In 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 otherwise 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 for having most of the same old faces belonging to different parties in the past holding important public offices; essentially, the case of old wine in new bottle.
Though there may be some credence to this narrative, since those sitting in the Federal Cabinet and other positions of power are there for all to see, however, 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 confidante and 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 being currently 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, being 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 many words, 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, which the Chairman desired to reorganize the party cadre. In a master stroke, Saifullah Khan Niyazi was appointed as the Chief Organizer (C.O) of the party, with the mandate to reorganize the entire party from grass roots 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 adapted through a party convention. This constitutional document is revolutionary in many aspects, having been produced after a deliberation that had lasted 4 years. The party is now being setup with 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 to have old party workers and stalwarts back into the fold of the party; many had, whilst supportive of the Chairman, had otherwise gone into hibernation for either feeling ignored, or disempowered to be able to bring any change.
Party activism has thus reached an all-time low, resulting in very low turnouts in party related events. This 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 at Minar-e-Pakistan in February. “These Organizations will work as a bridge between the government & the public”. This proved to be a great move, as Regional presidents appointed grass root party workers as office holders, irrespective of their financial standings.
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 6000 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, were staunch supports 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 works, was appointed as the Tehsil President of the Mother Party.
“…I am a small shop owner in my village, and I have been in PTI since 2009.…PTI is quite different from other political parties, even inside the party if someone takes a wrong decision we workers don’t stay silent, we have the moral ethics to call spade a spade no matter who that is and that is the reason that I will always stick to this 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 had wished give me responsibility in the party, previously I was a office holder in the village council level”
According to a Village Council President of Union Council Bilitang, District Kohat, Shahid says “I was a worker in PTI since 2009; however during the tenure of2018-2020 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, however 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. After the recent organizations being formed I have hope that PTI shall once again win the election and Imran Khan Shall be the next Prime minister as well”.
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 government 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 every 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 has once again tried to install an image in the minds of the people to be a party of the people. According to Mr. Saifullah Niyazi, these are the real faces of PTI, who otherwise form the back bone of the party. They may not be visible on your television screen, but they are very much there in the shadows, working tirelessly to usher in a new era when the time comes.
While the Federal Government continue of PTI continues to face multiple challenges including accusations of mismanagement, it is the leaders working at the grassroots level who continue to make a difference for it. These are the real heroes who seems to have gone into hibernation while the mainstream lot in the cabinet continues to stay in the limelight.