PTI’s Grassroots Workers Are Being Brought Back In The Party Fold
Miftah Marwat writes about the efforts underway to reorganize the PTI at the grassroots level. He says that negative media coverage of PTI has sidelined such important developments.
During the 2013 and 2018 elections, the Chairman and Founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf presented the agenda of bringing forth clean and honest people in the party. This slogan, along with the Party manifesto, resonated with the public, and was seen as a breath of fresh air in the very stale and stifling air of Pakistani politics.
However, ever since coming into power, mainstream media has time and again criticized the Chairman PTI for having most of the same old faces of different parties in the past holding important public offices; essentially, the case of old wine in new bottles. Though there may be some credence to this narrative, since those sitting in the Federal cabinet and other positions of power are from the previous regimes, a silent yet strong change is underway within the ranks of the party itself. This change is being spearheaded by none other than the Chairman’s old time companion, Saifullah Khan Niazi, who is otherwise fond of working in the shadows. With the party reorganization underway, a glimpse of the future may be seen with the work currently being done
Saifullah Khan had always been with the Chairman through the Party’s lowest points, as well as its peak popularity period during the 2014 nationwide protest drive leading to the dharna. He was the main organizer of the party in its agitation phase. Due to internal party politics, as well as his own personal commitments, he took what many would say a sabbatical period of leave just before the 2018 General Elections.
In a way, the party’s first phase of agitation and opposition politics leading it to become the most popular party in Pakistan had come to an end, whereby the second phase of the party started with it now being in power. It was in 2019 when disgruntled party workers felt ignored and sidelined after local leaders had ended up in parliament, that the Chairman desired to reorganize the party cadre. Saifullah Khan Niazi was appointed as the Chief Organizer (C.O) of the party, with the mandate to reorganize the entire party from grassroots level, irrespective of local clout being enjoyed by party parliamentarians. Needless to say, the Chairman has directed Saifullah Khan to act as per merit, otherwise being the forte of the old guard.
In the first phase of the party’s reorganization, the new constitution was adopted through a party convention. This constitutional document was produced after a deliberation lasting 4 years. The party now has an interim setup that would lead to holding intra-party elections that some argue may be even a bigger exercise than those held in 2013. In this interim setup, many of the old and ideological workers have been provided space in not only party structures, but also empowered through the unique “good governance” mechanism that essentially provides party oversight over many of the executive functions of government.
However, one of the biggest challenges facing Saifullah Khan was most likely to have old party workers and stalwarts back into the fold of the party. Many had gone into hibernation for either feeling ignored, or being disempowered to be able to bring any change. Party activism thus reached an all time low, resulting in very low turnouts in party related events. The change had to be brought about through a top-down approach, whereby appointment of old party ideologues would ensure the inclusion of old party workers in its lower tiers.
Saifullah Khan, whilst pursuing this strategy, intelligently appointed people that were loyal to the party manifesto and its agenda of change, rather than those fond of holding on to power. Appointments of Ali Asghar Khan, Sher Ali Arbab, Ijaz Chaudhry, Sadaqat Abbasi and many others as heads of their respective regions has been a breath of fresh air. Ijaz Chaudhry was the first to swear in 11,000 office holders in a grand Jalsa in Minar-e-Pakistan in February.
South region KP was the first to appoint Village Council level office holders. Talking to Shahbaz Gul Shinwari, the President of the region, he expressed that they had “…over 6,000 office holders in the south region mother party alone. After the completion of the organization of the wings till the grass root, the south region alone will have close to 40,000 office holders.”
Shahbaz Gul Shinwari has appointed many old workers who may not be financially strong. However, they were staunch supporters of the party manifesto and otherwise established change agents within their communities. Nawaz Bangash, a motorcycle mechanic by profession, but one of the party’s most vocal and active workers, was appointed as the Tehsil President of the Mother Party.
While another old worker, Raheem was appointed as the Additional General Secretary. “I am a welder by profession; most of the party office holders are grass root level die hard poor workers like myself……I can’t say anything about other parties however, I was contacted by the region President of our party, they wanted to give me responsibility in the party. Previously, I was an office holder in the village council level,” he said.
According to a Village Council President of Union Council Bilitang, District Kohat, Shahid: “I was a worker in PTI since 2009; however during the tenure of 2018-2020, we were completely ignored and I was not as active, mostly because of some unwanted people in PTI. We understood that Imran Khan needed some people to come in power and was too busy then. This was our sacrifice. Now he might be busy, but he has appointed the right and loyal people to the party. Saifullah Niazi has proven that PTI does care for workers, this is the only party where majority workers and office holders are poor people”.
The current reorganization of the party cadres is indeed a silent revolution underway, preparing ground for change and future party leadership ready to take up the reins of the party as well as future governments whenever required. Whilst the current atmosphere of opposition against PTI may be gaining momentum, the Chairman has, through his old confidante, silently prepared ground to be ready for General Elections at a moment’s notice, if the need ever arose. It is this wild card that the opposition is wary of, and in all probability, may never throw in the proverbial towel in the ring through en masse resignations, knowing full well how that may end up.
By setting its current course, PTI is once again projecting an image as the party of the people. According to Saifullah Niazi, these are the real faces of PTI, who form the backbone of the party. They may not be visible on your television screens, but they are very much there in the shadows, working tirelessly to usher in a new era when the time comes.