The battle lines are clearly defined. It is Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) versus Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) all the way. In the recent electoral battle in NA-120 in Lahore Dr Yasmin Rashid of PTI valiantly fought against Dr Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif (PhD-Urdu) wife of the Ex-Prime Minister. Dr Yasmin has had a long and credible professional and political innings. Her father-in-Law Ghulam Nabi Malik was elected MPA from the city in the 1970 elections and served as a provincial education minister in the Punjab Cabinet. Though PML-N prevailed at the ballot it was a great moral victory for PTI.

Compared to PTI, PML-N has very effective electoral armour; which includes the entire administrative machinery of the province. Patwaris, Police and the teachers of the Education Department were assigned important roles in organizing the recent campaign. As a party PML-N is unified in plunder and roguery, and combined with the ‘Sarkaris’ it is a formidable political force to be reckoned with. With over three decades in power the party is well entrenched. As a GHQ conceived political outfit it is resourceful and organized on a right wing agenda based on kickbacks through massive development projects. By contrast PTI is a very diverse political entity with minimum structure and resources. Dr Arif Alvi was the last full time Secretary General of the party, after him it has been a part time assignment mainly for control not organisation.

Instead of unification PTI strategy is to win elections through seasoned and burnished political players. The party is ill-prepared to take on an established, rogue political force like PML-N. Lessons can be learnt from older democracies like India. Currently it is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that rules Delhi while in the decade of seventies it was the Janata Party that took on the Congress led by Indira Gandhi, the undisputed leader of the country.

It was Raj Narian a freedom fighter and political activist who challenged Indira Gandhi’s election victory in 1971 in the Raj Bareli constituency. Being the incumbent Prime Minister, Ms. Gandhi was blamed for corrupt electoral practices. In 1975 the Allahabad High Court disqualified her. Instead of giving up power she imposed emergency rule and arrested her opponents. There were street protests but she stood firm. Finally in January 1977, she lifted emergency and announced national elections. Raj Narian forged an opposition political alliance called Janata Party and contested the elections against Ms. Gandhi in Rai Bareli. He defeated her with 52,000 votes and for the first time the Congress Party had to give up power. Morarji Desai was elected Prime Minister by Lok Saha. With his socialist ideology and grit Raj Narian was able to achieve a great political victory similar to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s feat in 1970. Both leaders were ideologues and activists.

PTI cannot overcome the roguery of PML-N without ideology, activism and organisation (IAD) which are all missing in today’s Tehreek. Ideology is the driving force for change; activism is required for the ground work while organisation ensures delivery. Kaptaan is indeed a celebrity and crowd puller but the battle for ballot has to be planned and executed through well organised party apparatus.

Electables can at best win their own seats. Kaptaan’s popularity helps them, in other words they bring very little to the party while they ensure their own electability. PTI is a party of change that challenges the forces of status-quo; in this fight it needs comrades not ‘Lotas’. It is time to review and reflect with open discussion. Under ZAB party conventions were held where varying viewpoints were openly discussed. Dr Mubashir Hasan ran the party as full time Secretary General. There was an open door policy. Workers had direct access to the leadership.

Mutuality of interests holds PML-N together. Unless the party self-destructs it will remain in the political arena. Lahore is the seat of its power that is why it is referred to as ‘Takht-e-Lahore’. When Raj Narian decided to take on the powerful Indra Gandhi he himself entered the arena in Rai Bareli against her. He then galvanised the entire opposition together to contest the elections. It was the biggest defeat ever for the Congress Party and its founders.

Battle of the ballot cannot be won by remote action from Bani Galla. Lahore is the battle ground. Dr, Yasmin Rashid’s heroic struggle should not go in vain. Kaptaan must lead the charge from the city of change. ZAB called Lahore the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) of Pakistan. Both PPP and PTI were born here and their victory will also come from this metropolis which is the heart of Pakistan. PML-N, which was once the child of the establishment, is now a monster with its own tentacles. It will not vanish without a fight. Though it no longer enjoys the support of the Khakis and Qazis but beating it at the ballot remains a challenge for PTI which it has to face. As a celebrity Kaptaan has done well now it is time for him to take them on in the streets of Lahore. His political warriors have to consolidate and unite to break through the defences of Takht-e-Lahore.