08172019Headline:

PTI policy of dialogue by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Pakistani media has been presenting Pakistan Tehrike Insaf (PTI) as a political party of extreme right. Some have even gone so far to label it as a political arm of the militants. This is a misrepresentation of the ideological position of PTI. PTI is a political party that has support from the educated middle class in the urban centers like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Hyderabad and Peshawar. This fact is evident from the votes polled by PTI candidates in these city centers. In Karachi PTI emerged as the second largest political party securing over 700,000 votes. Urbanites usually hold moderate views and their endorsement of PTI was indicative of the center-right ideological position of the party.

In rural areas the party was supported by educated youth and small farmers. These people wanted the party to extricate the country from foreign wars and focus more on nation building rather than being part of a great game played by international powers in South Asia. PTI supporters in the rural areas were more interested in good governance and delivery of basic services rather than an ambitious foreign policy driven by seeking a strategic depth.

In the leadership cadre most of the top leaders are from the center-left rather than right let alone extreme right. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Shafqat Mahmood, and Pervez Khattak were members of leftist parties before they joined PTI. We can’t assume that their ideological leanings shifted overnight to extreme right rather they made a political decision to catch a rising tide. Similarly Javed Hashmi, Jahangir Tareen, Asad Umer, and Dr. Arif Alvi although leaning to the right can’t be considered promoters of extreme right. My own personal political leanings are also towards center-right and I object adopting an extreme right policy position. Presence of these divergent ideologically leaning politicians are an indication that PTI is still struggling with finding its true ideological orientation which in my view is center-right rather than extreme right.

The funding for PTI was provided by overseas Pakistanis that belong to educated middle class. Major support for PTI initiatives came from European Union (EU), UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Middle East. These supporters cannot be labelled as supporters of an extreme-right ideology. These people were motivated by reforming the status quo by introducing a new phenomenon in Pakistani politics. They were driven by building a democratic political party and supporting educated candidates to introduce a grass roots democratic tradition. These are modern ideas for Pakistan and it is not unusual that some disappointments are encountered in the early stages of its evolution. Demands inside the party for greater transparency and accountability are almost unheard of in other political parties.

The people of KP did not support PTI because it is an extreme right party. They offer them a mandate to improve the conditions of the people in terms of law & order; build infrastructure; revive the economy; and improve social conditions. They wanted to offer PTI a chance to deliver on the promises made during the election campaign. It is wrong to assume that people of KP are on the extreme-right.

Based on the above factors it is safe to assume that the extreme-right ideological position associated with PTI has minority support inside the party. It is important that PTI members and leaders should counter this false impression through facts rather than abusive comments on social media.

This raises two important questions, what kind of social order is supported by PTI? And why does the party support dialogue with militants?

It is not easy for soldiers to fire at the citizens of their country regardless of the reason. It is important that all options are exhausted before a major military operation is initiated against militants. It is quite clear that militants have established sleeper cells around the country that will target civilians once a military operation is launched in FATA area. In that situation the nation will need a political will for a long drawn operation and should be psychologically ready to face increased acts of terrorism. It is for this reason it is important that dialogue with militants should be pursued in all sincerity but with some red lines. These red lines are that the talks will be pursued within the constitution of Pakistan and that Sharia cannot be imposed from the barrel of a gun. PTI has maintained throughout that our participation in foreign wars are not supported by majority of Pakistanis and that it has increased the militancy in tribal areas. To fight this militancy requires reformulation of our foreign policy coupled with dialogue with militants. If the dialogue efforts do not produce any political solution then the military option should be used by the government. This view got an endorsement by the all parties conference (APC) organized by PML N government as well as by APCs organized by ANP and JUI-F before the elections. PTI supports recently initiated dialogue efforts but if the terror incidents continue then there will be no other option but to pursue a military operation.

PTI believes that Pakistan should become a model Islamic Social Welfare state as proposed by our founding fathers Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In this model state emancipation of women is guaranteed; religion persuasion is a private matter; non-Muslims have full citizen rights; level playing field is offered for economic progress; speedy and affordable system of justice is in practice; and social justice prevails throughout the country. It was for this ideal that educated middle class came forward to support PTI and its political campaign. It is unfortunate that the party has not been able to convey it properly through its media presentation. It may be because most of PTI representatives are not properly trained in presenting the ideological position of the party.

It is important that PTI initiate a major debate inside the party to properly articulate the vision and ideology of the party. There should be no ambiguity and mixed signals should not be sent on its policy position. Party should also walk the talk by delivering good governance in KP rather than just use political rhetoric to gain political points. Failure to achieve an ideological clarity could have serious repercussions on party’s fortune in the upcoming local government elections and preparing for next general elections.

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