The biggest news story that an investigative reporter could work on is to dig out facts behind the revolt within the ruling party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Is this revolt a natural outcome of Imran Khan’s failure? Or is it orchestrated? If it is orchestrated, then, who is the author?
It is quite an enigma. Is it an individual? Is it Jahangir Khan Tareen? Or is it a collective force?
The forces that have staged such high profile dramas in Pakistan in the past have already announced neutrality. It is beyond the capacity of Shehbaz Sharif, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman and Asif Ali Zardari to piece together such an assorted group of parliamentarians, with no underlying commonality, and encourage them to revolt against the PTI. Zardari and Rehman don’t enjoy clout in the politics of Punjab — as most of the revolting parliamentarians are from Punjab.
Shehbaz Sharif, notwithstanding his two stints as chief minister of Punjab, has never demonstrated capacity to stir the politics of electables.
Chaudhrys of Gujarat are experts in the politics of electables in Punjab. But, they get into action only when in power or when the very powerful in the country need them to. Presently, they are watching the game from the sidelines.
In spite of the financial wherewithal at his disposal, Jahangir Khan Tareen is an individual and individuals have limits.
Punjab’s electables are adept at power politics of the province. It is plausible that these electables have read the political and electoral trends in their constituencies and have concluded that the PTI ticket would not guarantee a victory in the next elections. Or, perhaps, some serious lobbying and communication were secretly carried out for long to form a large group comprising assorted members of the parliament to pull Imran Khan down.
Pakistani political parties in the post-Musharraf period have hardly displayed the capacity to indulge in such Byzantine intrigues or deceitful endeavours. In fact, they have become even more timid in recent decades. One obvious feature of this group formation is secrecy. But a revolt against the incumbent prime minister is a big thing, and beyond the capacity of an individual parliamentarian in Punjab.
The exact number of the dissident parliamentarians is unknown. Pervaiz Elahi says they are 12; Raja Riaz says 24; and Ramesh Wankvani says 33. These are big numbers. Such a mega revolt was staged last in 2002, when 22 PPP MNAs joined Musharraf’s King’s party, the PML-Q. Supposedly, Major-General Ehtesham Zamir, the head of the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, played a key role in orchestrating the rebellion.
After Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power in 2017 through a court verdict, the country’s intelligence services and organisations working under their influence made another attempt to cause defection within Nawaz Sharif’s party. But the attempt ostensibly failed. Political observers and commentators think the main force that kept the PML-N intact was Sharifs’ popularity in Central Punjab.
Back then, the Punjabi electoral elite knew that their return to the parliament was guaranteed only on the PML-N ticket.
The hard reality is that Imran Khan’s popularity in Punjab is hitting the lowest ebb, and electables are not ready to risk the next elections by supporting him.
But that explanation still doesn’t answer the question: who is organising the revolt? Some serious probing by an investigative journalist is required here.