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Imran Khan has no real interest in representing his constituents in parliament at the moment

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August 8, 2022

ISLAMABAD — Ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to make a very costly point with his decision to contest all nine National Assembly seats in the September 25 by-election. To recap, these nine general seats (along with two reserved seats for women) were officially vacated after the controversial acceptance of the resignation of just 11 PTI deputies recently by the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Although the NA President gave no justification for his decision, the move appeared to be aimed at alleviating some of the pressure for a snap election that had been created by the mass resignation of more than 100 PTI MPs in april.

However, the PTI leader has now found a counter-strategy: to compete in the announced nine by-elections and, if he wins one or more seats, to cancel the whole exercise by ensuring that the by-elections have to stand the same seats again and again. Mr. Khan thus transformed the by-election into a personal referendum. A win along the lines of the July 17 partial polls in Punjab would give his narrative strong validation and a chance to thumb his nose at critics.

However, Mr Khan has no real interest in actually representing his constituents in parliament yet. Therefore, it seems like a pointless attempt to stay relevant at the expense of the public purse. One can also wonder what his strategy would be if partial elections were announced for all the vacant seats: would Mr. Khan nominate himself as the sole candidate of the PTI for all of the hundred seats? Quite the farce that would be.

Meanwhile, the animosity between the PTI chairman and the chief election commissioner that has been placed at the center of party discourse is also worth examining. This seems quite hypocritical given that Mr Khan agrees to have endorsed the appointment of Sikandar Sultan Rajas, even on the advice of the establishment. Yet, no matter who made which recommendations, as a leader, he must take full responsibility for his decision. Considering the number of years his party spent gloating and insisting on the same point when the then opposition protested the brutality of former NAB leader Javed Iqbal, he is not one to Mr. Khan to cry foul now.

By inviting supporters to participate in an attempt to sabotage the mandate of electoral commissions, he is setting a dangerous precedent. The exercise, if successful, could make people even more suspicious and hostile to the electoral process. This decision may make it clear that the PTI is ready to do anything to force a general election, but it is ultimately a destructive endeavor that will waste public resources and undermine the spirit of the democratic system. The PTI leader has already spread his political message through rallies and jalsas; why can’t he continue to seek public validation through such events?

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