PTI: Too many cooks in the kitchen

Published: December 29, 2011

A man who has the potential to impact Imran Khan’s core group positively is Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. PHOTO: PPI

Any core group, be it Hashmi’s or Qureshi’s will survive in constant dispute with each other. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVED With many heavy weights in one party, the PTI will face constant strife over power and resources. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM A man who has the potential to impact Imran Khan’s core group positively is Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. PHOTO: PPI

As Imran Khan’s political movement gathers steam, the core-group driving it has grown exponentially. While the long-term effects of this increasing capacity remain unknown, the absorption of various core-groups is transforming the PTI from within. Politicians like Jehangir Tareen, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi will transform the PTI in their own ways. While some will impact the organization positively others will stamp their own traits on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Group theory as defined by Mancur Olson in the 60s offers a unique perspective into the effect that divergent groups and individuals have on a core-group. Olson’s theory can help us understand the underlying contradiction at the heart of Imran Khan’s idealistic rhetoric, and the pragmatic political manoeuvring he has made to grow his movement by incorporating contradictory interests.

Olson, an American economist, proposed a radical idea fifty years ago, which centred on an assertion that small groups of dedicated individuals with a private interest are better catalysts to achieve an objective, compared to larger groups with a public interest. This idea would transform conventional understanding of groups and the people who participated in them.

Before Olson, larger groups were seen as the optimum catalysts for change. Using the example of US labor unions in the thirties and forties, Olson reversed the prevalence of ‘larger is better’. Instead he argued that smaller groups of not more than seven people offered more cohesion and private incentive for achievement.

To understand the evolution of the PTI at the group level lets focus our attention on the first of Olson’s three unique sub-groups, the privileged group, at the heart of Imran Khan’s movement.

This is a small, cohesive, ‘inner’ group of the few, driving the PTI, and has been in place since his movement began some sixteen years ago. It includes individuals such as Arif Alvi, Imran Ismail, and Samar Ali Khan. These individuals, in turn, go on to form core groups of their own, even multiple core groups that become part of the PTI structure. It extrapolates into multiple other groups as the movement’s base expands and it absorbs others from outside.

Olson argues in The Logic of Collective Action that any individual becomes part of a group to preserve his own private interests and that of his patronage first. The group for its part absorbs elements, both positive and negative of the individual, who over a period of time fine-tunes to the demands of the group.

A man who has the potential to impact Imran Khan’s core group positively is Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. The politician from Punjab is considered a mythical figure in the folklore of Punjab politics. Hashmi’s book, Han mein Baghi Houn, which he wrote in captivity, tells of his struggle for democracy against General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship. After almost two decades with Nawaz Sharif’s PML, Hashmi joined Imran Khan’s resurgent Tehreek-i-insaf.

Hashmi represents just one of the many interests being absorbed by the PTI. As these core groups develop within Imran’s organization, it will go through a period of major contention both within, and from outside. According to Olson, this contention will lead to fragmentation, which in turn will lead to further contention, forming an almost cyclical process.

If so, PTI’s core-group will extrapolate and multiply to form other interconnected groups within it. These sub-groups will have their own centres of power. If he is to succeed, Imran Khan will need to synergize these cores, often operating on divergent interests. This will be a delicate task indeed as not everyone joining the PTI will affect it positively.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s entry into the PTI might affect the organization differently. Critics of the induction would argue it will affect the ideological bearings of the organization vis-a-vis accountability. Qureshi’s previous alignment with Asif Ali Zardari might fuel this reasoning.

Any core group, be it Hashmi’s or Qureshi’s will survive in constant dispute with each other and with other groups in the Tehreek-i-Insaf. This will depend, in large, part on the personal gains members of these group extract. As such, those joining the PTI will be doing so to satiate their demands first. For Hashmi and Qureshi this might be the promise of a Seraiki province, for Tareen it could well be the preservation of business interests.

But there will constant strife over power and returns, and if for some reason any group stops receiving patronage in the form of private goods, then their association with Tehreek-i-Insaf will be in jeopardy. Once benefits become exclusive, individual association to a group ends.

Group dispute over resources in the PTI will lead to a period of instability. If Mancur Olson were to assess the PTI, he would conclude that contention between divergent interests and groups will shape the formation of the party in the months ahead.


Ali Mustafa

Ali Mustafa is a Toronto based Journalist and a graduate from Columbia University's Graduate school of Journalism.His work focuses on security and politics of South and Central Asia. He tweets @Ali_Mustafa

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

  • someone

    I like this trend of getting attention. You guys agree or not, its IK that the whole nation (supporters/rivals/critics/neutrals/liberals) are talking about. That’s what defines him as a great leader. We all support him with whole heart.

    Imran Khan will be the next Prime Minister, InshaAllah.Recommend

  • Ali Ahmad

    brilliant put together – Interesting observation. Let’s see how Imran Khan respond to this situation???

    This problem might arise when he will be assessing who should be given Tickets for next electionsRecommend

  • Observer

    Though, everyone is discussing about Imran Khan and his sudden political upheaval. I cannot understand why he is being made the target of severe criticism, the likes of which have been used for parties like PPP and PML-N and for their leaders.

    Yes, his part is too young compared to the other big players of the political game. Also, his party is the only party that is not based on any ethnic, religious or other grounds that define a person. His party structure and hierarchy also reflects the same image throughout.

    I totally agree that too many cooks spoil the broth and when IK is busy including anyone that comes in his way, he may include people who have a former tainted image. But if he chooses people who are new in the political arena and have a relatively lesser following, then his dream of winning this political hand in Pakistan is going to go to his grave.

    The only thing that IK has to do yet, is to draft out a FIVE YEAR PLAN. A plan that would chart out the roadmap he will follow when he comes into power. He should think as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and then do the needful as that shall surely shut up the worst critics against him and automatically extract understanding and support from analysts who can then debate and guide the draft to the final stages.Recommend

  • notbad

    pretty decent article.. i like the way you applied a theory to the current situation and extracted future predictions.. it was very professional of you to state your conclusions as calculated opinions and confess your limitations (lack of knowledge about long term effects).
    I may not agree with you; but I learned something new here. And that is what counts!Recommend

  • Jibreel

    and Pakistan comes under a more direct control of the establishment for the next decade =)
    Maybe we shud try Afridi for Prime Minister since he is in form, nahi?Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Interesting article. I would also like to point here that even though this synergy is difficult to accomplish, however, when divergent groups are able to work together, they give birth to masterpieces because in order to solve the problems with contradicting values, they end up devising not only comprehensive but also very creative solutions. Some management authors think that this resultant diversity is one of the key drivers of american enterprises vs. Japanese businesses (who rely mostly on homogeneous work force). So best hopes for PTI!Recommend

  • ashok sai

    IK is getting an enormous attention in the media, which is amusing. My question is, is he peaking too early, ie, well before the elections ?Recommend

  • Adeel

    We trust IK leadership and pray Imran Khan will be the next Prime Minister of pakistan, INSHAHALLAH
    I Believe he can manage big names in his party. i doesn’t agree with this theory at all. Good leader can mange people of different nature. Recommend

  • Zia

    i actually feel pity for the author , he had to go to great extents to apply Olson’s theory to IK when in fact with an arrogant and determined person like IK , the theory simply does not work . i don’t believe PTI will split into fraction , its either PTI or NO PTI . Recommend

  • Khalid Mehmood Rao

    Its a good article and is explaining a general outcome arises when such situations undergo. But, I will try to bring one point into discussion that it is IK to whom people expect and like. They want him to deliver. They just look towards him. Additionally, people do believe that IK is not corrupt as well.
    One very important point I would like to raise that people talk that these people will spearhead his movement into theirs and will corrupt all the things and this will damage IK’s image as well. But, keep one thing in mind, if such situation arises that IK does not able to control these people, then it will further improve IK’s image in the people’s eye. Because, every one believes that these traditional politicians. And if IK is having bad relations with them then it will further endorse that IK is not a corrupt leader.
    In the end, I have a belief that only one man (not a mob) can bring change as history reveals. I pray Allah that IK may be the one. Recommend

  • Truth

    Isn’t this situation similar to the cricket team that won the world cup. IK has the ability and education to keep everyone part of the team to achieve what he has promised the nation. Recommend

  • FN723

    At one point people say there is no one recognizable in his party. It is a one man show.
    now that he has a couple of stalwarts people say too many cooks spoil the broth.
    Imran Khan, for a better Pakistan :) Recommend

  • maestro

    ET: Imran Khan has shown over the last 35 years how to build a team and lead it with success MA – whether it be in cricket, building a hospital or a university and now in politics where he has waited patiently for 15 years but kept his ideology consistent. Rest assured, he is building his team now with thought and prowess. :-) He doesn’t know how to fail and IA he will not this time either. Recommend

  • Khan

    I’ve given up convincing people. One likes it or not, it’s pretty obvious now that Imran Khan will be the next PM.Recommend

  • hamza khan

    javed hashmi is not revolutionary leader. he is a traitor who incited mutiny against the army. the fact that president musharraf didnt hang him is his luck. Recommend

  • Faraz

    Ali, you have scored a major point by approaching the IK topic in a more analytical way, unlike so many of the typical tribune IK bashers who left no stone unturned just for the sake of venting out their anger and hatred without proper reasoning.

    But lets not forget Olson Theory is only a ‘theory’ at best.

    One of the key things that makes this theory inapplicably in Imran Khan’s case is that it totally igonores the propotion of power that the center of the party (which is mainly IK) holds, which could directly influence the diversity of the vested-interest based smaller groups. Provided that power figure is missing or weakened, only then one can begin to wonder the theory’s implication on larger public interest group.

    Take an example of the cricket team under Imran. All kinds of divergent vested interest groups were in his team; not only ethnically but also in class and creed. From Javed Miandad to Waqar, from Qasim Omar to Saeed Anwar. From Inzimam to Salim Jaffer. Not only those individuals has contrasting personalities, but they had their own agendas/philosophies. IK put them together, brought the best out of them. It wouldnt’ have been possible otherwise, as you saw what happened under Inzimam; a non-leader. And that is where smaller group’s influence come into play.Recommend

  • AK

    Good ArticleRecommend

  • Poo Bono Publico

    It seems that someone is trying to pontificate on basis of some book he has read.

    Understandably, Express Tribune is run jointly with the New York Times — and thus has an agenda of its own, thus all we see criticism of IK for any reason: I recall writer criticized him for building a cancer hospital and a university.
    The likes of Ali Mustafa should focus their attention on other partiesRecommend

  • W Hassan

    When you have millions (of starving Pakistanis) to feed, having more cooks is a good thing!!Recommend

  • Mohsin

    Has any politician been that much in the limelight in the history of Pakistan. And he hasn’t even gained power yet.

    Go there Imran….. Recommend

  • RAW is WAR

    I feel, there are too many people in Imran’s party who will give him a bad name.Recommend

  • Jehangir

    I think Faraz raised a very important point. Olson theory states nothing about the centrifugal force that a strong center can harness. In this case, Imran Khan has the authority, charisma and high in octane proven leadership qualities than the Olson theory doesn’t taken into account. But nice try Ali Mustafa.Recommend

  • Jehangir

    And yes, if Imran Khan can put Shoaib Akhtar group and Inzimam ul Haq group in one team and use them to full their potential, he can also do that with Javed Hashmi and Shah Mahmood Qureishi. Recommend

  • http://peshawar dr Kamran Baluch

    @ Hamza Khan
    I dont think Javed hashmi is a traitor. He is too dumb for that. He just did something very stupid without knowing that its an act of mutiny. In fact article 6 applies to his action. Also in my opinion Article 6 applies to Akbar Bugti’s supporters. Recommend

  • Waqas khan

    Imran khan knows how to manage a team, he did it 1992, he can do it again. Dont worry friends
    dawn is near :) Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    @hamzakhan and @dr Kamran Baluch:
    Please feel free to do something for this country before you start bashing respectable people like JH. Truth to be told, whatever political party he belongs to, he is an asset for this nation and we are proud of him. Period.Recommend

  • Ali Abul Hassan

    Dear Ali Mustafa, PTI is a Movement not a conventional political party that is run by big names. A movement is run by its goals and everyone can be welcomed if he/she moves or helps others reach those goals. The bigwigs no matter what there political background was, are joining PTI it simply means they are following the PTI’s manifesto and its leader’s Imran Khan’s vision. I welcome all the youngsters to the Politics of Pakistan but at the same time wish them to right sense to perceive things from all the angles.
    Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • Captaincookespeersahib

    Has Zardari Built a cancer hospital which gives free care to the poorest?

    Has Nawaz built a college in rural punjab to the standard of Namal college which gives students equivalent degrees to what they would recieve at the university of bradford in the UK?

    Has Zulfiqar Mirza ever won pakistan the world cup for pakistan as captain?

    Has Altaf Hussain ever managed to amass over 100,000, never mind the 500,000+ that IK brought to Karachi?

    No one cares about Olsens theory. Because thats exactly what it is a THEORY

    What imran khan did on 25th December was a miracle, he managed to bring together, Urdu speaking, Pathan, Punjabi, Balochi and all other minorities together.

    We must be forceful, forceful against those who support, maintain, and prop up the status quo, the existential leeching of the blood of common pakistans.

    Sincerely, Captaincookespeersahib. (In full josh, and still waiting for his roti, kapra and makaan) Recommend

  • Parvez

    An intelligent, reasoned and well written blog.
    The first basic thing that came to mind was that Olson was a economist and his thinking and theory has been applied by you to a purely political situation, where detail isn’t that important.
    It is the vision and the direction that matters, which is given by the leaders whose function is both simple and herculean at the same time.
    On the practical side, did Mr.Qureshi, Mr Tareen or even Mr.Hashmi make big differene in the direction of the parties they were in previously. Answer is no because it is the Party and its vision and leader who prevails. Recommend

  • Tariq Afridi

    This Peshawar-based college going trio has literally transformed Mr Javed Hashmi’s words with a fine blend of Jalib’s poetry and retro rock music. This song ‘Baghi’ certainly has what it takes to become the official anthem of PTI. Keep rocking guys as the youth of Pakistan have woken up to the crumbling monoliths of Pakistan’s political elite.

    Listen to the rebellion here.

  • Ozymandias

    When he was the only cook, that was a problem. Now it’s about too many cooks. And no one’s even tried the dish yet. Sigh.Recommend

  • sana

    lets start working on the plan- i am sure great minds at tribune will helpRecommend

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