ONE thought that the saga of the 35 punctures was over after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) failed to provide any evidence to prove its allegations before the judicial commission.
But trust an obdurate Imran Khan not to give up, even though he admitted in a TV interview that the allegation against Punjabs former caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi was a political ploy. It seems that he is stuck in a groove from which he finds it hard to extricate himself.
Imran Khans fixation with the puncture theory, pertaining to electoral rigging, has now become an embarrassment for many of his own supporters.
It is a pity to see party stalwarts clumsily trying to defend the accusation that they themselves do not really believe. Many of them privately admit the silliness of the fabricated account of election-fixing.
Yet no one would dare defy the great leader, a sad commentary on the party that promises to change the political culture of this country. A show of reason is certainly not acceptable.
For sure, the PTI deserves credit for forcing the government to agree to probe the vote-rigging charges. But the party should now wait for the judicial commission ruling instead of mindlessly harping on a fictitious theory.
It is a pity to see the party pursuing a one-point agenda, completely ignoring other important national issues the countrys main opposition was expected to take up. Its rejectionist approach and politics of perpetual agitation seems to have lost the party much credibility causing disillusionment in its ranks.
Imran Khans fixation with the puncture theory has become an embarrassment for his own supporters.
Leadership has never been about popularity alone. The very essence of leadership is that one has to have a clearly articulated vision.
Surely, Imran Khans mass popularity and charisma has helped the PTI emerge as a formidable political force in the country. But there is a big question mark over whether the party has any clear political vision or strategy.
Seemingly, the partys entire strategy is based on early elections on the expectation that the judicial commission would uphold the rigging charges.
But there seems to be a slim probability of the entire 2013 elections being declared void.
One-dimensional thinking has prevented the party from effectively challenging the government on important political and economic issues.
Though the PTI has returned to parliament, its participation in the house proceedings has largely remained ineffective and lacklustre.
That was very much evident during the recent debates on the budget and some other important political and economic issues. Imran Khans contempt for parliament is apparent from his refusal to attend National Assembly sessions.
The partys image has also been hugely tarnished over the allegations of widespread mismanagement and rigging in the local government election in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Predictably, the PTI refused to accept any responsibility even for administrative failure. The KP elections raise questions about the high moral ground that the PTI itself has taken on the alleged 2013 poll rigging.
It will be quite interesting to see how the party responds to any probable ruling by the judicial commission rejecting its argument about alleged planned and systematic rigging helping the PML-Ns return to power.
It remains to be seen how the PTI changes the tack from perpetual agitation to becoming a part of the existing political process and waits till 2018 to bid for power. It will be a huge test for Imran Khans impetuousness.
For sure, the PTI has suffered some credibility loss as a serious political party striving for radical political transformation, but its mass support does not seem to have eroded much.
Despite all its shortcomings and lack of clear strategy, for many it remains the only viable alternative to the two tested parties. In fact, the virtual demise of the PPP in Punjab has made the PTI the PML-Ns only effective challenger in the countrys most powerful province.
Whatever the judicial commission ruling may be, it will change the political dynamics of the country. Though, the probability of early elections is slim, it would certainly give a huge political boost to the PTI. But any judgement otherwise could strengthen the PML-Ns position forcing the PTI to rethink its strategy.
Not to forget the Sharif government has already got out of the crisis period that it faced during the virtual storming of the capital by the PTI and Tahirul Qadri last year.
The success of the PML-N in most of the by-elections in Punjab has also reinforced its confidence. Government relations with the military seem to have improved and the economy appears to have stabilised.
Hence it will not be that easy for the PTI to challenge the PML-N dominance in Punjab.
Meanwhile, the PTI has become a major refuge for other party renegades fast changing its political complexion.
Seemingly, the partys electability has been strengthened by the joining of some senior PPP Punjab leaders.
But the new entrants could also widen the cleavage in the partys own ranks. Many believe that the newcomers would trigger a new power struggle within the party pushing out the old party loyalists who are increasingly resentful of political opportunists occupying senior positions in the party hierarchy.
Rising factionalism seems to be a major cause of worry for the PTI leadership. Infighting has reportedly been one of the reasons behind the partys lacklustre performance in cantonment board and local government elections in KP.
The forthcoming local government polls in Punjab are going to be a major test for the party to prove that its mass political appeal, particularly among the youth, is still intact.
Surely, a strong opposition party is imperative for strengthening the democratic political process in the country.
The role of the PTI becomes more critical with the virtual wiping out of the PPP in Punjab reducing it to a regional party.
One can only hope that Imran Khan and the PTI leadership realise this responsibility and focus more on issue-based politics rather than sticking to the mindless politics of punctures.