As with all things political this year, the issue of PTI Chairman Imran Khan contesting for by-elections on nine National Assembly (NA) seats has also been relegated to the courts. A petition has been filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC), naming the Federation of Pakistan through the Cabinet Division secretary, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar through the law secretary, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) through Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, and Imran Khan as respondents in the case, and the LHC has accepted the petition and scheduled it for hearing.

From the surface, it appears as if the contentions with Imran Khan’s decisions are more of a political and logistical nature than legal. There is no law that stops a person from contesting in various constituencies, therein it remains to be seen how the LHC shall tackle this question from a legal point of view. However, from a political and practical perspective, conducting 9 by-elections with a mainstream political party footing only one candidate is highly dysfunctional. This tactic is clearly a symbolic response to the acceptance of the resignations of the PTI ex-MNA’s.

If Imran Khan wins all the seats, it will no doubt be a boost to PTI. Yet in the long-term, it is careless and damaging to the country. Firstly, while this may temporarily win Khan the seats, in the long run, it gives off the impression that the party has no good candidates except for Khan. Moreover, if Khan manages to win all by-elections he contests in, he shall still only count for one seat, and by-elections will have to be conducted yet once again, meaning that the enormous expense, burden and political uncertainty that comes with by-elections will become a never-ending spectacle, that too for political positions which have less than a year of governance to go.

By-elections are always an arduous task, and must be accepted as a necessary recourse in order to constitute a functioning government—they should not become an accessory to be conducted at a whim or for symbolic support. If we want political growth and leadership to develop party leaders and seniors must only contest one seat and allow for others to try competing as well. All parties must end this practice.