KARACHI: For the new man in charge of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in Sindh, there is a solution to the challenge of introducing the party to a province that has long been voting for the same parties and faces.
Nadir Leghari, the former irrigation minister for Sindh during General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s regime, replaced Naeemul Haque as the head of the provincial body in March. The change of command may inject some momentum in a campaign that has so far only been seen in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Leghari and veteran PTI workers have started campaigning in rural Sindh. And while its people may be shackled to the authority of the feudal landlord, Leghari said that it was a ‘pleasant surprise’ to see them waving after recognising the party’s flag. “That kind of atmosphere exists in the villages; we just have to reach out to them.”
The PTI has entered the scene too close to the elections to be able to rest on the laurels of a track record. But Leghari believes that Imran Khan’s reputation, based on what he has delivered in the past through his philanthropy, gives him an edge over the existing leadership, who he says is corrupt.
But delivering on Khan’s reputation is the next step. The party has now started the Insaf Sindh Yakjehti Forum, a platform to discuss and identify core issues in Sindh. The ideology is based on creating equal opportunities to raise the living standard in villages. As an example, Leghari pointed out the difference in the living standards in Sanghar and DHA, and wants to start trying to bridge that gap.
“We are going to give people the power to choose and take ownership,” he added, which is the party’s Sindh message. It will be achieved by ending corruption and providing equal educational, employment and economic opportunities to all. The party’s model for local governance is part of this. “We will give a budget of Rs2.5 million for each village for development, run by local elected members.”
However, the PTI is aware that mere talk and plans are not enough to attract a crowd in Sindh. Despite a tepid response from nationalist parties, Leghari says that they are contacting the local leaders such as Jalal Mehmood Shah and are willing to meet them halfway and find a link for a common ground and an understanding of people’s real issues.
Imran Khan is also due in Sindh next month to interact with people.
On the other hand, Karachi is a different ballgame. Although most of PTI’s brain trust and support is based in the provincial capital, they are aware that people don’t vote for personalities, but for party policy. While PTI chairperson Imran Khan has toned down his stance towards the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Leghari says it is too early to point out whom are they mostly closely aligned to. However, as their policies mature, they can have a working relationship with whoever is not involved in corruption, extortion and terrorism etc. While the party may not seem to stand a chance in Karachi against the strength of the Awami National Party and of MQM, Leghari said the party’s rally on December 25 showed that people are ready to support a new party.
“We do not make tall claims, but are hopeful that even the people will take the initiative to support a party that has national representation and the muscle to bring change from the National Assembly,” Leghari said. “To nail our point home we are devising diverse methods.”
PTI is now eying neglected suburban areas such as Bilal Colony, Macchhar Colony and Sachal Goth for votes, in addition to the urban youth base that it draws its strength from. Whether PTI can dent the well-established party vote banks in the province will be seen at the ballot box.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.