In #PPPvsPTI, Bilawal wins the round and leaves behind a lesson for Imran

Published: May 9, 2018

While Bilawal made a strong political move in good faith, Imran unsurprisingly accused his opponents of attacking PTI workers.

Finally the people of Karachi can sigh in relief, as the tussle between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has come to an end, with both parties agreeing to change the venue of their jalsa on May 12th. This conflict between the two parties over what was undoubtedly a petty issue, brought about a violence that the streets of Karachi, though familiar with, have not witnessed in a while.

The clashes between workers of both parties over holding their jalsa at the Hakeem Saeed Shaheed ground left several people injured on both sides, while many vehicles were also damaged or set on fire.

It is ironic that violence would break out over a jalsa both parties want to conduct on May 12th. For those who don’t remember, this day has a significance in Pakistan’s history, as on May 12, 2007, over 45 people were killed and hundreds were injured when riots erupted between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), backed by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, and the political activists of PPP, Awami National Party (ANP), and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), amongst others, who were all backing the return of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Every year, this day is observed as a black day in the country, and is commemorated to make a point against oppression and violence.

What we saw on the roads of Karachi recently was the opposite of the spirit of commemorating this black day, as political workers physically fought and threw stones at each other. The simplest solution was to check which party had official permission to hold a jalsa at the ground, but everyone let their emotions get the best of them, and the leadership present did not intervene while public property was destroyed and workers were beaten up.

As per the record of the local government, it was PPP which applied first for permission to hold a jalsa at the venue and got approval from the local authorities, which is why it made sense for them to get the venue. However, once this information was revealed, instead of stepping back, PTI chose to impose their will by suggesting that since they announced their jalsa first, the ground was rightfully theirs. According to our law, as well as basic common sense, this is incorrect, as a mere announcement cannot be equivalent to legal permission.

Furthermore, once the situation worsened and the clashes took place, instead of trying to solve the matter peacefully, PTI came up with another petty demand: it would not hold the jalsa at that venue and would look for another, but only if PPP did the same. This was a poor and childish demand by PTI, and is not a good look for a party eyeing a win in the next general elections. Ruling the country requires a cool temperament and skills to resolve conflicts peacefully, and this messy conflict revealed both to be missing within the ranks of PTI, which came out looking worse for wear. The party’s attitude and unwillingness to abide by the law, which clearly did not give them permission to hold a rally, offers a glimpse of what conditions will be like when PTI has some actual power. It also suggests that the days of violence in Karachi are not over yet, and that elements of violence will unfortunately prevail in the local politics of the city for days to come in the wake of upcoming election campaigns.

On the one hand, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made a strong political move in good faith by announcing that PPP will step back to ensure peace and will hold their jalsa elsewhere. This was a sane and robust approach from Bilawal, who should be admired for defusing the tension in the city. However, one does wonder why it took him so long to react, and why the intervention did not take place once violence ensued. Nonetheless, his delayed intervention was better than no response at all.

On the other hand, Imran Khan unsurprisingly accused his opponents of attacking PTI workers, and accused PPP of using force against the party. As usual, he chose not to speak about the role of his workers and leadership. If Imran cannot discourage violence or denounce party workers who engage in hooliganism, then how can he claim he is good for Karachi? Completely ignoring the city as he focuses on Punjab, and leaving it to second-tier leadership, will certainly not help his cause.

The reality on ground reveals Imran will not be able to grab a majority by winning in Punjab alone, as he is not in the position to get a clean sweep in the province. Imran needs Karachi, and if he cannot take advantage of the space left behind by MQM, then he will witness a repeat of 2013, this time with PPP taking away votes that could have gone to PTI. In fact, Bilawal’s retreat has given PPP a political edge over its opponents.

Over the years, we have witnessed how the violence of MQM’s workers was never discouraged, and left to their own devices, and how they almost ruined Karachi. Now that conditions have improved, both Imran and Bilawal need to be better at dejecting such behaviour and taking strict action against those involved. This form of mob violence and burning property is inherently fascist in nature, and if these leaders are incapable of handling their own workers, how can they handle the turmoil that comes alongside the city of Karachi?

PPP is an old political party, and should thus behave in accordance with its stature. At the same time, PTI is emerging as one of the biggest parties in the country, and needs to learn the art of politics accordingly; it cannot cry ‘foul play’ every time, and present itself as the victim in every situation. PTI is on its way to developing a reputation, and if this tendency to bring Karachi to a lockdown does not cease, it will not be long before they are labelled as another MQM in the country.

Both PTI and Imran can learn from the young Bilawal – politics is not always about being on the offensive. Sometimes, politics is the art of a tactical retreat, where the one to step back is the one who gains political points; in this case, Bilawal.

The tragedy that took place on May 12, 2007 reminds us how quickly the inability to understand an opponent’s point of view can lead an entire city to the path of violence. Hopefully, both parties in this case will learn the lesson from this unfortunate incident, and infuse tolerance within their workers and supporters, especially as they commemorate one of the blackest days in our history. In a bid to fill the vacuum created by the absence of MQM, both parties will have to understand the solution is not to become like MQM, by creating another monster in Karachi. As Friedrich Nietzsche once said,

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

The writer is a columnist and writes for various English and Urdu publications. He tweets at @rjimad (

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

  • karachiwala

    Bilawal may not seem to be the best of people around – and the baggage he carries of being AZ’s son is way to heavy – but he does seem to have a mature head over his shoulders. His recent interview on an Indian channel, how gracefully he stayed away from IK’s 3rd marriage , and not going below the belt in any situation has improved his stature. Imran on the other hand , has a habit of crying foul and can still not come out of his fast bowler’s mindset.Recommend

  • Shahid Jamil

    Everyone still remembers PPP resisted so much to restore C.J Iftikhar Ch. that time.Recommend

  • Salim Badruddin

    debate is healthy. Overseas Pakistani also be allowed to vote.Recommend

  • MJ

    Politicizing deaths of people… both the parties are guilty of this crime. Neither of them deserve any sympathy votes from Karachi. If they really cared about innocent people dying they would’ve also commemorated May 26th and 27th when over 250 people were killed in Hyderabad. I lost loved ones on that day. But it is not of the interest of PPP to talk about that day as they were the culprits of that offense and PTI doesn’t have the political depth to even know what makes people tick in Karachi.Recommend

  • Ali Arya

    A truthful, balanced, fact based logical argument from an Express Tribune writer!?!? Pinch me!Recommend

  • Parvez

    By taking the high ground Bilawal out played Imran ……. +1 to Bilawal.Recommend

  • Fahad Zia

    Some people justify every move their sweet heart makes, so that they can feel satisfaction in their support of Incompetence. No! It was a damage-minimizing move by BBZ, Have you not seen the footage of how PPP goons attacked the PTI camp? Do you think PPP would get a single vote from Karachi if the sympathies roll over to PTI?

    BBZ/PPP is like Titanic, Too arrogant to change course and destined to sink!Recommend

  • Ahmed

    it was suggestion that was put by pti faisal vawda to withdraw from hakeem saeed ground by both PTI & PPP. both withdrew from the ground.Recommend

  • Waqar

    A strong political statement by the lord of nepotism himself?Recommend

  • Abdul Qayyum

    Bilawal showed more sagacity than PTI. This round was won by PPP.Recommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Extremely biased article
    How do you who which party is lying plus we all know very well who has a history of ghunda gardi in karachi alongside MQMRecommend

  • Muhammad Adeel

    Right now PTI leadership are high because of the backing of judiciary and state. But Karachi belongs to MQM.Recommend

  • Manzoor Ahmed

    What a disgraceful article. PPP is a disloyal party that has sold out this country to blackwater, memo gate scandals, Swiss accounts, £1 million pound necklace and what not. PPP as per supreme court are maintaining militant wings in their disrespected parties and PTI are the bad guys. Recommend

  • middleway1

    PPP are crooks with a record of failure in Sindh with people miserable, children dying in Tharparkar, poor health, police and education in Sindh. By contrast, PTI has performed well in these sectors in KPK and people are happy with it overall.Recommend

  • MasterMind

    Yeah Karachi belongs to Dalai Lama. You guys can say anything.Recommend

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir

    Very biased against Imran Khan.Recommend

  • Azam Khan

    Lol this article speaks a lot about the political affiliations of the writer.Recommend

  • Ibne Husain

    Mr.Tribune, this article is so unreal and misleading. Be it this incidence, or any other,fact remains that PPP is a failed party. What has PPP given to this poor nation? Just hollow slogans aka naras. Its a party of waderas, jagirdars, its founder and his family owns thousands acres, he never brought about real land reforms as did Nehru and indra, resultantly jagirdari, wadera shahi still thrive.
    PPP destroyed economy of Pakistan by nationlization.It also brought gunda culture with gherao, jalo in our society.
    Its top leaders included illiterate and corrupt Mustafa Khar. Most of its leaders including founder were drunkards, crooks, liars, oppotunists, self centered.
    Its founder was instrumental in dismemberment of the country. He also believed in violence.
    What has this party done for Lyari and Larkana, leave aside rural sind or rural punjab or KPK during their 4 regimes?
    I wish this party and nawaz league and mqm get eleminated in next general elections. Ameen.Recommend

  • Insaf Tiger

    What has PTI done in KPK ?Recommend

  • Fahad Zia

    A better healthcare, Education and Police system for one. All of which lack existence in PPP’s manifesto.Recommend

  • hameed

    its totally baseless that bilawal wins, people party has a bad track record in Karachi and is equally involved in deteriorating peace of Karachi. We all know there is no match between imran and bilawal, one is a great hero, social worker and self made political star and the other is just a puppet and sign of anherited politics. Sorry to say if media sees his tactics as a good move or say Bilawal wins. Its total wrong……Recommend

  • Khawaja Manzoor

    How about Bangladesh. How about Nationalization. How about political school federations like apmso, psf, introduced in schools and messed them up. Well founder Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto is dead. Even her daughter didn’t justify her fathers name and ran it down the gutters with her husband zardari.Recommend