The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been facing significant challenges in recent times, despite being the largest political party in Pakistan. Founded in 1996 by Imran Khan, a former cricketer turned politician who served as prime minister from 2018 to 2022, the party has encountered numerous conflicts and setbacks.
In April 2022, Imran Khan was removed from the prime minister’s seat through a no-confidence motion and Shahbaz Shareef assumed leadership from the PDM government. It sparked protests from his supporters who believed the US was behind his ousting due to his independent foreign policy and friendly relations with China and Russia.
Imran Khan: No more party chairman
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The Election Commission of Pakistan declared Imran Khan ineligible to continue as the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf following the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Toshakhan case. This decision led to a crisis within the party, as it had to cope with the ramifications of Khan’s removal from his leadership position.
PTI Party Faced Crisis:
In the past few months, many PTI workers were arrested, and several party leaders quit after long interrogations. Imran Khan’s name got banned from mainstream media and constituency boundaries were changed to favor his opponents. Plus, Khan’s nomination papers were rejected.
In August 2023, former Prime Minister Imran Khan was imprisoned. His supporters and party members became disheartened because of the unresolved allegations.
As the general elections of 2024 in Pakistan are going to be held on Thursday, the party faces difficulties as their electoral symbol, “The cricket bat,” has been removed. This action was taken because the party failed to conduct intra-party elections as required by its constitution after Khan was removed as chairman of PTI.
As a result, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf couldn’t allocate party tickets to its candidates, leading to all members being listed as independent contestants with individual electoral symbols. The party also lost the right to nominate candidates for 226 reserved seats across the central and provincial legislature.
Imran Fighting for Elections from Jail:
Courts sentenced Imran Khan to jail terms totaling almost 31 years in three separate cases just a week before the elections. While these accusations have depressed the public, Khan never fails to inspire his voters. He is actively campaigning for the Pakistan election from jail, employing what is being called a ‘Guerrilla campaign‘.
On December 17, the PTI organized Pakistan’s first “virtual rally,” authorized by Khan. They utilised a platform called StreamYard. This event reached an audience of over five million across various platforms.
With Khan in jail for five months, the public had not heard from him at all. Therefore, the party utilized artificial intelligence (AI) to generate Khan’s audio clips and broadcasted them across social media platforms to garner public support.
Jibran Illyas, who oversees the entire campaign for the PTI, stated that the response to these efforts was overwhelmingly positive. However, authorities attempted to disrupt PTI’s campaigning by suspending internet services and blocking social media platforms.
After appealing to the Supreme Court for symbol restoration, they turned down the request. Consequently, the Election Commission allotted different symbols to all PTI-backed independent candidates for 2024 General Elections.
14 PTI-endorsed candidates are contesting for National Assembly seats and 30 are running for Punjab Assembly seats in Lahore for tomorrow’s general elections. Tough competition is expected in the NA-130 constituency, where former Punjab health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid is running against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Dr. Yasmin is currently incarcerated and confronting charges related to the May 9 incidents.
To see a list of all independent candidates of PTI for the 2024 elections, click here.
PTI’s Challenges Before Election:
In the lead-up to the February 8 vote, there have been widespread allegations of authorities arresting and even allegedly abducting PTI candidates. PTI banners and posters have been removed and its members have been prevented from conducting poll rallies.
As independent candidates, they are not permitted to use PTI flags or mention their affiliation with the party. The absence of the cricket symbol or the use of the flag makes it challenging for most candidates to be recognized as party members among the public, hindering their ability to garner votes.
Furthermore, the party’s official website, insaf-pk.com, has been banned. To help voters recognize their symbol in their area, the party has turned to social media platforms like Facebook.
Its social media team is developing a portal that allows voters to search for the names and symbols of PTI’s candidates.
But, the PTI is still facing difficulty in reaching out to voters effectively, as one in every two Pakistanis does not own a smartphone.
Imran Khan’s Popularity Nationwide:
Despite all the obstacles, PTI continued to strive for public support and representation in the upcoming elections. According to surveys conducted by reputable companies, PTI members hold a 59% positive vote rating compared to other political parties. Gallup Pakistan reports that twice as many individuals would vote for PTI if elections were held next week compared to those who would vote for PML-N. Imran Khan enjoys immense popularity among all political figures, with a 60% approval rating. Let’s see what General Elections Pakistan brings to him and his party.