DI Khan prison break: Is the PTI to blame?

Published: July 31, 2013
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Burnt rooms inside a prison are seen following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

In lieu of the Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan) Central Prison attack, the media mounted one of its own. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came under strong criticism for its failure to initially prevent, and then contain the incident. Prominent MQM politicians, for example, took to social media to openly question the whereabouts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak as the fight between the militants and the security forces raged on. Meanwhile, PTI leader Imran Khan found his hands tied in a different issue altogether – that of Ayla Malik’s fake degree.

It was disappointing to see both Imran Khan and Pervez Khattak refuse to accept responsibility.

Khan called the tribunal trial for Ayla Malik discriminatory and Khattak blamed the intelligence agencies for failing to identify the militant threat in K-P. Two of the most prominent PTI stalwarts provided disappointing responses, but many claim that given the trajectory of the party’s public image, it was hardly a surprise.

Since the elections, it seems the PTI legislators have tried harder with every passing day to land themselves and the party in hot water. However, calling for Mumtaz Qadri’s release, ambiguous statements regarding sanitary jobs and educational systems, and trying to justify suicide bombing indicate political immaturity rather than incompetence.

Within the last week alone, this list has seen further additions to this embarrassing list. Ishfaq Paracha managed to get tangled up in a sexual harassment case while Governor K-P Shaukatullah Khan refused to term the Parachinar attacks ‘sectarian’ in nature; fair credit to the governor, the attacks were indeed not sectarian in nature but explicitly genocidal.

It is hard to imagine what the PTI legislators could possibly get up to next – perhaps an appearance on the Aamir Liaquat show is in order!

I do not support the PTI and I do not agree with their (or a lack thereof) political ideology. Yet, much of what is being ascribed to PTI these days is more symptomatic of our impatient outlook as a country, rather than the failures of PTI itself.

Despite these guffaws and blunders, it would be childish to dismiss the PTI as a political party. Compared to Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), PTI is still a political infant. It is only in the past three months that the party, as a whole, has tasted power.

Popular argument goes that many of the PTI legislators like Khattak are experienced politicians and should be able to navigate the current situation better. However, it is worth mentioning that a party in power functions well only when it is able to work with itself.

Khattak is certainly an experienced politician but his internal tussle with PTI is a glaring revelation of how the ‘old guard’ of politicians will have a hard time adjusting to the demands of the youth-envisaged PTI. It seems that in the frenzy of the bringing about tabdeeli, Imran Khan focused on the elections and the electorate – he might find his electoral candidates a different matter altogether.

When PTI emerged victorious in the K-P, supporters bragged about K-P’s future as a model for the rest of the country. Less than 90 days in and many seem to have lost hope. The only time tabdeeli gets mentioned is in a satirical manner. We conveniently forget that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also ascended to power at the exact same time and is on par with the PTI in terms of the number of real problems tackled.

Terrorism, for example, is as much a federal issue as it is a provincial one. The same leniency with respect to time in the office is not afforded to the PTI when it comes to K-P. What makes it ironic is the fact that for all their experienced political candidates who have held provincial and national posts previously, PTI is still learning to navigate the bureaucratic jungle.

The violence in K-P cannot simply be attributed to PTI. For PTI to claim responsibility would have been a magnanimous act but their shirking away from the responsibility is in tandem with every single political party in this country. If PTI is to be blamed for the increasing violence in K-P, we could implicate the MQM for volatility in Karachi too, couldn’t we?

Violence combined with a fractious PTI leadership doesn’t fill the masses with confidence either. In order to build a stronger presence in the country, PTI needs to communicate more effectively internally.

MQM, for all its vices, still presents a united front and PTI would do well to learn from them.

When all has been said and done, it is still premature to claim that PTI is digging its own hole just like it was premature to claim a PTI revolution in the elections in May.

As a country, we have displayed infinite patience with our politicians. The way we recycle the same faces and the same names is exemplary – if Nawaz Sharif can be appointed to office for a third time; PPP can ascend to power thrice in the last 25 years; the army can periodically throw governments out, and MQM can continue to run Karachi, what reason is there to think Khan and his merry men won’t be around for the foreseeable future either?

Nabeel.Jafri

Nabeel Jafri

A finance graduate who worked in the fashion industry and then went back to working in finance, he tweets as @nabeeljafri (twitter.com/nabeeljafri)

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