Saturday, May 7, 2016

Business Recorder editorial (as published) May 7, 2016

PTI's 'prudence' Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan has announced the postponement of his party's planned rally in Faisalabad on May 8th till May 20th after viewing video footage of the harassment of women participants of his party's Lahore rally on May 1st. Imran was reportedly incensed by the treatment meted out to his women supporters towards the end of the rally. He has expressed his 'mistrust' of the Punjab police, whom the PTI accuses of conveniently 'disappearing' just before a group of troublemakers pounced on women, a case of unwanted attention from which the victims only managed to escape with extreme difficulty. He has set up an investigation committee of the party to ascertain the facts and try to identify the perpetrators. Two FIRs have also been reportedly lodged against unnamed persons. While the deplorable incident occurred in the wake of similar harassment of the PTI's women supporters in rallies in Multan and Islamabad, and notwithstanding the PTI's allegation that all three were instances of the ruling PML-N unleashing its 'goons' on the women, there are reports that the real reason for the postponement may be infighting in the party in Faisalabad. That roadblock appears to have been surmounted by jealous local rivals inside the party being accommodated in the May 20 organisational cooking pot. Intriguingly, while there are no words strong enough to condemn the mistreatment and harassment of women who are already discouraged by conservative elements in our society from participating in politics, there seems no other logical explanation for Imran's postponement of the Faisalabad rally by a mere 12 days except internal party exigencies. It cannot be, surely, that Imran's expressed 'mistrust' of the Punjab police will see a miraculous turnaround by May 20. And in any case, the PTI would be well advised in future not to rely too much on the police for protection of their women supporters but to make stewardship and security arrangements themselves to ensure there is no repetition of such unfortunate happenings. Political parties in Pakistan tend to be dynastic and therefore fail to practice inner party democracy. The Jamaat-i-Islami is perhaps one of those rare exceptions that has seen consistent insofar as factors such as intra-party elections and democratic changes of leadership are concerned. If proof of the general run of things, in most, if not all other parties were needed, one need only glance at the PTI's intra-party elections debacle. Ideally, party leaders and office holders should not seek, and should be excluded from, elective office, whether at the local or national level. However, this may prove to be whistling in the wind since the PTI's and all other parties' leaders' insecurity, ambition and desire for control militates against any such principled distancing of party and elective office.

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