Will the Tsunami kill orthodox politics?

Published: June 6, 2012

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has emerged as third mainstream political party but doesn't have Left or Right label. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN AND NEFER SEHGAL/EXPRESS

In the last century, it has been generally accepted that Pakistani voters are more or less divided according to the left-right ideological divide which is also, conveniently, referred to as the Bhutto/anti-Bhutto vote.

However, in the last decade a new breed of voters is ready to replace those who were young during 1970s and 80s. The priorities of the previous generation of voters too has been altered by the significant changes in economic and social conditions, consequently they no longer are as enthusiastically affiliated to the left-right politics as they once were.

On the other hand, new generations of voters are immune to this so-called ‘ideological’ divide. The political discussions or talk shows that take place around us generally encompass the debate of right or wrong, corruption, policies, infrastructure etc but nobody talks about the political ideology Bhutto believed in. Such neglect simply tells us that whatever Bhutto’s ideology was, it is considered irrelevant to the present political landscape. If we analyse other left wing political parties like the MQM or the ANP, their vote bank is, by large, due to ethnicity rather than any left wing ideology.

The PPP, which is regarded as a center-to-the-left mainstream political party, also appeals to the Sindhi ethnicity whenever it feels threatened, in spite of being a nation-wide political party. The second mainstream political party, the PML-N, is usually considered as center-to-the-right party and is increasingly restricted to Punjab.

This supports the perception that society is being increasingly polarized. However, the most important thing to observe is that PPP and PML-N are shifting towards center. The difference in their policies and its implementation is almost negligible. This further reinforces the death of orthodox left-right political divide.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has emerged as third mainstream political party but doesn’t have left or right label.

Interestingly, the PTI encounters constant criticism from both conservatives and liberals. And yet it comprises of people from both sections. PTI takes its stance on a case by case basis rather than following any particular school of thought stringently. For example, its policy for negotiation with Taliban is much closer to the conservatives but it also supports trade with India, which is closer to the liberal front. I feel that both are based on a principle, as it should be. This is precisely the strength of the PTI as now the party is considered to comprise of a broader range of schools of thoughts. Be it conservatives, liberals, moderates, all are attracted to the PTI for its diverse party dynamics  evident in its policies.

PPP supporters and workers in Punjab and KPK, who were unhappy with the performance of  the party and left with no choice due to the deep rivalry with the PML-N, are now shifting their loyalties to PTI. Contrary to many analysts, it is now an undeniable reality that the PTI is damaging the PPP’s vote bank in Punjab and KPK. In 1997 elections, the PML-N won by a landslide not because of any increase in its voters, but benefited significantly from a much lower turn out of PPP voters.Unlike the 1997 general election, PPP supporters now have a genuine alternative.

Chart 1

This situation is favourable to the PTI. Moreover, being devoid of any ethnic colour and traditional left-right label, the PTI will dent the vote bank of almost every political party.

Recently, I came across a very superficial analysis which concluded that in Punjab, the PTI and PML-N will share opposition votes or anti-Bhutto votes, as a result of which PPP will win the elections in Punjab. Frankly, some intellectuals have yet to free themselves from the Bhutto/anti Bhutto era. The major flaw in the analysis is that it is based on the following assumptions:

(i) There are only two kinds of vote banks,  Bhutto/anti Bhutto

(ii) Voter turn-out will remain 35-40%

(iii) The PTI will only take its share from the right wing vote bank

It is worth noting here that in the general elections of 1970, voter turn-out was 63% which helped the PPP overcome Muslim League factions in Punjab.In the present scenario where an anchorperson of a political talk show is earning much more than showbiz celebrities, the turn-out is expected to go beyond 60%. Moreover, the largest chunk is likely to be the first time voters (18-35 years of age). It is generally agreed upon that the inclusion of new voters or increase in voters turn-out usually benefit the  newer political party rather then the traditional ones, unless the performance of older parties were commendable. Furthermore, the disadvantage with both the traditional parties is that they will also be affected by the incumbency factor as they both are ruling parties whether in federation or province.

The argument over the assumption that the PPP will be victorious in Punjab due to the split in opposition or right-wing voters, is not at all true if we were to analyse ground surveys. Another very important point to be noted is that every ground survey conducted during the past 12 months by the IRI  indicates that the PPP’s popularity in Punjab has seen a decline so much so, that even if the opposition vote banks were to split, it will be highly unlikely for PPP to win. Note that according to many Pakistani journalists, IRI has been consistently proven to be accurate with the election results, particularly in 2008.

If we compare the results of the general elections of 1993 and 1997, one can observe that there was no major gain in terms of votes for PML-N. Its spectacular success was due to the lack of PPP voters; a significant chunk of PPP voters is actually  swing voters. The challenge for PTI is to target these voters strongly. IRI surveys show the PPP vote bank diminishing – so where is shifting to then? My claim: the PTI.  I will support my claim with the observation my friend and I made on our visits to Punjab, that these swing voters of PPP have started viewing the PTI as a likely and strong alternative.

Follow Adeel on Twitter @AdeelKhi

Adeel Ahmed

Adeel Ahmed

A manager in an engineering firm in Karachi. He is deeply interested in the current political scenario and is optimistic about the future of Pakistan. He tweets @AdeelKhi

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Noise

    Its the Tsunami thats dead. Imran Khan has no real stand on any issue. He simply says things that he thinks are the things people want to hear. All politicians do that. Nawaz Sharif was all ehtisaab ehtisaab in the late 90s. Imran will never take a stand like Salman Taseer. He is not a true leader with his own vision, he is a left winger when it suits him, right winger when it suits him, he is simply a man riding the wave, he knows this, hence the stupid tsunami label. Dont expect him to have the courage to change society for the better. He is not a visionary leader of a revolution like Khomenei or Lenin, stamping their philosophy on minds of their followers. He doesn’t have a vision of his own, he has no courage or will to guide the people, instead, he lets the mob guide him and the mob is by nature stupid and fickle, always following its baser instincts, greed, paranoia, bigotry, laziness and a false sense of entitlement. Imran is simply like parrot who will say whatever the mob expects him to say. Recommend

  • Noise

    Its the Tsunami thats dead. Imran Khan has no real stand on any issue. He simply says things that he thinks are the things people want to hear. All politicians do that. Nawaz Shareef was all ehtisaab ehtisaab in the late 90s. Imran will never take a stand like Salman Taseer. He is not a true leader with his own vision, he is left winger when it suits him, right winger when it suits him, he is simply a man riding the wave, he knows this, hence the stupid tsunami rhetoric and the hollow verbal point scoring. Dont expect him to have the courage to change society for the better. He is not a visionary leader of a revolution like Khomenei or Lenin, stamping their philosophy on minds of their followers. He doesn’t have a vision of his own, he has not courage or will to guide the people, he lets the mob guide him and the mob is by nature stupid and fickle, always following its baser instincts, greed, laziness, bigotry, a false sense of entitlement. Imran is simply like parrot who will say whatever the mob expects him to say.Recommend

  • zia

    This is what I have been telling to my Noora friends that this theory of dividing Noora votes is completely superficial and is not based on scientific polling and ground realities and I also say on this forum today that the next elections will be contested only between two parties, i.e PTI and PMLn and PPP will be out for the count!!!Recommend

  • Ordinary Villager

    Recently my friend met Fauzia Kasuri and since she is the member of CEC PTI and a women head of PTI so she have a say in many matters of PTI and also her family is running the schools for rich in Pakistan known as Beaconhouses and Educators so my friend asked that Madam could you elaborate the education policy of PTI and firstly she have no answer then she said that all Schools will be made exemplary like Beaconhouses. Such is a mindset of PTI high ups. When they are benefiting from the system why they will talk against the system???. Kasuri family runs Beaconhouses and they are in PTI and tell me how they will bring Universal Education System in Pakistan when their own business could come under threat. Also the Sugar Mafia of South Punjab and same Peer and Wadairas are now in PTI. Moreover Sardar Asif who in his previous regime said that Higher Education commission should no longer exist as he is a Conventional Sardar is now a senior member of PTI. Now can anybody tell me how Sardar Asif who is against Higher Education can bring any change within PTI or in Pakistan?????. So the Answer is no PTI cannot change the Orthodox Politics of Pakistan.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    I think the issue of left vs. right has 2 lenses. The first one of nationalist and conservative ethos. Here PTI stands right to the center. The second one is of economic and social policies, here PTI stands towards left of the center. In fact, PTI’s key focus on social development through high expenditure on education and healthcare suggests that they are going to rely heavily on taxation, which is a typical hallmark of a leftist party. Lastly, I think left or right is a luxury afforded to those who have bread on the table and shelter over their head. The gravity of the issues we are facing are more of black and white nature. Once we get out of the woods, we can certainly aspire for a more sound social discussion on whether left or right is the way to go. At this point, making it to the other end in one piece might be a more practical goal.Recommend

  • Umer Rasheed

    How come 18 NA seats of PPP in 1997 make up to 21.8%. These figures are flawed.Recommend

  • Aasim Mukhtar

    @ Ordinary Villager..
    My dear then by your standards, if PPP stays in power, we would never get rid of the feudalism, not would there be any reforms in the agriculture sector, because the family is benefiting from the current system. Sugar prices will keep on soaring, and since most of their party members now own stakes in IPPs, power issue would never be resolved.
    On the other hand, if PML-N comes into power, Pakistan steel mill and PIA will go bankrupt, because of the Sharif family’s stake in their own steel business and their party member’s private sector airline too will need some benefits.
    As far as education is concerned, do you think these two parties (PML-N and PPP) with members holding FAKE degrees would bring educational reforms in the country, who actively tried to abolish the HEC and have practically ceased to provide funds to HEC for PHD scholarships. It’s ridiculous to know that you expect people who say “Degree Degree hoti hai, jaali ho ya asli” to bring educational reforms, as opposed to those whose colleagues run one of the most admired school in the country.
    So my dear ordinary villager, your argument in itself goes completely in favor of PTI, as they do not have such vested personal interests, at least their leader hasn’t got any and we have seen him doing miracles for the nation in the recent history, be it on a cricket ground, a hospital for cancer patients or response to a devastating flood, Khan stood by the nation each time. This time we will stand by him in the elections, and everyone will see what he and his team brings Insha’Allah.Recommend

  • Ali Nasir

    PTI can’t do anything, they are living in their dream world. They even don’t know the ground realitties they even don’t have a right plan and right people. People wants electricity and shelter good food and life style so IK was on the concert “Hum bijli dengay hum ye kerde gay wo kerdegay” but how ? No dude I can’t trust because there is no difference between Imran khan, Nawaz sharif, Zordari and Altaf hussain.

    They all are same and the big corruption in PTI is that ” Kisne chairman banaya Imran khan ko kabhi party election huay nahi sub k selection huay hain” Recommend

  • Asif Nawaz

    Generally speaking, PTI is the only party which is not in power but still facing the crossfire from every Tom, Dick and Harry. I wonder, what keeps our big mouths zipped when it comes to other parties. If we had the will to question them as well, Pakistan would have been in much better position today. Strange!!!!Recommend

  • Qasim

    @Umer Rasheed:

    the percentages do not represent the percantage of seats won!

    the percentages are that of the total no. of votes received by each party against toal no. of voters.Recommend

  • Qasim


    Perhaps you should come out of the closet and watch IK;s interviews. He is the only leader who has openly condemned the way Salman Taseer was murdered. Nobody had the courage to do that, even PPP.

    He is neither leftist or rightist. The problem with our society is that they classify everything as black or white. He is the only person we can expect to change the society. His vision is very clear, we are seeing the likes of Asad Umar & Jehangir Tareen doing excellent policy work and demonstrating excellent understanding of our issues. Perhaps you should watch the post budget briefing, Asad Umar speaking at various events, Jehangir Tareen discussing various policies. No party can match these guys. Recommend

  • Qasim

    @Ali Nasir:

    are you joking? right plan right people? Perhaps you havent heard of Asad Umar & Jehangir Tareen. These guys are genuises and they are working on the policies of PTI. If anyone in Pakistan has capability, it is PTI and its members like JKT & AU. Infact PTI is the only party working extensively on policies. Perhaps you should watch more of JKT & AU speaking at various seminars.

    Regarding elections, you are right. However, PTI is now setting a trend and doing something which has never happened in the histoy of Pakistani politics. Once membership campaign is over, elections will be held and EACH & EVERY member will have the right to choose their leaders. This is unheard of in Pakistani politics. Excellent initiative. Recommend

  • JS

    thats right….thats what everyone here should do….vote in either pmln or ppp….i mean they have always brought us prosperity, transparency, safety, electricity, a booming economy, and high standing in the comity of nations……Considering the number of supporters for the incumbents i see here and on other newspaper websites, it pains me to say that stupid people like us deserve everything we have gotten since the day this country was born. Recommend

  • Qasim

    @Ordinary Villager:

    if you want get an idea of PTI’s education policy, please listen to Asad Umars recent speeches at the IPF events. It should make your head clear about PTI vision regarding education.

    However your logic that that Kasuris own Beaconhouse is flawed as pointed out by Aasim Mukhtar above. By this logic, if PMLN comes into power, then PIA will NEVER be successful thanks to PMLN leader owning Pakistans most successful private airline, then we will see sugar hoarding thats to PMLN members Sugar Mills, then we will see Pakistan Steel make even bigger losses due to PMLN members stakes in steel business. Ofcourse the list goes on. We need not talk about PPP, because we have seen that everything will fail irrespective of whether PPP does corruption or not.

    The only difference between PMLN + PPP and PTI is that PTI has the likes of IK, AU & JK who will ensure that Pakistans interests come first, not personal interests of party member. For this we can trust PTI, and not PPP or PMLN as we have seen how they have misused their powers whenever in Govt.Recommend

  • Ordinary Villager

    @Aasim Mukhtar: Well Ok the things you told me here please tell these same points to the high ups in PTI. If Kasuri family of PTI is a sincere and really want to bring change then charity begins at home. As a matter of change just ask Kasuri family of PTI that since beaconhouses and Educators are for rich then why not divert some money to the poor. Why not Kasuri reserve 20 percent of the seats for the poor in beacon houses then. You dont need to be in the gov to bring change. !!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Logical

    @Ordinary Villager:

    The thing is you see Kasuri’s B.S.S but you cannot see IK’s Namal College. He wants to replicate Namal all over Pakistan. But you choose to ignore this. Why? Recommend

  • Aasim Mukhtar

    @ villager..
    and my dear who would pay for their expenses? Beaconhouse is not a ‘not for profit’ oganization nor is it financed by government treasury, i do not want to defend an entreprenuer, but my dear he is doing business out there and its not our headache to intervene in his personal business.
    Why dont you come out when you hear that billions are wasted on advertisement for a particular political party out of the exchequer, which could have been used for development? Why dont you ask these questions when you see a MNA or an MPA going with a caravan of police vehicles, burning precious fuel that too is financed by our taxes. Why dont you question when you see that millions out of the exchequer were paid to buy three coats for the Prime Minister. Why wasnt that money used to finance some seats for poor in beaconhouse for that matter. We do not have any right to comment on how someone’s rightfully earned private money is spent, but we do have right to question the use of money out of the Government treasury. On one hand you side with those who are using our tax money to benifit themselves, and on the other, you want someone to spend his own money for overall welfare. I am completely out of clue on these double standards of yours. I absolutely agree to what Asif said above and would like to qoute him here “Generally speaking, PTI is the only party which is not in power but still facing the crossfire from every Tom, Dick and Harry. I wonder, what keeps our big mouths zipped when it comes to other parties. If we had the will to question them as well, Pakistan would have been in much better position today. Strange!!!!”Recommend

  • Ordinary Villager

    @Logical: Imran Khan’s Namal College???…..Dont Politicize Philothropic work in Politics. I gave money for Namal College as well. Namal College is not a project of PTI. PTI should refrain from naming these projects in their election campaign. Shame on you for using this name. I demand my money back from Imran Khan who is politicizing Namal College. We gave him the money for flood and I was shocked when recently i visited one Village in Swat and I saw boards of PTI on houses built by Imran Khan’s foundation and my money and my family’s money was spent but the credit was given to PTI. I remember I gave my whole Pocket money for Shaukat Khanum and me and my friends raised thousands as a child for Shaukat Khanum and now It is a shame that Shaukat Khanun, Namal and Imran Khan foundation got money for Apolitical reasons from the whole Public Irrespective of Political Affiliation and then exploit these projects for petty Political gains and now attributing them to PTI. Recommend

  • http://Islamabad Awais Ch

    @Ordinary Villager:

    Am a big fan of IK but i have noticed since when big wigs, waderas and feudals joined PTI, IK is getting away from a common man. Once there was a time when IK used to sleep on a container while protesting against drones… now where are those protests????? Recommend

  • Aasim Mukhtar

    @ Qasim.. Well said, and just to add to the list, Azeem Ibrahim, whose name appears in top 100 world thinkers, was appointed by IK as strategic policy advisor. here is th link:

    So Azeem Ibrahim, alongside Asad Umer & Jahangir Khan Tareen, what other minds do you require to prepare a policy to ensure it would work. Recommend

  • Parvez

    All these surveys and analysis really means nothing in the final count down.
    The party that controls the polling officers is the party that will win, this requires a lot of preparation and party planning. The PTI is new and must prepare itself to play this game which definitely is not cricket.Recommend

  • Majid

    @Umer Rasheed:
    Its total number of votes polled to PPP not to 18 seats they wonRecommend

  • Aasim Mukhtar

    @ Villager, you are a completely confused soul. On one hand, you want beaconhouse to go for charity, on the other, if something is run for public good, you do not want to give the due credit. As far as contribution of monetary sums are concerned, many did contribute in Prime Minister’s relief fund, but where did that go?? The fact that Imran Khan actually spends money collected from people for reasons it was collected indicates that he would surely spend our taxes rightfully as well. Recommend

  • jawad

    Just a simple point of contention. He is not following the mob. The mob is following him, this is what is more commonly known as causality. And he is the one which created this so called “mob”. In econometric’s there are tests to determine what action is causing what.

    And just for record, people for once would like the leaders to response to their questions and follow their will. Its called democracy. It’s a bit different than dictatorship we are used to.

    And for all that it is worth, he does have few overarching points he’s been stressing from god knows when. They are, Education emergency, Merit and lastly Justice for all. Recommend

  • Qasim

    @Awais Ch:

    your concern might be right, however since his party is growing now he needs to focus on gathering votes. We all know his stance on drones etc. What we need him to do now is to convert the support into votes. He is working on it, and we have to support him on this issue.Recommend

  • Logical

    @Ordinary Villager:

    Calm down buddy! I never said IK built it with his own money, or that it is his personal business. Everyone knows that SKMTH & Namal are built by charities, money donated by Pakistanis. Just the way he has used charities, he can use the taxes to build such excellent institutions. You cannot deny that had there been no IK, there wouldnt have been any SKMTH & Namal. These are excellent examples of the capabilities of IK. And I dont see any reason for using these as examples to demonstrates what IK can do. Ofcourse someone would be quite dumb to assume/imply that IK is advertising these things like his personal property. However you cannot deny that IK’s charisma & impeccable character are a major force behind them.

    So please stop advertising that you have given charity. Perhaps you should know that best of charity is which is given silently.Recommend

  • Ali

    you are right about the ethnic genesis of so-called left wing parties. Even their followers, particularly in case of MQM, don’t know that they are Left Wing parties.Recommend

  • Dr Abdullah

    @Awais Ch
    Nato Supply is not opened so what should PTI give dharna for??He has said so many times that if they opened the Nato Suppli ,we will protest..Or do u want PTI to do protests on loadshedding when we know protesting for it isnt going to solve it…IK right now is doing the best thing that has ever happened in Pakistani politics and that is to give youth a chance to elect their reps in intra party elections..This is a revolution in itself…Par ofcourse haters cant praise anythngRecommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    @Ordinary Villager:
    You seem like a nice soul. So I will go easy. But tell me this, why so much confusion? Politics and governance are the game of credibility. If PTI is using SKMH, Namal, and other philanthropic initiatives to refer to the credibility of the leader, what’s wrong with it? Would you give me a part of your pay in taxes? No. Because you don’t trust me. But you will be willing to help out a govt. in re-building Pakistan that is headed by a credible figure. Lastly, how come you entertain such a deep mistrust of politics in general that anything remotely political seems to alienate you. Isn’t IK on the apolitical side the same as the one on political side? How about we try to understand that political behavior is an inevitable reality of nations that they need to steer constructively rather than avoid altogether (considering it someone else’s dirty laundry just like the educated class of Pakistan has done for decades and see where we stand). Recommend

  • Zalim Singh

    tsunami is itself orthodox.Recommend

  • NO BS

    I voted for PPP in 2008, primarily becuase i liked BB and have the scars of the PMLNs policies (primarily their freezing of $ accounts when i was studying in London, So while i had to get 2 part time jobs to pay tution, my ex class fellow Hasan Nawaz was living in Park Lane and driving a Mercedes Benz)

    But after this Zardari government performance i see PTI as the only viable alternativeRecommend

  • Mair Sultan

    tsunami is killing itself. PTI is the party of establishment.Recommend

  • Adnan Jameel

    PTI has made an underhand deal with PPP and MQM. That is why PTI workers supported PPP candidates in all by-elections. Present PPP government is ruining the country and PTI is assisting this government. So this is the politics of PTI. Very bad.Recommend

  • Haseeb Jamal

    Noora kushti between PTI and PPP. There is only agenda of Imran Khan and that is to criticize PML(N). This is no politics. Why does not he speak against killers in Karachi? Why his workers supported PPP candidates in by-elections? All this shows that he is party in ruining this country alongwith present PPP government.Recommend

  • iamamused

    Immi’s third law of motion: For every action, “Amreeeeca” should be the reaction.Recommend

  • ovais

    PPP lost 1970 election … sheikh mujeeb one it .. dont distort the facts .. bhutto was never elected .. he was a dictator Recommend

  • Seema

    @ovais: In 1970 PPP was not in majority but it had alliance with smaller parties to form the govt, Bhutto,was never, here you lost, Google to find some authentic information, relying n the historian from Zia’s time, man you are no where. Bhutto become President according to the Ayob’s constitution, person elected would hold two posts i.e President,and Chief Martial law administrator. After 1973’s constitution, he was holding one post i.e PM.

    Hatred blinded you ppl….

    IK’s tsunami may effect PPP in Punjab,but not in Sindh.Recommend

  • http://www.makemoneyatfreelancer.com Freelancer

    It depends on peace and courage by the youth and the whole public. We can expect a good change and peaceful world tomorrow.Recommend

  • http://Islamabad Awais Ch

    After elections a tasty Porridge will be made Lolz, no one would have clear majority. Imran Khan will become PM by the support of Nawaz sharif and PML(N) and once again there would be a collation government. Inspite being PM, IK would not be able to bring all the necessary reforms. Recommend

  • MAD

    @Ordinary Villager: If im not mistaken Educators was a low cost initiative for students who couldnt afford BSS. Its not free but much cheaper than the other schools.Recommend

  • Abid P Khan

    @Mair Sultan:

    “tsunami is killing itself. PTI is the party of establishment.”

    Can someone tell their hero that, Tsunami kills and destroys everything in its way? Recommend

  • Aasim Mukhtar

    Exactly.. It is supposed to kill all the corruption, malpractices. Havent you realized that the system remains a revamp, which could not initiate unless this system is destroyed.. By the Tsunami off-course.. Recommend

  • Abid P Khan


    Wonder, what is your very personal definition of the Left?Recommend

  • Nationalist

    I am a PTI supporter buy Imran Khan sometimes confuses me, He is willing to negotiate with taliban terrorists who have killed thousands of pakistanis but doesnt actually say what he will sacrifice to bring the taliban to the table? So many dharnas against Drone attacks, when is he going to do a dharna against suicide bombings etc? He jumps up and down when NATO martyrs 24 pakistani soldiers, and rightly so, but he is no where to be seen when extremists behead pakistani soldiers. I have lost 2 cousins during Swat operation, their are many like me who have lost relatives to these scums, If IK isnt careful he will lose the support of people like me.Recommend