Is it game over for Imran Khan and PTI?

Published: December 20, 2015

PTI was able to enter the political arena in huge number in 2013 because a vacuum was created in the system through the failure of PPP and PML-N. PHOTO: IBTIMES.CO.UK

Remember when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as a popular party in the country ahead of the 2013 general elections? Everybody was swept away by Imran Khan’s tsunami rhetoric and we all thought we had found Pakistan’s saviour.

It received an overwhelming response from its supporters in various consistencies, which made it the second largest party after Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

The urban middle-class was thrilled. They all swayed to the chants of ‘real change’ and ‘naya Pakistan’. They were spellbound and euphoric. They thought they were part of a historic movement that would end corruption, nepotism and injustice in Pakistan.

The idea that they might have been wrong, and their hopes and dreams were a little misplaced, is seeping into their conscience, and the effects of Imran Khan’s magic potion is wearing off.

Nobody is enchanted anymore.

And those unfortunate few who still are holding on to such expectations will have reality knock on their doors after reading this article.

I am not speaking out against the PTI. I am merely stating facts.

So here we go.

Well, first of all, the results of the recently held local body elections in different cities, including Karachi, clearly show that the political party is promptly losing its support.

Although it formed a government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) after winning majority of the seats, its vote bank was recorded as insignificant in big cities, particularly in Karachi, where it only won one seat; NA 250.

While PTI performed poorly in the recent local bodies’ elections nationwide, I want to focus on the their failure in Karachi’s local bodies elections where they secured only seven seats, and also lost seats in those areas where they were considered to have a strong support base.

Imran Khan repeated the same mistake prior to the local government (LG) elections when he came to Karachi for less than 24 hours, addressed a few corner meetings and rushed back to Lahore. Imran Khan should realise that workers and office bearers of PTI are an anonymous commodity for masses, as people only vote for Imran Khan. If he ignores Sindh, and more precisely Karachi, he will ultimately lose a major share of his support. Khan only focuses on Punjab and his party members fail to mobilise their campaign in other parts of the country.

The second spell of disenchantment was cast when PTI decided to form an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) for the LG elections. That , of course backfired on them due to the conflict in ideologies. The difference between the principles of both parties led to discord amongst the supporters of different classes who could not see eye to eye.

PTI formed this alliance with JI after a few television anchors came up with the analysis that it would be a beneficial coalition for the elections in NA-246. These analysts believed that a combined PTI-JI support base could prove to be a tough opposition against MQM. However, PTI entered into the relationship without realising the fact that the JI’s vote bank in Karachi had eroded a long time ago.

I hope Imran Khan realises that it is important to make decisions based on ground realities and not on the comments of TV anchors.

The third wrong move was to accept ‘status quo’ politicians in the party due to the media’s demands, even though the personalities of those politicians clash with the basic ideology of PTI. PTI’s poor performance in the 2013 general elections should be attributed to the electable heavyweights, as many of them lost, whereas, first time candidates won.

For future elections, PTI should oust those ‘electable’ personalities and form a new visionary team to revive the political party.

The fourth and final nail in the coffin was the fact that PTI did not devise any mechanism to bring out its voters on the day of the elections. If PTI wanted to survive in Karachi and strengthen its presence it should have carried out a complete overhaul in the party structure. It should have appointed dedicated workers who could establish relationships with the masses.

Many in Karachi believe that,

“In PTI everyone is an official and no one is a worker.”

PTI should realise that they cannot compete with MQM in this city without trained workers who stir up support at the grass roots.

In my view, PTI’s time is running out, not only in Karachi, but in the entire nation.

Imran Khan’s obsession with electoral rigging has consumed him. As a result, other, more pressing issues, are being neglected.

I personally believe that Imran Khan should now close the chapter of rigging in the 2013 elections and start looking towards the future.

PTI was able to enter the political arena in huge number in 2013 because a vacuum was created in the system through the failure of PPP and PML-N.

Now if PTI fails to perform up to people’s expectations a new vacuum in the political system will be created. I wonder who will have us swaying to the rhythms of ‘real change’, hope and patriotism next.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (

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

  • raheel

    losing a battle doesn’t mean you lost the war…making PTI party which is an institution will going to need some time, this realization will come slowly but it’s there that political party can’t be one man’s show.Recommend

  • jenny_brn

    Excellent article. But to expect that a vacant mind will abandon the refrain of electoral fraud and come up with ideas for a new future is to expect to “find meat in an eagles nest”. There is a vacancy upstairs and nothing new should be expected to emerge. As they say ” Ex nihilo nihil fit. “Recommend

  • Mudassar

    What a shallow and unrealistic analysis by a unknown and ill informed journalist.Recommend

  • Akhwandk

    As a PTI voter and Karachiite I agree one hundred percent with the author, Imran Khan must stop using the word rigging. Except for Imran Khan and Arif Alvi Karachi Wala PTI officials come off as arrogant and non approachable. There is no ground level support PTI. PTI SM was good in the beginning now its a shame and an embarrassment. PTI Walas need to stop Mahmud Of Ghaznavi approach, they look and talk like outsiders.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Pretty good analysis………almost all of PTI’s wounds are self inflicted.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I love how PTIdiots attack the writer and not the article itself. If you have an issue with the blog, argue the issues. By going after the author, you only reveal yourself as a delusional fanboy.Recommend

  • Wanderer

    ‘But to expect that a vacant mind will abandon the refrain’. What are you trying to say? In your sophomore attempt to impress, you forgot how to write.

    Electoral fraud does occur. Only a partisan would not acknowledge this fact of Pakistani politics. To cite two examples, Zafar Ali Shah after Islamabad local body elections (LBE), and Arbab Hussain after Sindh LBE (both from Noon), chided ECP for its incompetence and ‘alleged’ electoral fraud.

    As far as PTI’s downfall is concerned, yeah its down while Noon is rising. Hope you sleep better now.Recommend

  • Shahid Lateef

    if you are talking about lg polls in punjab & sindh. people always prefer party in govt because funds come from the govt. thats why ppp with all its bad performance won in sindhRecommend

  • yousuf47 London

    Imran finds himself in this precarious position with people now questioning if it is end of road for Imran Khan and his PTI. The situation has arisen due to several misjudgment, particularly with empowering likes of Shah Mohammed Qureshi, Javed Hashmi (in the past) and other Office bearers. Imran should have engaged experts in Sheikh Rasheed and others to give shape to the Party before forming a core committee or of holding elections within Party. Further his dismissive approach to women due to his Pathan roots in Reham Khan or Fauzia Kasoori or for that matter earlier with Sita White or a wonderful woman in Jemima Khan is the X-Factor in poor showing of PTI in local body election. Recommend

  • Emran

    dear writer i m not criticizing you, but i m just telling you that you have written trashRecommend

  • zafar iqbal

    what is “shallow” in this article?Recommend

  • JB

    Its not Imran Khan who is at fault here. As said in the article, PTI gained support due to the failures of PPP and PMLN but if there are still people in Pakistan who insist on voting for these failures over and over again, just shows Pakistanis do not want change. They would rather stay under these overlords and businessmen than to do something for Pakistan and bring upon change.Recommend

  • fawad khan

    Imran Khan spend less than 24 hours in Karachi but Altaf Hussain did not spend a single minute in karachi for the last 10 years. The problem, it means, lies somewhere else. They need to organize themselves at grass root level. Turnout of karachi was very low, so basically the supporters of PTI did not even come out to vote.Recommend

  • Hassan Sheikh

    Strong denial! :DRecommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    Yet another obituary for PTI. MQM won because people still don’t believe their violence can be controlled, period. Let 5 years of peaceful Karachi pass, MQM will be nowhere to be seen.Recommend

  • Naseem Qureshi

    I very much wonder on the wisdom of so called analysts who say PTI is failed. How a party can be considered as a failed party when it become the second largest party of the country just in 3 years.Recommend

  • Sami ullah Baig

    I think blaming voters is a bad idea. Yes you can blame parties that they didn’t have what it takes to get votes. Blaming voters will further alienate them just like when IK called mahajirs Zinda Lash. What then do you think Mahajirs will vote IK.Recommend

  • Adnan

    Uncle Imran no longer seems like a fresh idea. He is part and parcel of the same political bradari.Recommend

  • Wanderer

    Based on one comment by someone you assumed to be a PTI supporter, you paint all PTI supporters as idiots. Bigotry galore.

    What gives?Recommend

  • AMI

    “PTI Idiots”.Not a decent remark by you either Mr.Noman Ansari.Especially when u r a regular writer here and read by many including myself.Don t label yourself to be politically motivated. Its not Imran Khan who is at fault here. As said in the article, PTI gained support due to the failures of PPP and PMLN but if there are still people in Pakistan who insist on voting for these failures over and over again, just shows Pakistanis do not want change. They would rather stay under these overlords and businessmen than to do something for Pakistan and bring upon changeRecommend

  • AMI

    “And those unfortunate few who still are holding on to such expectations”. UNFORTUNATE And the author still insists in next line, “I am not speaking out against the PTI. I am merely stating facts.” Tell me honestly, does this sentence hints towards mere fact sheet? As far from political angle, ups and downs are part of it.In 1997, PPP was vanished but formed gov in 2008 and then again in 2013 in Sindh.Recommend

  • AMI

    As far from political angle, ups and downs are part of it.In 1997, PPP was vanished but formed gov in 2008 and then again in 2013 in Sindh.So to say “The idea that they might have been wrong” is bit too much.Isnt it? This is shallow. Recently in NA122 by election in Lahore, Ayaz Sadiq speaker NA and heavyweight Nawaz League candidate won very closely in the heart of Nawaz League with all of gov support against PTI.And PTI won provincial seat.So the trend that is seen in Karachi does not depict other areas of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Junaid

    I am not a supporter of PTI, but the article is flawed in the sense that it starts off with claiming to talk about facts supporting why PTI is losing its support and then goes on to state four wrong decisions made by PTI. There is no mention of facts, just opinions which the writer thinks are mistakes made by PTI leadership. I got no new factual information from this piece.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Everybody was swept away by Imran Khan’s tsunami rhetoric and we all thought we had found Pakistan’s saviour.
    Because you were duped with the professionalism of the actor who is good in Punjabi folklore besides ofcourse cricket when one requires endurance.
    Now you know it and it is a good start for the author.
    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Wanderer

    So because of one comment by someone you assume to be a PTI supporter, you term all supporters idiots. Bigotry galore.

    You commit the same mistake that you are pontificating on. What gives?Recommend

  • Zahir

    Imran Khan is synonymous to continual struggle until his last breath, he is going to play till the last ball, he is name of a KAIFYAT, not hook or by crook material gain like NS & Zardari.
    He is not bound by events & incidents that happen as a result of various kind of frauds like PMPLN winning seats, another show case project or kickbacks or a model town incident. Imran Khan should be looked at with a non superficial sight. NS & Zardari should be looked with a sight okay with corruption.Recommend

  • Farooq

    i have read and seen almost 100 articles since 2013 which is saying that PTI is drowning and IK is failing, bla, bla, bla
    Though the reality is that his support base remains the same, his funding has had no impact for Namal or Shaukat Khanum
    I had few guest from Peshawar at my home last week. 2 years ago they said PTI has failed in KPK, but last week they said in 2 years Peshawar has transformed completely and they were 100% sure PTI will get government again in 2018. So they remain force in KPK
    IK biggest mistake is that in trying to win over Punjab he ignored Sindh and forgot the educated Karachi people who would vote for them. But the local body elections is no way to see who is popular or not. Trend shows people always vote for running govtRecommend

  • AKA

    Well it seems a bit to early to speculate the end of PTI. As of now there is a massive media campaign by PMLN run against Imran Khan and we can see actor journalists being appointed to good posts but it will all change as soon as PMLN government goes and your fellow journalists see no chance of its coming back again. PTI has gained more through LB polls as it has now even reached villages contrary to its standing only in cities in 2013.Recommend

  • Fahad

    If you see closely, the author has also targeted the Anchors of Tv channels. Why go after Anchors, go after the channel or the issue? Your comment has failed your self. The Author needs to do research as we citizens of Karachi know much better what is happening in streets, mohallas of Karachi.Recommend

  • Raghu

    Why should Imran chole the chapter of rigging? Has the rigging been fixed? Have we implemented Biometric voting? Have the Returning officers been punished. You want to close the issue as it has got boring and but you dont care if the problem is fixed or not. What a shame.Recommend

  • Tahir Khuahnood

    “Is it game over for Imran Khan and PTI”?
    Please correct your basic English. It had to be: Is the game over for Imran Khan and PTIRecommend

  • Hiba Moeen

    Though I strongly believe that there was rigging at a mass level perhaps more in Punjab than in Sindh, I do agree that PTI needs to plan ahead and adapt to a futuristic support. However, this being said, it doesn’t mean that we should leave Karachi at the mercy of old thugs and goons. If no one is good enough, at least vote for someone who isn’t that bad. Unfortunately democracy does not work in Pakistan and God knows when it will, we seem to be manufactured for dictatorship for as long as we decide to remain uneducated.
    But would you still disagree with the fact that development was witnessed in KPK during PTI’s reign?Recommend


    I completely endorse the views of
    the writer since mistakes after mistakes after the 2013 elections on the part
    of Imran Khan has left him to impasse. The enthusiasm and thrill he generated
    amongst his supporters has died down drastically. First of all he failed to
    mobilize the support he generated during the DHARNA, due to his lack of
    experience. Leaving the crowd behind the
    whole night helplessly and going home at Bani Gala for his rest and refreshments
    created unpleasant feelings amongst his followers giving them the impression
    that the purpose of the DHARNA was just to have some fun by listening to the vociferous
    songs and music and yes during all this show the ever hackneyed slogans of
    went on. But since in reality there was no such “TAPDEELI” visible, people who attended
    the DHARNA expecting that Imran was a real rescuer were disappointed and
    started losing their hopes. During the DHARNA his announcement of refusing to
    pay the utilities bills also misfired as later on he had to take his decision
    back as he could not face the power-cut at his Bani Gala residence. Then suddenly
    leaving aside the core issues and ridiculously announcing about his marriage in
    public was yet another irrational tactic from a leader who was expected to be sober
    and focused. This particular childlike decision from him was taken just after
    the unfortunate incident of Peshawar where several innocent children of a
    school were martyred by the terrorists. Even his followers and specially his
    party workers were unable to read their leader’s irrational mind. PTI’s consistent
    failure in every elections after 2013 also reflects that Imran Khan has lost
    his credibility and needs complete transformation of his party’s policies to be
    able to anyway near to his popularity it gained in the 2013 elections when his
    party emerged as a strong opposition against ruling PML(N).Recommend