N A Thakur,

The recent restructuring of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Azad Jammu and Kashmir has triggered a massive but healthy debate on social media as citizens and enthusiastic Facebook users, mostly the young and educated youth have been debating the pros and cons of the development and its possible impact on the region’s political landscape.

The development, by and large, is seen as an opportunity to establish a cadre-based political entity to accommodate educated youth in practical politics keeping in view the vision and political philosophy of its founding chairman, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is hailed by many as the messenger of change in the country. Pertinently, during the recently accomplished restructuring process, the PTI’s central command has introduced new but familiar faces in the party’s AJK’s chapter. Bidding adieu to conventional approach the party has gone a long way to introduce a novel idea of bringing middle-class in the party fold.

The kind of approach adopted during the restructuring process amply demonstrates the PTI leadership’s resolve to institutionalizing the party on modern lines. Induction of Ershad Mahmud as central secretary for information, Raja Mansoor Khan, a UK educated and return young activist, as additional secretary-general, Zulfiqar Abbasi, an eminent businessman of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, as the central Secretary Finance of the AJK Chapter of the party, is seen as positive developments across the AJK and Pakistan. Mahmud a well-known columnist and progressive writer had played a vital role for the administrative, financial and constitutional empowerment of AJK and reducing powers of the Kashmir Council, a powerful body headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Mahmud hails from Rawalakot and influential Sudhan tribe which has always been calling the shots in AJK since its inception but he is known for his expertise on Kashmir conflict and writings for the national media.

The efforts to rope incredible voices like Mahmud and others into the party fold will eventually lead to further mainstreaming of youth besides opening up new avenues of success for the party in the region where mostly politics considered a no-go area for the middle and lower-middle class.

However, a lot more needs to be done to bring the much-anticipated change in AJK where politics has largely remained hostile to cast and tribal system. As the general elections are drawing nearer one hopes that the PTI president Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary along with his new team will work painstakingly to expand its organizational base across the state of Azad Kashmir.

Being in power in the centre PTI will have a clear edge over its rivals in the upcoming elections. Other factors in play also suggest that the PTI has more chances of winning the 2021 elections provided that the party stands committed to its agenda of change and works in tandem with its workers at the grass-roots level.

There are several problems such as bad governance, surging unemployment and lack of a merit-based system that have been plaguing the overall system in the region over the years. The common masses, visibly sick and tired of the prevalent system, have been genuinely craving for a change. The PTI, which stands for a change in conventional politics, can capitalize on these issues to galvanize masses’ support.

Though, there is no panacea for the rapid transformation, but, a new approach is needed to evolve a comprehensive policy and planning to address these age-old problems. With a new lot of young, energetic and educated youth the PTI has potential to turn the tide in its favour as there is a lot of optimism in the liberated territory that the PTI can emerge as the messenger of change. The first step towards this hectic journey has been taken, now the onus of responsibility lies with leadership. It depends on how it works as a team to translate PTI’s vision into reality. It is also time for the newly inducted office bearers of the party to grab this unique opportunity and prove their mettle in the field of politics as well as engage youth who are gradually tilting towards extremism or ultra-nationalism.

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