Horse-trading in Naya Pakistan: Is Imran Khan sure his aides won’t stab him in the back?

Published: August 10, 2018

Contradictions flood Naya Pakistan, with its foundations being laid with the very same principles Imran vehemently opposed. PHOTO: TWITTER/PTI OFFICIAL

Horse-trading has existed in Pakistani politics since its inception. Whether it is behind closed doors or flagrant – the manipulation of politicians consequently influences narratives in the Majlis-e-Shura.

Come election season, the game of simple majority in the Parliament strengthens independents and parties such as Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) among others – giving them an edge over major political parties such as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

For decades, major political parties have practiced horse-trading in a bid to make government or reinforce their numbers in opposition. In theory, the period after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) notifies newly-elected members of the federal and provincial assemblies is for independents to side with a political party which best reflects their ideology. In practice, however, the decision is layered with mutual benefits – mostly revolving around monetary profiteering or hogging onto ministries.

A stark example is that of the love-hate relationship between PPP and MQM. Asif Ali Zardari’s negotiation strategies and Rehman Malik’s implementation of them ensured the PPP received as little opposition as possible in the Sindh Assembly throughout their five-year term, in addition to making the federal government.

Most recently, the Senate elections saw unambiguous horse-trading as party heads maneuvered candidates vying for a seat in the upper house of the Parliament. Loyalties shifted overnight, with turncoats securing their seats under different party banners.

Post-accusations and deliberations over the blatant horse-trading, the Senate elections were accepted with spite from some corners. Horse-trading, turncoats were accepted as norms. It was perhaps a preview of the July 25th polls.

Although horse-trading, turncoats and the politics of electables has been part of the political culture of Purana Pakistan, seldom was it celebrated with as much zeal as it is in Naya Pakistan.

As social media hails Jahangir Khan Tareen a hero in memes, the blatant acceptance of electables, steering independent candidates with money and forming coalitions with arch-rivals by promising ‘funds’ raises questions on the viability of a government with no clear direction of its priorities.

Contradictions flood Naya Pakistan, with its foundations being laid with the very same principles Imran Khan vehemently opposed. PTI promises to bring ‘tabdeeli’ with faces that have been around since decades. Coalitions with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and MQM-P in particular cast doubt over the path to change resembling that of his predecessors.

To some extent, it may be true that Imran needed to adhere to certain status quo conditions to bring his 22-year struggle to a fruitful end, yet it remains to be seen how deep the impact can be of individuals who do not abide by the values and standards Imran established his movement of justice for.

Tareen may have escorted PTI to the finishing line by wooing independents but he has surrounded Imran with very ordinary men and women, whose loyalties may waver post-prime minister ballot in the Parliament.

The PTI support base celebrating gaining majority in the Parliament may be shocked when the bills proposed by Imran to revamp the country’s system fail to garner numbers in secret ballots. For Imran, accepting turncoats and electables over ideological members may come back to haunt him when they push their own agenda during governance. It also opens the prime minister in waiting to blackmail, keeping in view that Imran will continue to need majority in the National Assembly to constitutionally bring ‘tabdeeli’.

Flocking to the winning side is the easy part, being wooed by major political parties is flattering. Retaining loyalty and adhering to manifestos, however, is the real test. If the newly-elected members of assemblies do not agree with the party’s philosophy, the chances of PTI bringing change through the Parliament are slim.

The electables, independents and coalitions may help install Imran as the country’s chief executive but can his leadership sustain the division in philosophies bound to occur during governance? Can he completely rely on the aides, who have promised to elect him as premier, to stand by his side when he pushes for the change he promised to the country? It’s appropriate to hope for the best but realistically, we should be ready for the worst.

Niha Dagia

Niha Dagia

She is the Sub-editor at The Express Tribune and a Counselling Psychologist. She tweets at @nhd00 (

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

  • Anis creator

    khan seems to be good politician.Most of pakistanis are commenting well about him ,may be he is a hope of pakistani people for better future.Recommend

  • Taimur Javed

    Independent candidates have to join some party and getting their support is & never has been considered as horse-trading. If PTI had made or supported a forward block in PML-N to gain majority, that would be horse-trading. And what is the evidence to suggest that Tareen gave them money to join PTI. What infact has been claimed by numerous independents and journalists is that PML-N had offered them 10 million to support them. BTW, most independents from Punjab were PTI people who ran as Independents when they didn’t get party ticket.

    I guess nowadays, anyone with a keyboard can write an article.Recommend

  • Majid Khan

    Do you even know what Pakistan parliamentary requirement is according to the law… or the least, what horse trading actually is!!!Recommend

  • محمد رضوان ہارون

    Problem with pseudo intellects. Don’t know basic difference between horse trading, floor crossing and Independent voting.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ahmad

    Horsetrading is merely different topic, which you, yet don’t know about. However, blacksheep existence in the party could not be denied. But don’t worry, soon after quite some time they will be surfaced like rotten eggs.Recommend

  • Shafiq Ahmad

    whatever name u give to this phenomenon it is ik”s requirement now/Recommend

  • Parvez

    A certain political structure exists in Pakistan that works in the interest of the politician / bureaucrat and not in the interest of the people……if this system is to change so that it works for the people it must be done by someone who manages to get inside the system. Imran Khan has not only managed to get inside but he has managed to get to the top ….. this has taken perseverance and belief in oneself. Now his real task will start and it will not be easy as you rightly say even those around him will ‘ play games ‘. But we have tried the rest and they have miserably failed… we must now wait and see and if this new government is to succeed it needs positive support and constructive criticism. Being negative from the word go is not helpful.Recommend

  • Amer

    Do you even know what an INDEPENDENT candidate is ? I will give you a hint: THIS IS NOT HORSE TRADING!Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Pakistan ruled by a cricketer, what a jokeRecommend

  • Suhail Zafar

    It is fault of people who did not vote enough to PTI so that it can form majority in the parliment.Recommend

  • Humyra Dawood

    Are you saying sportsmen and sportswomen do not have brains?Recommend

  • Humyra Dawood

    “but he has surrounded Imran with very ordinary men and women”. I’m just wondering who in your opinion are the extraordinary men and women in this Parliament?Recommend

  • Sunny

    Yes, Pakistan ruled by a cricketer having a degree in Political Science from Oxford University will be a joke for the people ruled by Chai Wala or an Idiot business man.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Hindustan is ruled by a Modi Sarkar. Also known as the Butcher of Gujrat,
    who is the husband of abandoned Jashodeben Chimenlal. And just
    like his idol, Hitler, Modi Sarkar refused to have a family/children, because
    they would have distract him from serving Hindustan, body and soul, 24/7…
    may Lakshmi, Lord Ganesha and Parvati bring you shanti.
    [incidently, Lord Modi has a ‘mail order’ degree, nobody is sure ‘which’ college]Recommend

  • bold

    i wonder why should Tareen spend his money at the tone of CRORES to buy the loyalties of independent candidates for PTI?what would he get from it?he is not even a part of winning team and can never be till he gets cleared by Supreme Courts–he is a very wise businessman –without Tareen there is no other billionaire in PTI who could venture the so called horse trading–i think it is all lies and fabrication about alleged horse trading sponsored by Pmln and PPP.Recommend

  • sterry

    I am sure in due course, Tareen will demand his pound of flesh as will all the others in the PTI coterie of corrupt bought off opportunists who see Naya Pakistan as Naya Corruption and fooling the illiterate masses who think government development is a cricket game! Maybe the umpire will step in within a year and stop the game if they don’t listen well to them? After all they chose the winner in the elections!Recommend