HYDERABAD: Despite the charisma of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and the arguably fading popularity of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the PTI has failed to make significant inroads in Sindh outside of Karachi. The lack of political activism by the party in rural Sindh is thought to be responsible for this, but as the local government elections draw near, visible efforts are being made to address this.
"Our people have told us that there is a lot of space for political parties in Sindh because the people here have grown resentful of the ruling parties," remarked Arif Alvi, PTI's organiser for Sindh, at a press conference on Sunday. "I have been organising the party [in the province] for the last two to three weeks," he added, tacitly acknowledging the missing political organisation in the party's Sindh chapter.
According to Alvi, PTI is appointing organisers and deputy organisers at the district, taluka and union council levels across the province. Except for three districts in upper Sindh, he claimed, the organisers for the entire province have been selected.
For now, he said, the organisers had been given the responsibility of filing objections to the delimitation of local government constituencies, the process of which will conclude by June 30. Subsequently, they will receive applications from those aspiring to contest the local government polls and after that, a district-level selection board will be formed to choose the election candidates.
Notwithstanding this, the organisers will all be the unelected local leaders of the party. "It is not possible for us to complete [party] membership and elect leaders before the local government elections [in Sindh]," Alvi admitted.
He was also unable to explain how the party will ramp up electoral support with the central leadership missing from the political scene.
"Imran Khan will have to lead the campaign for the PTI to win votes from Sindh in the local government elections," said a PTI leader, who requested anonymity, appearing uncertain about whether this would happen. "There is little chance of making considerable gains without him."
Alvi, when asked, also could not confirm that Khan will actively lead the election campaign in the province. He saw the Benazir Income Support Program and the hasty completion of long-pending civic projects as a challenge to PTI's electoral canvas. "If some helpful schemes are offered in their area, people seem to forget what the long years of bad governance and corruption did to their lives."
Another local leader of the party, who also wished not to be named, looked askance over the ongoing exercise of selecting the organisers. He argued that while some old PTI leaders who failed to mobilise the people had been brought back, defectors from other parties had also been accommodated. As far as Alvi was concerned, however, "if kafirs [atheists] can become Muslims then why can't we accept the defectors?"
The PTI secured one National Assembly seat and three Sindh Assembly seats from Karachi in the general elections of 2013. Its candidates in the rest of Sindh could not bag any constituency.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2015.