File photo: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photograph:( Others )
Founded in the year 1996, the PTI was never seen as a serious contender
Pakistan's political landscape is undergoing a major churn. The two leading political parties of the country appear to be under siege. And in this political vacuum, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is sensing its best opportunity to seize the power in almost over two decades of its existence.
Here's a look at a political party, which earlier had been dismissed as a political fling of Pakistan's favourite playboy, Imran Khan, but has now emerged as a serious contender to capture power in the upcoming general elections.
Founded in the year 1996 -- four years after Khan led Pakistan to World Cup glory -- the PTI was never seen as a serious contender. This was the era when the political contests in Pakistan were bi-polar. With the charismatic Benazir Bhutto heading her leftist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Nawaz Shariff's conservative Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) ruling the political roost.
But this year's general elections are a different ball game altogether wherein Khan's PTI seems to be in its element.
Once formidable, the Pakistan Peoples party, now led by 29-year-old Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is fighting to stay relevant. PML(N), on the other hand, is plagued by Panama Papers Case and is reportedly in a complete state of political disarray.
The PTI, which means, has risen up as a formidable power.
What sets PTI apart
The PTI has positioned itself as a centrist party, something that sets it apart. The party maintains that it is willing to accommodate individuals of all ideological hues. On the face of it, Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf has promised to establish a welfare state, where the education, health and employment for all citizens is the state's responsibility.
The party has also promised to abolish personal income tax for all Pakistani citizens. On the face of it, the PTI has stressed on freedom of religion and has promised to establish a modern Islamic republic.
Electorally, the party has made steady gains. In the 2002 general elections, Imran Khan managed to win a seat. The PTI boycotted the 2008 elections, but the turning point came in 2013, when the party received over 7.5 million votes and emerged as the second largest party in terms of vote share, and also won the third highest number of seats. For the first time, Khan's party has also wrested power in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Interestingly, the PTI, with a total of 10 million members, claims to be Pakistan's largest political party. Imran Khan too believes that this election his party is a force to reckon with.
However, Imran Khan's position vis-a-vis India is a problematic one. In the past, he has raked up the Kashmir issue and has sought the intervention of the international community in addressing the Kashmir question.
This year's general elections look like a tri-polar contest. But with the other two parties in disarray, and Pakistan's deep state supposedly aiding Imran Khan's political venture, analysts point out that the PTI's time may have just arrived.