Its been almost 9 months now since PTI announced its internal elections. Since then the well-wishers of PTI have been hoping to see something positive coming out of these elections since these elections were seen as the cure to extreme divisions within the party, also pointed out by Talat Hussain recently. However till date, there is no expectation that these elections could be completed before general elections which makes one wonder, whether this was another hyped up bubble (like Hakumat Hatao, Mulk Bachao) that is about to burst? Akbar Sher Babar, once Imran Khan’s right hand (no more however), has rightly said that the party seems to be caught between the rock and a hard place.
As per my opinion, PTI has approached this whole exercise the wrong way. I would first like to share some information on why elections have been delayed in Islamabad.
What is happening in Islamabad?
There are two major groups, along with few minor groups participating in Islamabad. The stakes are high since the internal elections are deemed as the gateway to ticket in general elections. One of the major groups has raised serious reservations with the voter lists in front of the party leadership including the Chairman. Following were the main reservations:
- Bogus voters: Too many CNICs were found in the voters list which had no record in NADRA’s database. You can check the status of a CNIC by sending it to SMS short code 7000.
- Too many voters against a single Mobile Number: Since the voting is speculated to be done via SMS, it was found that in many Union Councils, too many voters were registered against a single mobile number.
- Missing voters: A large chunk of members, some of them prominent figures who have held party positions were missing from the voters list.
- Other concerns: There were other concerns such as unavailability of voting mechanism till the last day, lack of an election tribunal, lack of complaint mechanism etc.
All of these are genuine concerns by all means, which should have been addressed by Election Commission even before the election date was announced.
How PTI should have done it
As per my opinion, following measures could have avoided the hiccups in party elections that we are seeing today.
The election process should have been outsourced transparently: This would have ensured two things. First, an exercise as important as this would not have been dependent on volunteers, or people with a stake in the whole process. Second, when you pay an outsider to perform a task, you hold them accountable for the outcome. However if it is party internal office bearers performing the same task, you cannot actually hold them accountable since it would amount to washing dirty linen in public. Pakistan is full of IT professionals who would have willingly helped in providing the technical expertise to perform the whole task, from building database to voting and announcing results. By transparent I mean, the task should have been assigned not to a favorite vendor, but to someone who wins the contract by bidding the best solution in minimum cost. Once the task was assigned to a third party, a deadline could have been set to initiate the elections within a specified time, say 2 months.
Independent body as Observer: An independent body with an interest in electioneering (such as FAFEN) should have been requested to look after the whole process. This would have given added credibility to the whole process.
District Elections first, then UCs: Considering that PTI does not have presence in every single Union Council of Pakistan, the whole process of election remains stuck at this point in most part of the country. In order to initiate the process of elections, party should have initiated the elections at District level instead of Union Councils with clear set of goals in front of the elected District body. A district body elected only for a specified time of say 2 years could have been assigned the task to create specified amount of members in each UC within a specified amount time after which elections could have initiated again from UC level.
Truth and Reconciliation Board: A much-needed Truth and Reconciliation board having people with integrity such as Justice (R) Wajihudin Ahmed, Hamid Khan and other similar names should be a permanent body. The body should be assigned the task of resolving all issues within the party, whether its allegations of financial corruption from one group on another, or general complaints from party office bearers. The body should also have the power to punish if allegations are found true, otherwise the accuser should be held accountable. Otherwise the division that is so evident within the party will keep destroying the very cause of PTI.
There is no possible way to complete the internal election process before general elections. Therefore internal elections should be called off till general elections. The above mentioned Truth and Reconciliation Board should be immediately setup. All competing groups should be given tasks which can help the party in general elections. Example of these tasks could be providing details of man power for each polling station, setting up teams for door to door campaigns etc. Once the groups are focused on something positive, the infighting will gradually fizzle out and following the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ the groups with better performance will eventually outshine the groups which were not up to the mark.
Note: I have many friends in one of the groups participating in Islamabad elections as they belong to the same team of which I was once part of. Despite my best efforts, I wont claim to be neutral in this piece. You are most welcome to gather information from other sources to form your own opinion.