely once PTI’s initial political pressure subsided. As a result, the army is in an advantageous position as a result of their patience against the protestors, they now have the leverage of Pakistan’s courts to convict those who they deem to have wronged them. For Khan and his supporters, Pakistan's single most powerful institution - the army - has become its biggest nightmare.

Rather than a ban or martial law, it instead seems increasingly more probable that Pakistan’s establishment is weakening PTI from within. If PTI becomes a hollow of its former strength due to party prominent party leaders leaving, then there would be little need to ban the party as PTI would be weakened to electoral irrelevancy. At this point, Khan has lost much confidence in both the army and political establishment, it’ll take at least a couple of years of clean and cautious politics to regain trust from Pakistan’s showrunners. Khan needs to recognize that the 2023 electoral cycle is over for him, he must regroup and pool planning for the long term. 

An Anti-Resignation Solution

One primary point of contention against Khan is his inability to reward PTI workers that have supported him for years. This blunder was seen both in the 2018 federal election in which he won and in the preparation for the Punjab and KPK elections. Rather than giving PTI workers the candidacy to represent his party, Khan instead gives candidacy representation to individuals with wealthy pockets, regardless of their merits or history with PTI. At the local jurisdictional level, many merit-based candidates were robbed of their deserved PTI candidacy simply because their donation abilities were not as generous as the person with a hefty wallet. In fact, some pundits claim that Khan indirectly demands at least a million rupees from his candidates as a buy-in to become the jurisdiction's candidate. 

It’s only up to Khan to decide if he really wants to give his true workers a chance in representing his party. As otherwise, he’ll have the same individuals who’ll abandon his party at a moment’s notice when his political position becomes weak. The senior leaders who are abandoning their party don’t have any grassroots loyalty to PTI, those leaders are part of the political class in Pakistan that has jumped between Pakistan’s main parties for decades. For them, they saw PTI quickly become a sinking ship after May 9th and so they simply made the decision to jump ship as they’ve done many times before with other parties. To avoid such a fate, the only solution is to provide loyal supporters and workers with the political opportunity they deserve to represent their rightful merit-based constituencies.

The Army: Politics and the Importance of Neutrality

At the helm of Pakistan’s politics is the all-seeing and encompassing army, which peaks its head into the intricacies of Pakistan’s political parties, leaders, MNAs and MPAs, government departments, and judiciary. Unfortunately for Pakistanis, this overt influence has resulted in a stunt for Pakistan’s economic and social development. Compared to its neighbour, India, Pakistan is not going through the same economic boom that India is currently going through. While the business leaders recognize the potential of India’s developing markets and consumer base, Pakistan is being overlooked because of its social instability, political corruption, army rule, and border crises. In order to restore confidence and stability, Pakistan should be governed by the country’s natural democratic processes and institutions, not its army. 

But some may argue that a richer Pakistan undermines the role of the army, however, most economists would argue the opposite. A richer middle class results in more tax revenue for the government which means higher salaries for army personnel. If all the army cares about is wealth and prestige, a richer Pakistan would only sideline the army’s influence in its institutions, not attack its level of wealth and prestige. There is no question that the army’s prestige will never be questioned, a big part of Pakistan’s pride is its strong military. If the army voluntarily or is politically evicted from its role in Pakistani politics, the people will thank them for it.

And here lies PTI’s potential, a party that stands up for the advancement of the average working man and woman in the country whilst ensuring that the country’s shaky institutions are strengthened with a political party that is willing to support them with accountability, funding, and merit-based expertise. As long as any party, not just PTI, continues to succumb to the army in a manner that is non-negotiable, the country will continue its era of never-ending instability.


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