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Seeking IMF’s help; PTI’s Misguided Move

Qamar Bashir

By  Qamar Bashir

The decision by the former PTI chairman to petition the IMF for an electoral audit of disputed election results struck many, including myself and various opinion leaders, as a startling and misguided move. This request, especially coming from a party with a strong legal cadre, seemed out of place given the IMF’s well-defined mandate. The IMF focuses on international monetary stability and economic support, dealing with financial assistance, economic stability, and growth through policy reforms. It does not involve itself in a nation’s electoral matters or judicial grievances, which are sovereign issues. The appeal to the IMF for electoral scrutiny not only deviates from its established role but also risks diminishing our standing by misunderstanding the scope of international institutions.

The decision by PTI’s leadership to seek IMF intervention in electoral matters might reflect a profound mistrust in national institutions. This disillusionment could stem from various grievances: the establishment’s overt antagonism, the Election Commission’s invalidation of PTI’s internal elections and subsequent stripping of its election symbol, which critically weakened the party’s standing. Additionally, the overwhelming legal challenges faced by the PTI chairman, with over 200 cases lodged against him, and a perceived judicial ineffectiveness, where court orders seem disregarded and the only recourse for arrested and humiliated PTI members appears to be public disavowal of their allegiance, further exacerbate this trust deficit.

The erosion of trust in the judiciary was compounded when the Supreme Court confirmed the Election Commission’s decision to strip PTI of its election symbol. This sentiment deepened with a landmark ruling that invalidated Imran Khan’s marriage to Bushra Bibi, a decision unprecedented in the context of Islamic jurisprudence. Successive convictions of Imran Khan in high-profile cases, such as the Cypher, Toshakhana, and the legality of his marriage, further alienated PTI supporters, especially as numerous other legal challenges loom on the horizon.

The disillusionment with the country’s institutions extended to the pre-election phase, where PTI faced considerable obstacles in organizing public gatherings. When these events did proceed, media coverage was often suppressed. The shift to digital campaigning saw further challenges, with internet and mobile services being disrupted or throttled. This not only targeted PTI but also impacted businesses, trade, and the broader populace, exacerbating the already compromised reputation of the nation.

Some may argue that involving an international entity like the IMF could introduce transparency and impartiality into the audit process, addressing the trust deficit with domestic institutions. This approach might not only ensure fairer electoral practices but also spotlight alleged irregularities on a global stage, fostering international advocacy for democratic integrity in Pakistan. Conversely, this strategy might displease even some PTI supporters who favor internal resolution of issues, fearing it could fragment the party’s unity. They contend that despite the flaws of national institutions, struggles should remain within the constitutional and legal boundaries, advocating for a domestic, democratic push for reform without foreign intervention or influence on sovereign matters.

Critics argue that while such actions might not directly harm the establishment, judiciary, or government officials who would continue to receive their salaries, the real brunt of economic fallout from a halted IMF negotiation, prompted by PTI’s request, would be borne by the common people. This could exacerbate unemployment and inflation, already at record highs, pushing millions more into poverty.

They suggest learning from past experiences, like the repercussions of alleging foreign involvement in regime change, which cost PTI its government and led to legal troubles for its members. Instead of risking further isolation and legal action by engaging with international bodies like the IMF in domestic political disputes, they advocate for a more cautious approach that avoids giving the government and establishment reasons to target PTI and its leadership.

Critics might argue that soliciting foreign intervention in political and electoral issues could be perceived as undermining national sovereignty, potentially fueling nationalist and anti-PTI sentiment. Such a move risks politically isolating the PTI both within Pakistan and on the international stage, as it could be viewed as an excessive measure or a misuse of international institutions for domestic political conflicts.

This strategy could arm opponents with grounds to accuse PTI of treason, leading to possible legal actions against its leaders, a ban on the party, and the nullification of its electoral achievements in 2024.

Furthermore, there’s concern that this approach could prompt a coordinated media and civil society backlash against PTI, labeling the act as unpatriotic and anti-state.

Prime time TV shows might be pressured to denounce PTI’s actions, while ad campaigns across traditional and social media could further condemn the party.

Engagement of civil society groups to criticize PTI could lead to a significant loss of the political capital the party gained following its strong performance in the 2024 elections, especially if media outlets that had previously shifted their support towards PTI due to perceived election rigging and the treatment of its members reverse their stance.

Media analysts might critique PTI for its tendency to repeat past mistakes without considering the broader implications for national sovereignty and dignity. Despite PTI’s professed commitment to upholding the country’s honor, its actions, perceived as impulsive, often put its narrative and principles at risk. This pattern of behavior, as observed by commentators, suggests a cycle where lessons from previous setbacks are not fully absorbed or integrated into future strategies, challenging the party’s ability to maintain its narrative consistency and political credibility.

Now that the arrow has been fired, and damage has been done, the PTI should adopt a  comprehensive and sustained strategy to damage control.

They should give positive spin to this blunder by framing PTI’s decision to internationalize the issue of electoral integrity in Pakistan to the party’s commitment to transparency and fair play, highlighting how this unprecedented step could pave the way for more accountable electoral processes.

The narrative could focus on the need for impartial oversight in the face of domestic challenges and frame the move as a proactive approach to safeguarding democracy.

This spin would portray PTI as a forward-thinking party willing to explore all avenues to ensure the sanctity of the electoral process, thus aligning its actions with global best practices for democratic governance.

Open dialogue, transparency in their actions, and a unified front from leadership at all levels will be crucial in navigating criticism and reinforcing the party’s commitment to strengthening Pakistan’s democratic processes.

By  Qamar Bashir

Former Press Secretary to the President – Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France – Former MD, SRBC






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