Did Imran Khan lie about the 2013 elections being rigged?
Apparently it was a close fight and PTI has actually done well. In by-elections, the incumbents have an inherent advantage and it was also a seat which traditionally PML-N has always won. Yes, in case it had been a normal by-election then PTI has actually exceeded expectations.
Only, that it was an extraordinary by-election and therefore the eventual analysis has to consider this fact. The entire narrative of PTI with respect to rigging in 2013 was basically based on four seats, out of which NA-122 was the most significant, because here the PTI chief had himself lost.
It was here that the stakes were the highest and PTI had to prove their tall claims that in 2013, Ayaz Sadiq had won due to the so called 45,000 bogus votes.
If the claim was true, then Sadiq had to actually cover the ‘deficit’ this time, due to the absence of the bogus votes and perform extraordinarily to actually win. The narrow margin of victory actually becomes extremely huge, when examined in the light of PTI’s claims about rigging in 2013.
Those analysts who are calling it a close fight, and in fact some sort of ‘victory’ of PTI, are missing this very significant point.
So the PML-N win is actually humiliating for PTI, particularly if two plausible alternative scenarios are considered. First scenario: There was no rigging in 2013 and for two and half years, Imran had constantly lied and sold a flawed narrative to our gullible urban middle class. Second scenario: In reality, PML-N is doing pretty well and consequently even if Sadiq had won due to rigging, PML-N has done enough to capture the imagination of voters in that constituency.
It is obvious that both scenarios are completely unacceptable to PTI and hence they are going to allege what they have always alleged, that this time too it was rigged. However, the big difference is that many are not buying this now.
No sane person is going to believe these allegations anymore and it is better for Imran and his legion of impressionable abusive supporters to come to their senses. Politics is a long, hard and continuous struggle and one has to show maturity and courage to accept results and move forward. One has to understand that one defeat does not mean that you have completely lost.
PTI has to now discard the narrative that 2013 elections had been completely rigged.
In fact, the entire narrative is seriously flawed because NO survey or opinion poll (including Gallup and IRI) had predicted that PTI would win. All of them had predicted that PML-N would easily win. Yes, PTI had bigger rallies which were covered extensively by the media, but bigger rallies do not necessarily translate into larger vote share.
The election results merely confirmed the predictions of several opinion polls. Subsequently, the Judicial Commission, which was formed on Imran’s own demands, also decided against PTI. And now people of NA-122 also seem to disagree with the rigging narrative. Yes, PTI won a moral victory of sorts when the election tribunal had ordered re-polling, but they had to win this seat in order to back their claim that 2013 elections had been massively rigged.
Yet despite this, there is a silver lining for PTI. There is absolutely no doubt that PTI is the second most popular party in Pakistan. It needs to win Punjab and for that it needs to expand beyond its core base of the white collar urban middle class. However, to really win, it has to reconsider the way its supporters deal with masses.
One of the major problems with the PTI’s core support base of white collar urban middle class is their way of looking with disgust at ordinary people. For years, I have been hearing words like “jahil awam” (illiterate public), “ganday log” (bad people) and “khotays” (donkeys) in private conversations from PTI supporters. In fact, as the results started to pour in showing that Sadiq was leading, the immediate reaction of PTI was that ordinary Lahoris were clueless as they ate donkey meat and also elected donkeys.
Of course, now once again they have started to cry about rigging following the rants of their chief, but their basic way of looking at the masses remains questionable.
Politics is ultimately about engagement and only by giving ordinary people proper respect do you enhance your appeal. And proper respect means listening to what they consider as important. Yes, corruption and sovereignty are important but for people who belong to different demographics these may not be the most important factor. There is a world outside DHA and it thinks very differently, a fact that always escapes many of the PTI urban middle class supporters.
But above all, PTI has to show performance in K-P and deliver. Only when people see how well they have managed that province, will they actually consider PTI as an alternative on a larger scale.
It is time for PTI to show maturity.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.