Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), dominated the political landscape in the 2010 elections; I still remember his rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, with students pouring out from jam-packed buses. Pakistan hadn’t seen such a politically engaged youth since the time of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The streets were filled with election spirit like never before. At some point though it became clear that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was winning the elections. Regardless, it was an undeniable achievement for PTI-out of nowhere, they became the biggest opposition in the country.
This relatively new party suddenly started giving the big weights in politics a run for their money; that in itself was a milestone. Unfortunately, what transpired next was a poor demonstration of political form. While my words seem harsh, the reality of Khan and his supporters is no different now. Initially, the demonstrations held by the PTI were borderline disruptive, but now PTI’s policy under the banner of change is becoming potentially dangerous. The bitter attitude of PTI supporters is further polarising the nation at a time when important discussions and decisions need to take place.
Imran Khan as a fundamentalist
Yes, Imran Khan is the charming well spoken Oxford graduate who vowed the Gold Smith’s daughter. He can’t possibly be a fundamentalist; if anything he is a liberator. That is the belief held by the common PTI supporter. But behind all the charm and social media campaigns, is an individual who has single-handedly let extremist elements inside his party run unchecked. Just a month back, at a rally in Islamabad, his right-hand man, Sheikh Rasheed, called Mumtaz Qadri (a state declared terrorist) a ‘shaheed’ with Khan sitting beside him.
Furthermore, the Kyhber Pakhtun Khawa (KPK) branch of PTI has openly called the PML-N out for being a pro-Ahmadi party-but on what grounds exactly? The icing on the cake is the agreement that PTI co-signed with a number of political parties in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), which it currently governs, to bar women from voting in Upper and Lower Dir. Before the Peshawar Massacre, Khan also emerged as the biggest proponent of negotiation with the Taliban, referring to them as “our estranged brothers” at one point, but later excused himself from the negotiations when they were being set up.
Imran Khan as an advocate of dictatorship
When the attempted coup failed in Turkey, Imran Khan made a troubling statement that if there was a coup in Pakistan it would not have failed. This is not the first time he has indicated his support for a military institution to take over. During his infamous dharna speeches, he talked about how the decision to oust Nawaz might ultimately go to the umpire, which was mostly an indication to the army.
PTI is structurally similar to parties Khan claims difference from
There has been no party in Pakistan that can claim to have a democratic structure. There are definitely cults driven by ‘charismatic’ personalities; mafias run by gangs of criminals; congregations lead by clerics; and dynasties and fiefdoms, but no democratic party. The PTI flaunted itself as the first party to be based on a democratic structure but in truth it is just the opposite side of the same coin.
The PTI party elections were no less than a sham. Organising intra-party elections is a legal requirement for parties; there are 250 political parties registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan and they have all fulfilled the requirement. Performing the same ritual with an overstretched media frenzy does not make PTI any different. More importantly, this self-proclaimed democratic superiority does not reflect in any of the party’s behaviors and decisions.
The Chief Minister of KPK has three of his close male relatives elected on the seats reserved for women. This is no different from the parties that are labeled as ‘dynastic’ by Imran Khan. The same is the situation in all other aspects. Imran Khan’s PTI awarded tickets to the same old clique of politicians that included fraudsters, tax evaders, and fake degree holders.
Blind support for the party and its leader
A certain level of vigor and emotion accompanies all political works but problems arise when the followers of a political party start identifying themselves as a different species altogether, and that too a superior one.
In the case of PTI and it’s supporters, it seems as though all those outside their enlightened circle are divided into three categories:
1. The people that are not well educated and reside in villages and rural areas typically referred to as ‘unparh’. The PTI has distanced itself from this segment of our society, in the process discrediting them.
2. The second group encompasses people who are classified as simpletons living in the city; they are stuck in traditional rots and accustomed to a particular political thought for generations. It is baffling to PTI supporters when someone having an iota of logical political thought does not support their party.
3. Lastly, there are the thugs and looters i.e the upper crust from opposition parties. These are all basically evil until and unless they pay homage to the supreme leader, Imran Khan, and become PTI disciples.
This article does not intend to discredit Imran Khan for his more commendable achievements. However, it serves as a reality check to all his supporters. Believing in ‘Naya Pakistan’ will not make it miraculously materialise. Leaders must be held accountable for the promises they have made. Blindly following a leader or a political party is what got Pakistan into the mess it is in right now. Aggressively defending a party without critical analysis of its wrongs, gives a party free rein to skip accountability.
To this Pakistani, Imran Khan, a man who promises to give Pakistan a new birth free from its previous ills and filth feels more and more like con man rather than a liberator.