Should the PTI contest the senate elections?

“The PTI is finally going to become part of the same parliament [by contesting the upcoming senate elections] that Mr Khan protested against and derided for the 126 days of his sit-in outside Parliament House”.

Why would the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) contest the upcoming senate elections in March when the voters are the very same parliamentarians that the PTI claims are not legitimate due to electoral rigging in 2013? Why does the PTI want more seats when they have deprived 12,070,038 people of representation for the last 4 months as 67 members refuse to attend parliament.

What strikes me as ironic is how the PTI chides and ridicules the very parliament that they want to become members of. Khan has become so obsessed with the alleged “large-scale conspiracy” that stole the elections in 2013 from him that he forgot he actually accepted the results back when they were officially announced. The first words Imran Khan uttered when he strode into the National Assembly back in June of 2013 were, “First of all Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your electoral victory.” The Mr. Speaker who Imran Khan congratulated under oath is the same gentleman who now Khan claims rigged the NA-122 constituency. Why accept the results and then renege on it?

It is this very renege that has caused confusion amongst the masses. The only people who are left to bear the brunt of this reverse swing are the 12,070,038 people who reside in 67 constituencies represented by a PTI member. PTI MNA or MPA’s have not been in the assemblies for the last 4 months, despite sitting less than a stone’s throw away from the National Assembly, neglecting the very voters they vow to protect. According to Bushra Gohar, despite their absence, PTI members have been collecting salaries and continue to “[draw] perks and privileges from the national exchequer.”

While Khan had gained serious momentum at the beginning of his dharna, the popularity and support soon started to wane. Rumor has it that the men in boots pulled the carpet out from under the feet of the PTI in the beginning of the 126 day sit-in. However, in the aftermath of the heinous attack on school children in Peshawar, PTI was able to find a face-saving exit. The exit was on the pretence that the PTI was coming together for national security and a united front against terrorism. But here is where the problem lies. Even after calling off the dharna and giving a very public joint press conference with Nawaz Sharif after attending the All-Parties Conference, the PTI still didn’t legislate.

PTI chose to abstain when voting on one of the most significant bills of our time: the 21st amendment. The party should have embraced or disgraced the bill due to the severity of the situation and the content of the bill. Democratic legislators in essence made room for the military to step in and take charge of judicial trials for alleged terrorists. Why has the PTI abstained from the very job that they were brought into power to do?

Frankly speaking, the PTI should either become full-time legislators and legislate, or pack up their desks and walk out. This dilly dallying in the name of politics is utterly ridiculous. You really can’t have your cake and eat it too. Given the fact that the PTI has refused to sit in the parliament, refused to legislate and have hardly proposed any bills in parliament, why do they still want to contest more elections under the current setup? What good will come out of a few PTI blue-eyed boys becoming members of the Senate when they have already let down 12,070,038 persons in their current constituencies? Why does the PTI want to become members in the Senate when 67 PTI legislators have submitted their resignations?

The problem here is double standards; the constant reverse swing of Imran Khan. A cohesive and sustained policy needs to be instilled. Merely conducting politics on a day-to-day basis following popularity polls, will not sustain the PTI. The only unfortunate part of the political drama we have witnessed in the last 4 months is the rise of the military and the demise of civilians in our politics. The role of the Prime Minister has been weakened with regards to the military, and the setting up of military courts was the final nail in the coffin. Ironically, the only way to control the military is to empower our assemblies. This will only be done when the political parties come together and actually respect the very institution they strive to become members of. It’s time the PTI lace up their boots; return to the assemblies, propose laws, participate in contentious debates, vote on bills and be a vibrant opposition. Without this political activity, there will always be space for the military to dominate and exploit our democracy.

This article was published in The Nation on 2nd February 2015.

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