PTI favours early polls to cash in on current popularity wave

However, analysts feel that when the public starts asking questions about performance, the former premier will stutter

Umer Farooq May 26, 2022
Imran Khan addressing his supporters on the way to D-Chowk, Islamabad on May 25. SCREENGRAB


As the country continues to await a decision on whether elections take place soon or a year from now, the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is leading the pack in holding rally after rally across the country but political experts feel like this strategy will result in the party losing steam soon. In the past, the PTI has faced the allegations that its jalsas were largely managed and when the crutches are taken away they will be in for a rude awakening.

However, the party with its political gatherings, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) where it is still in government, has rubbished those allegations and challenged other political parties to match the street power it has shown in the past month. While the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), has responded to those challenges with its own political power shows, it has not been able bring out large crowds in K-P.

“This vote of no confidence against Imran Khan was a dim-witted decision and this has catapulted Imran Khan to pre-general election 2018 popularity with 33% popularity rate,” said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development (PILDAT). Ahmed believes that the current government’s only strategy for competing with the PTI is draining Khan.

“The more the polls are delayed, the more this is going to help Khan’s opponents and the opposition knows this very well,” he opined, “this is why Khan has been calling for a general election as soon as possible.’ Even if elections are not called early, Dr Faizullah Jan, who is the Head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Peshawar, thinks that the former prime minister will be hard to beat.

“Imran Khan has shown how to sell the anti-American narrative successfully and that is what is bringing out the crowds.” In the past the PTI’s competition in K-P, particularly the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) has tried similar anti-American narratives but has to failed to garner the support the PTI has, which Dr Faizullah believes is due to a lack of charisma. “Khan’s charismatic personality and his mudslinging appeals to the youth, who regard him as the lesser of all evils.”

Political analyst Dr Hassan Askari, concurs with the lesser of all evils assessment of the public put forth by Dr Faizullah. “The corruption cases against Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his family are being hammered over and over in Khan’s narrative and the public is responding positively.” However, Qaisaro Khan, a former educationist based in Peshawar, says that Khan’s jalsas are only successful because they are a source of entertainment.

Qaisaro believes that come election day, whenever it might be, Imran Khan will realise that his support base did not turn up to the polling booths. “Khan has little to show in terms of achievements while in government so sooner or later that will catch up to him.

He is riding the popularity wave really well but even the mightiest of waves crash.” Dr Hassan, agreeing with Qaisarao’s views, told The Express Tribune that while jalsas have a psychological impact “I do not think all these people attending PTI gatherings will vote for Khan.”


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