Monday, August 6, 2012

PTI's Strategic Mistake - Lessons from handling of PML-N's anti-SKMH campaign

By: Shah Zalmay Khan 
PTI's strategic mistake
Lessons from handling of PML-N's anti-SKMH Campaign

The Allegations Galore - A Chronology:
1st August 2012, Wednesday:
Khawaja Asif's Press Conference:

This day's afternoon saw a new dirty chapter  added to Pakistan's already heavily muddy politics. PML-N's MNA from Sialkot, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, accompanied by Senators Pervez Rashid and Mushahidullah Khan, held a press conference in which he tried to scandalize Imran Khan and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMH).
The allegations revolved around supposed bad investment of SKMH's endowment fund money into real estate business abroad. Khawaja Asif accused Imran Khan of using Zakat money for gambling and money-laundering and accused him of a lack of transparency in SKMH's financial matters. (Ironically though, the material for allegations was taken from SKMH's own Balance Sheets publicly available on its website. Mian Saheb what else is transparency if this isn't.) 
Imran Khan's Press Conference:
Some 2-3 hours after Kh Asif's press conference, PTI Chairman Imran Khan himself chose to address a press conference to answer the allegations about misuse of SKMH funds. He categorically stated that niether Zakat money was invested nor was he involved in the decision-making that led to the investment. He called Kh Asif's allegation a PMLN attempt at scandalizing SKMH for political reasons and to affect SKMH's Zakat collection that routinely peaks during the holy month of Ramadan. 

CEO SKMH Dr. Faisal Sultan gives point-wise answers to Kh Asif's 9 allegations in live debate in "Capital Talk" with Hamid Mir on Geo News.
2nd August 2012
PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan took the PMLN's anti-Imran offensive a step further. He leveled allegations against Imran Khan over his personal life and accused him of not paying income tax.

3rd August 2012
Imran Khan's Press Conference:
Imran Khan held a detailed press conference in response to the allegations leveled in successive press conferences by Kh Asif and Ch Nisar. In the press conference he presented his tax details to counter Ch Nisar's claim.

SKMH CEO Faisal Sultan's Press Conference:
The same day SKMH's CEO Faisal Sultan also held a press conference to clear Kh Asif's allegations against SKMH with relevant documents. However, this press conference was ignored by the media who were after the more sensational Imran Khan disclosures.
6 August 2012:
Imtiaz Hydari, Head HBG Holdings talks to Kamran Khan and declares that SKMH money is safe (Final nail in the coffin of PML'N's allegations).
PML-N's Objectives from the allegations tirade:
PML-Nooners were neither interested in answers to their allegations nor in betterment of cancer patients (as claimed by some PML-N leaders in talk shows). They had a few common-sense political objectives from this tirade of allegations.
1) To cast doubts on SKMH's credibility and hence affect its Zakat collection that routinely peaks during Ramadan. This because the Nooners think Imran Khan's philanthropic work especially SKMH is his strength and degrading SKMH's credibility would automatically mean hurting Imran Khan.  
2) To shatter, or at least cast doubts on, Imran Khan's "Mr. Clean" reputation and his moral high-ground in financial matters. They wanted to prove that Imran Khan is "just another politician" out there like the whole current lot (Zardari / Nawaz / Shujaat / Asfandyar etc).  
3) To provoke Imran Khan and to drag him personally into a blame game involving accusations and counter-accusations. This would amount to mud-slinging between PTI's Chairman and PML-N's 2nd-tier people; while their top leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz looked on.
Has PML-N achieved its Objectives?

Objective 1: As soon as Kh Asif's allegations surfaced, the whole country was struck by disgust. Every sane Pakistani condemned PML-N's attack on Pakistan's most reliable health care charity SKMH; from media to intelligentsia and from general public to politicians (even many PML-N politicians). The amount of Zakat / donations for SKMH in Pakistan and overseas increased significantly. The SKMH SMS-donations campaign recorded a 5-times increase in the days following Kh Asif's allegations. So basically this objective couldn't be achieved, rather it backfired on them. (Note: An SMS-donation worth Rs. 20 to SKMH can be made by sending a blank SMS to 7770). 
Objective 2: Startling as they first sounded, the allegations of financial impropriety against Imran Khan fizzled out soon as it was established that Imran Khan has no role in investment of SKMH endowment fund money. The fact that the allegations themselves were framed from SKMH's own balance sheets, available on its website, negated all notions of non-transparency. Also the fact that Imran Khan is not a beneficiary of any endowment fund investments directly or indirectly, cleared doubts about him. So, although the Nooners would keep whining and crying; the impeccable financial integrity of Imran Khan stands its ground as before. 
Objective 3: Well this is the area where the Nooners succeeded to a great extent (and this is what made writing of this article a point). They did provoke Imran Khan and dragged him personally into blame game while their own top leaders posed as bystanders (:P).
Lessons Learnt:
Looking back at the events that transpired since 1st August 2012, following observations about PTI's handling of the whole issue can be made and some lessons can be deduced.
1) After Khawaja Asif's allegations first surfaced, naturally every Insafian's blood was boiling and everybody wanted a befitting response to be given to the Nooners. And what better choice than "the Kaptaan" himself clearing all allegations, thought all Insafians. well well well. BAD IDEA and BAD DECISION. Aeeeen? How? Before anyone pounces at me (:P), let me explain.
Since the allegations pertained to Shaukat Khanum Hospital, the best person to answer them was CEO SKMH Dr. Faisal Sultan alone. Even if PTI leaders including Imran Khan were asked by media about the allegations, they could have referred the matter to SKMH authorities instead of engaging in mud-slinging debates themselves on talk shows. (After all it was Dr. Faisal Sultan's categorical and to-the-point clarifications, especially in Capital Talk on 1st August, that broke the backbone of PML-N's allegations.) This way PML-N would have to directly attack SKMH (means PML-N vs SKMH) which would surely have the one-point result; "Disaster for PMLN". However, since Imran Khan and PTI leaders embroiled themselves in the debate, it became sort of PML-N vs PTI (via SKMH).
2) PTI needs to learn the norms of Pakistan's politics if it has to survive in its murky waters. After Chaudhry Nisar's press conference of 2nd August, PTI made a good decision of taking the Nooners aggressively and going public with the now famous #Imran11Bouncers (a.k.a the "11 Questions to Nawaz Sharif"). Again Imran Khan himself, in his 3rd August press conference, went to bowl the classical bouncers. Well well well. Again BAD IDEA and BAD DECISION. How (again)?
Gone are the days when PTI meant Imran Khan (it isn't 1997). Today, PTI has enough stalwarts in its ranks who can take on any opponent fiercely and counter baseless propaganda. So the 3rd August press conference could (and should) have been done by some other fiery PTI leader e.g. Inamullah Niazi or Imran Ismail or some other stalwart. This would have given a direct message to the Nooners that PTI will counter the allegations only at appropriate level, keeping top leadership reserved for answering Nawaz Sharif only. This would have eased the pressure from Imran Khan who has to abandon other important party organizational work for such non-productive assignments.
3) The current allegations galore also served to again bring to surface the weaknesses of PTI's media strategy. PTI representation on various talk shows needs to be managed effectively so that the right person re[presents PTI in the right situation on the right topic.
Note: This has always been an area of concern for all Insafians because we see that corrupt-to-the-core leaders like Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are conveniently defended by their party reps like Qamar Zaman Kaira, Fawad Chaudhry, Khawaja Asif and Mushahidullah Khan while PTI's talk show reps struggle to defend Pakistan's Mr. Clean Imran Khan.   
4) A further lesson, seemingly a by-product of the situation, is that Imran Khan should restrict his media exposure considerably so that the media doesn't take him for granted. Repetitive talk show appearances on various channels every week tend to stagnate the message since nothing much actually changes on the ground between any two appearances. 
Exclusive interviews should only be granted to media people when there is something substantial to talk about.


Disclaimer: This blog is not an official PTI webpage and is run by a group of volunteers having no official position in PTI. All posts are personal opinions of the bloggers and should, in no way, be taken as official PTI word.
With Regards,
"Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf FATA Volunteers" Team.


  1. Plz also add this #ImtiazHyderi #SKMH #PTI #ImranKhan #PMLN Aaj Kamran Khan ke Saath on Geo News - 6th August 2012 -

  2. Imran is doing another Press Conference against Nawaz's Corruption today according to Jang Newspaper.

  3. PTI only should improve its media with more background work and research.

    I think PTI know that PMLN will launch a mass campaign Imran's Personal life just before election that's why Imran is taking preemptive step to counter PMLN propaganda. I think it is good because if PTI doesn't attack them they will attack PTI and Imran continuously.

  4. Thats the way to develop as a true democratic party....when mistakes are made they should be pointed out for ractification ,otherwise mistakes can lead to blunders.This shows thatPTI is a political party not a personality cult

  5. PTI leadership and opposition has big deference in their leadership has upper class and lower class and every level they had chain of common because most of them are old politician and professional politician with lot of experience to deal and fool our nation and society cleverly and technically according to the situation an other words they are high class crooks . Old fashion politics has monoply in people's mind and heart .
    PTI leadership and party has gain mount of popularity within year and party are under tremedouse pressure and unorganized yet hence in orientation process and imran khan is trying to unite his political forces under lot of pressure because he is CAPTAN .
    PTI has stalwarts and great peoples to deal with every situation but most of them new sharif in town .
    PTI is going through grass rout level and within party election by real democratic way to organiz future leadership and want to do great experiment within party to make sure choose right people's for right job and country to fillful promise of new change and new Pakistan .
    As for allegation by PMLN on SKMC and Ik
    On both level CEO SKMC and Ik has handle better way
    Most people's like to listen imran khan and believed imran khan then other because of his credibility and crismstic personality which no one has in party and opposition can not face and debate imran khan .
    Aslam khan
    PTI Virginia