Sher Afzal Marwat’s meteoric and divisive rise in PTI


In interview to The Nation, Marwat says every person has the right to freedom of expression and no one should make it a matter of personal ego.


ISLAMABAD  -  It’s a late Ramazan evening in Islamabad’s upscale sector. The usual bustle of the business cen­tre has quieted down, leaving the lawyers’ offices in the two-storey building shuttered. Amidst the tranquillity, one office stands out with its vibrant activity.

Inside, many young Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and followers fill the vicinity of the Marwat Law Attorneys, the workplace transformed into a party office. Some engage in lively chatter, while others watch TV in the spacious yet unassuming lob­by. Here, amidst the buzz, sits Sher Afzal Khan Marwat, a firebrand PTI leader and the firm’s owner.

Marwat, a lawyer by profes­sion, rose through the ranks of PTI after May 9 riots when the party of former prime minister Imran Khan was in disarray. He mobilized the party at a time when the majority of its core leadership was either in jail or had gone into hiding. At this stage, many among the legal fra­ternity extended their coopera­tion to the party and joined poli­tics but Marwat has a distinction of getting a sharp growth as a politician as compared to others.

He motivated workers – es­pecially in Pashtoon areas – in the absence of imprisoned PTI founder Khan, successfully held party conventions countrywide before national elections and came into the spotlight due to his fiery speeches and many con­troversies revolving around him.

“The basic reason for my rise is that the leadership within the party had vanished after May 9. Anyone who stood in these hard times, party workers lifted him to their shoulders,” he told The Nation in an interview while sit­ting in his office. Workers need­ed a leader, which they got in my form, he added. After last year’s May 9 riots following ex-premier Khan’s arrest from the premis­es of an Islamabad court, police had charged senior leadership of the PTI along with hundreds of its workers in different crim­inal cases related to attacks on civil and military installations. The saga created a leadership crisis within the party as many parted ways with it to avoid cas­es and arrests while others were sent behind the bars.

“In the words of my leader Khan, I got ‘meteoric’ rise,” Mar­wat said and added, “I led the party when no one was ready to come out and face the ugly situa­tion,” he said. Marwat is a public mobiliser and has gained popu­larity due to his simplicity, bold­ness, an exceptional style of con­versation and strong presence on social media. His hilarious memes usually become trends on social media. In many viral videos, he can be seen either dodging or challenging the po­lice to evade arrest during his party’s political gatherings.

The agitator politician says that he effectively used social media to make successful work­ers’ conventions as part of the party’s efforts to effectively run the election campaign. “I made a simple strategy that it would be a decent power show if I succeeded in gathering a mini­mum of 5,000 workers,” he said. “Workers showed affection for me and they started coming out in large numbers on my call,” he said, adding that the number of participants at such gatherings sometimes rose up to 80,000.

It was the time when PTI, which remained a trend setter for holding big rallies from 2011 till 2022, had been facing diffi­culties in organizing its political gatherings due to the imprison­ment of Khan and an unofficial ban on those from the govern­ment. “Primarily, Marwat got a rise due to his aggressive style and challenging mood,” said Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa-based jour­nalist Lehaz Ali in an interview to The Nation over phone. PTI workers like aggressive politics – one of the reasons that Mar­wat got space within the party ranks, he said, adding that there was a leadership vacuum within the PTI after May 9 and he wisely grabbed the opportunity to fill it.

“Marwat uses short sentences to target his political opponents and even doesn’t spare the par­ty leadership and sometimes workers – a style that has an ap­peal in the lower cadres of the party,” said Lehaz.

In the February 8 elections, Marwat was elected MNA from NA-41, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)’s Lakki Marwat district, his hometown, by securing an im­pressive 117,988 votes, defeating Maulana Asjad Mehmood – the son of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Reh­man – who secured 68,303 votes. This victory is particularly signif­icant as it occurred in one of the religious party’s strongholds. In­carcerated PTI chief Khan also nominated him for chairman­ship of National Assembly’s Pub­lic Accounts Committee but it is unlikely that he will get the cov­eted slot. PTI had engaged Mar­wat for the first time when many of its leaders were booked in criminal cases following Imran Khan’s protest sit-in, held on May 25, 2022 in Islamabad. Soon, he became an important member of Khan’s legal team, developed his trust in workers and then stepped into active party politics. He also got the benefit of being a lawyer to avoid his arrest by po­lice on a number of occasions.

In November 2023, the PTI elevated him as its senior vice president but he has not been re-notified for the position after recent intra-party polls. Mar­wat had formally joined PTI in April 2017 after former Nation­al Assembly speaker Asad Qais­er introduced him in the party. He had applied for a party tick­et from his hometown to con­test the 2018 General Elections but was denied. Before joining politics, he had been serving in the provincial judiciary. He had joined KP’s judiciary as a civ­il judge in 1995 and resigned in 2009 as a senior civil judge af­ter serving at many positions in the province and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). He is a law graduate of the University of Peshawar, holds a postgrad­uate degree in history and has two master’s degrees in law, one in international commercial law from UK’s Cardiff University.


Along with his growing pop­ularity, Marwat remains con­troversial both within the PTI ranks and outside due to his conflicting statements and ag­gressive mood.

On September 27 last year, Marwat entered into a physi­cal brawl with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Sena­tor Dr Afnan Ullah Khan during a live television show. In the mid­dle of March this year, he sparked a controversy by commenting that the PTI lost seats reserved for women and minorities in the parliament due to its wrong de­cision to enter into an alliance with the Sunni Ittehad Coun­cil (SIC). His remarks stirred a heated debate within the party ranks and the national media si­multaneously till PTI Chairman Gohar Ali Khan had to say pub­licly that the party’s decision to join ranks of SIC was absolute­ly right. In February, Marwat la­belled Gohar as a low-perform­ing chairman. His critics within the PTI accuse him of damaging the party’s narrative due to his controversial remarks. Amidst these controversies, Khan has removed his name from the list of party’s focal persons respon­sible for finalizing the names of those individuals permitted to meet the ex-premier at Rawal­pindi’s Adiala Jail.

Marwat says that every person has the right to freedom of ex­pression and to differ on certain issues and no one should make it a matter of personal ego. “In the present circumstances, our major job is to do agitational politics while remaining in PTI,” he said, adding that their failure in doing so would actually dam­age the party’s narrative.

Marwat argues that he will continue to serve the party in any role as long as his lead­er wants so. “I will quit if Khan ever thinks that someone else should replace me.”

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