Education And Politics Essay Imran

This article is about the Pakistani politician and former cricketer. For other people with the same name, see Imran Khan (disambiguation).

Imran Khan NiaziPP, HI (Urdu: عمران احمد خان نیازی‬‎) (born 5 October 1952) is a Pakistani politician, former first-class cricketer and philanthropist who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and serves as a member of the National Assembly. Prior to entering politics, Khan played international cricket for two decades in the late twentieth century.[3][4]

Khan was born to a Pashtun family in Lahore, Punjab, in 1952 and educated at Aitchison, Worcester, and later at Keble College, Oxford. Khan started playing cricket at the age of 13. Initially playing for his college and later for the Worcestershire Cricket Club, he made his debut for Pakistan at the age of 18 during the 1971 English series at Birmingham. After graduating from Oxford, Khan joined Pakistan's national cricket team in 1976, and played until 1992. Khan also served as the team's captain intermittently throughout 1982–1992.[5] He, notably, led Pakistan to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan's first and only victory in that competition.[6]

Khan retired from cricket in 1992 as one of Pakistan's most successful players. In total he made 3,807 runs and took 362 wickets in Test cricket, and is one of eight world cricketers to have achieved an 'All-rounder's Triple' in Test matches.[7] He was later, in 2010, inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. In 1991, he launched a fundraising campaign to set up a cancer hospital in memory of his mother. He raised $25 million to set up the first hospital in Lahore in 1994, and later in 2015 a second hospital in Peshawar.[8] Khan remains a prominent philanthropist and commenter, and served as the chancellor of Bradford University between 2005 and 2014 and was the recipient of an honorary fellowship by the Royal College of Physicians in 2012.[9][10]

In April 1996, Khan founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (lit: Pakistan Movement for Justice), a centrist political party, and became the party's national leader. Khan contested for a seat in the National Assembly in October 2002 and served as an opposition member from Mianwali until 2007. He was again elected to the parliament in the 2013 elections, when his party emerged as the second largest in the country by popular vote.[11][12] Khan serves as the parliamentary leader of the party and leads the third largest block of parliamentarians in the National Assembly since 2013. His party also leads a coalition government in north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[13] Khan remains a popular political figure and is the author of, among other publications, Pakistan: A Personal History.[14][15]

Family and early life

Further information: Family of Imran Khan

Khan was born in Lahore on 5 October 1952.[1] Some reports suggest he was born 25 November 1952.[16][17][18][19] It was reported that 25 November was wrongly mentioned by Pakistan Cricket Board officials on his passport.[1] The only son of Ikramullah Khan Niazi, a civil engineer, and his wife Shaukat Khanum.[20]Long settled in Mianwali in northwestern Punjab, his paternal family are of Pashtun ethnicity and belong to the Niazi tribe.[21][22] Khan's mother hailed from the Pashtun tribe of Burki, which had produced several successful cricketers in Pakistan's history,[20] including his cousins Javed Burki and Majid Khan.[21] Maternally, Khan is also a descendant of the Sufi warrior-poet and inventor of the Pashto alphabet, Pir Roshan, who hailed from his maternal family's ancestral Kaniguram town located in South Waziristan in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.[23]

A quiet and shy boy in his youth, Khan grew up with his four sisters in relatively affluent (upper middle-class) circumstances[24] and received a privileged education. He was educated at Aitchison College in Lahore and the Royal Grammar School Worcester in England, where he excelled at cricket. In 1972, he enrolled in Keble College, Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics, graduating with honours in 1975.[25]

Cricket career

Khan made a lackluster first-class cricket debut at the age of sixteen in Lahore. By the start of the 1970s, he was playing for his home teams of Lahore A (1969–70), Lahore B (1969–70), Lahore Greens (1970–71) and, eventually, Lahore (1970–71).[26] Khan was part of University of Oxford's Blues Cricket team during the 1973–1975 seasons.[25] At Worcestershire, where he played county cricket from 1971 to 1976, he was regarded as only an average medium-pace bowler. During this decade, other teams represented by Khan included Dawood Industries (1975–1976) and Pakistan International Airlines (1975–1976 to 1980–1981). From 1983 to 1988, he played for Sussex.[7]

Khan made his Test cricket debut against England in 1971 Edgbaston. Three years later, he debuted in the One Day International (ODI) match, once again playing against England at Trent Bridge for the Prudential Trophy. After graduating from Oxford and finishing his tenure at Worcestershire, he returned to Pakistan in 1976 and secured a permanent place on his native national team starting from the 1976–1977 season, during which they faced New Zealand and Australia.[26] Following the Australian series, he toured the West Indies, where he met Tony Greig, who signed him up for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.[7] His credentials as one of the fastest bowlers of the world started to become established when he finished third at 139.7 km/h in a fast bowling contest at Perth in 1978, behind Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding, but ahead of Dennis Lillee, Garth Le Roux and Andy Roberts.[27]

As a fast bowler, Khan reached the peak of his powers in 1982. In 9 Tests, he got 62 wickets at 13.29 each, the lowest average of any bowler in Test history with at least 50 wickets in a calendar year.[28] In January 1983, playing against India, he attained a Test bowling rating of 922 points. Although calculated retrospectively (ICC player ratings did not exist at the time), Khan's form and performance during this period ranks third in the ICC's All-Time Test Bowling Rankings.[29]

Khan achieved the all-rounder's triple (securing 3000 runs and 300 wickets) in 75 Tests, the second fastest record behind Ian Botham's 72. He is also established as having the second highest all-time batting average of 61.86 for a Test batsman playing at position 6 of the batting order.[30] He played his last Test match for Pakistan in January 1992, against Sri Lanka at Faisalabad. Khan retired permanently from cricket six months after his last ODI, the historic 1992 World Cup final against England in Melbourne, Australia.[31] He ended his career with 88 Test matches, 126 innings and scored 3807 runs at an average of 37.69, including six centuries and 18 fifties. His highest score was 136 runs. As a bowler, he took 362 wickets in Test cricket, which made him the first Pakistani and world's fourth bowler to do so.[7] In ODIs, he played 175 matches and scored 3709 runs at an average of 33.41. His highest score remains 102 not out. His best ODI bowling is documented at 6 wickets for 14 runs.He holds the record for the best bowling figures by any bowler in an ODI innings in a losing cause(6–14).[32]

Captaincy

At the height of his career, in 1982, the thirty-year-old Khan took over the captaincy of the Pakistan cricket team from Javed Miandad.[33] As a captain, Khan played 48 Test matches, out of which 14 were won by Pakistan, 8 lost and the rest of 26 were drawn. He also played 139 ODIs, winning 77, losing 57 and ending one in a tie.[7]

In the team's second match, Khan led them to their first Test win on English soil for 28 years at Lord's.[34] Khan's first year as captain was the peak of his legacy as a fast bowler as well as an all-rounder. He recorded the best Test bowling of his career while taking 8 wickets for 58 runs against Sri Lanka at Lahore in 1981–1982.[7] He also topped both the bowling and batting averages against England in three Test series in 1982, taking 21 wickets and averaging 56 with the bat. Later the same year, he put up a highly acknowledged performance in a home series against the formidable Indian team by taking 40 wickets in six Tests at an average of 13.95. By the end of this series in 1982–1983, Khan had taken 88 wickets in 13 Test matches over a period of one year as captain.[26] This same Test series against India, however, also resulted in a stress fracture in his shin that kept him out of cricket for more than two years. An experimental treatment funded by the Pakistani government helped him recover by the end of 1984 and he made a successful comeback to international cricket in the latter part of the 1984–1985 season.[7]

In India in 1987, Khan led Pakistan in its first-ever Test series win and this was followed by Pakistan's first series victory in England during the same year.[34] During the 1980s, his team also recorded three creditable draws against the West Indies. India and Pakistan co-hosted the 1987 World Cup, but neither ventured beyond the semi-finals. Khan retired from international cricket at the end of the World Cup. In 1988, he was asked to return to the captaincy by the president of Pakistan, General Zia-Ul-Haq, and on 18 January, he announced his decision to rejoin the team.[7] Soon after returning to the captaincy, Khan led Pakistan to another winning tour in the West Indies, which he has recounted as "the last time I really bowled well".[21] He was declared Man of the Series against West Indies in 1988 when he took 23 wickets in 3 Tests.[7] Khan's career-high as a captain and cricketer came when he led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. Playing with a brittle batting line-up, Khan promoted himself as a batsman to play in the top order along with Javed Miandad, but his contribution as a bowler was minimal. At the age of 39, Khan took the winning last wicket himself.[26]

Post-retirement

In 1994, Khan had admitted that, during Test matches, he "occasionally scratched the side of the ball and lifted the seam." He had also added, "Only once did I use an object. When Sussex were playing Hampshire in 1981 the ball was not deviating at all. I got the 12th man to bring out a bottle top and it started to move around a lot."[35] In 1996, Khan successfully defended himself in a libel action brought forth by former English captain and all-rounder Ian Botham and batsman Allan Lamb over comments they alleged were made by Khan in two articles about the above-mentioned ball-tampering and another article published in an Indian magazine, India Today. They claimed that, in the latter publication, Khan had called the two cricketers "racist, ill-educated and lacking in class." Khan protested that he had been misquoted, saying that he was defending himself after having admitted that he tampered with a ball in a county match 18 years ago.[36] Khan won the libel case, which the judge labelled a "complete exercise in futility", with a 10–2 majority decision by the jury.[36]

Since retiring, Khan has written opinion pieces on cricket for various British and Asian newspapers, especially regarding the Pakistani national team. His contributions have been published in India's Outlook magazine,[37] the Guardian, the Independent, and the Telegraph. Khan also sometimes appears as a cricket commentator on Asian and British sports networks, including BBC Urdu and the Star TV network.[40] In 2004, when the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan after 14 years, he was a commentator on TEN Sports' special live show, Straight Drive,[41] while he was also a columnist for sify.com for the 2005 India-Pakistan Test series. He has provided analysis for every cricket World Cup since 1992, which includes providing match summaries for the BBC during the 1999 World Cup.[42] He holds as a captain the world record for taking most wickets, best bowling strike rate and best bowling average in Test,[43][44] and best bowling figures (8 wickets for 60 runs) in a Test innings,[45] and also most five-wicket hauls (6) in a Test innings in wins.[46]

On 23 November 2005, Imran Khan was appointed as the chancellor of University of Bradford, succeeding Baroness Lockwood.[47] On February 26, 2014, University of Bradford Union floated a motion to remove Khan from the post over Khan's absence from every graduation ceremony since 2010.[48][49] Khan, however, announced that he will step down on November 30, 2014 citing his "increasing political commitments".[50] The university vice-chancellorBrian Cantor said Khan had been "a wonderful role model for our students".[51][52]

Philanthropy

Main articles: Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre and Namal College

During the 1990s, Khan also served as UNICEF's Special Representative for Sports[53] and promoted health and immunisation programmes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.[54] While in London, he also works with the Lord's Taverners, a cricket charity.[8] Khan focused his efforts solely on social work. By 1991, he had founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust, a charity organisation bearing the name of his mother, Mrs. Shaukat Khanum. As the Trust's maiden endeavour, Khan established Pakistan's first and only cancer hospital, constructed using donations and funds exceeding $25 million, raised by Khan from all over the world.[8][55]

On 27 April 2008, Khan established a technical college in the Mianwali District called Namal College. It was built by the Mianwali Development Trust (MDT), and is an associate college of the University of Bradford in December 2005.[56][57] Imran Khan Foundation is another welfare work, which aims to assist needy people all over Pakistan. It has provided help to flood victims in Pakistan. Buksh Foundation has partnered with the Imran Khan Foundation to light up villages in Dera Ghazi Khan, Mianwali and Dera Ismail Khan under the project 'Lighting a Million Lives'. The campaign will establish several Solar Charging Stations in the selected off-grid villages and will provide villagers with solar lanterns, which can be regularly charged at the solar-charging stations.[58][59]

Politics

Initial era (1996–2013)

In 1996, Khan founded a political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).[21][60][61] He ran for the seat of National Assembly of Pakistan in Pakistani general election, 1997 as a candidate of PTI from two constituencies - NA-53, Mianwali and NA-94, Lahore - but was unsuccessful and lost the both seats to candidates of PML (N).[62]

Khan supported General Pervez Musharraf's military coup in 1999,[63] believing Musharraf would "end corruption, clear out the political mafias".[64] According to Khan, he was Musharraf's choice for prime minister in 2002 but turned down the offer.[65] The 2002 Pakistani general election in October across 272 constituencies, Khan participated in the elections and was prepared to form a coalition if his party did not get a majority of the vote.[66] He was elected from Mianwali.[67] He has also served as a part of the Standing Committees on Kashmir and Public Accounts.[68] On 6 May 2005, Khan was mentioned in The New Yorker as being the "most directly responsible" for drawing attention in the Muslim world to the Newsweek story about the alleged desecration of the Qur'an in a US military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.[69] In June 2007, Khan faced political opponents in and outside the parliament.[70]

On 2 October 2007, as part of the All Parties Democratic Movement, Khan joined 85 other MPs to resign from Parliament in protest of the presidential election scheduled for 6 October, which general Musharraf was contesting without resigning as army chief.[12] On 3 November 2007, Khan was put under house arrest, after president Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan. Later Khan escaped and went into hiding.[71] He eventually came out of hiding on 14 November to join a student protest at the University of the Punjab.[72] At the rally, Khan was captured by activists from the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami and roughly treated.[73]

On 30 October 2011, Khan addressed more than 100,000 supporters in Lahore, challenging the policies of the government, calling that new change a "tsunami" against the ruling parties,[74] Another successful public gathering of hundreds of thousands of supporters was held in Karachi on 25 December 2011.[75] Since then Khan has become a real threat to the ruling parties and a future political prospect in Pakistan. According to the International Republican Institute's (IRI's) survey, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tops the list of popular parties in Pakistan both at the national and provincial level.[76][77]

On 6 October 2012, Khan joined a vehicle caravan of protesters from Islamabad to the village of Kotai in Pakistan's South Waziristan region against US drone missile strikes.[78][79] On 23 March 2013, Khan introduced the "Naya Pakistan Resolution" (New Pakistan) at the start of his election campaign.[80][81][82][83] On 29 April The Observer termed Khan and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf as the main opposition to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.[84] On 30 April 2013, Manzoor Wattoo president of Pakistan Peoples Party (Punjab) offered Khan the office of prime minister in the possible coalition government which would include the PPP and Khan's PTI, in a move to prevent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to make the government, but the offer was rejected.[85] In January 2014, YouGov ranked Khan as a famous person in and out of Pakistan.[86] Between 2011 and 2013, Khan and Nawaz Sharif began to engage each other in a bitter feud. The rivalry between the two leaders grew in late 2011 when Khan addressed his largest crowd at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore.[87] From 26 April 2013, in the run up to the elections, both the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf started to criticise each other.[88][89][90]

2013 elections campaign

See also: Pervez Khattak administration and Pakistani general election, 2013

On 21 April 2013, Khan launched his final public relations campaign for the 2013 elections from Lahore where he addressed thousands of supporters at the Mall.[91][92][93] Khan announced that he would pull Pakistan out of the US-led war on terror and bring peace to the Pashtun tribal belt.[94] He addressed different public meetings in Malakand, Lower Dir District, Upper Dir District and other cities of Pakistan where he announced that PTI will introduce a uniform education system in which the children of rich and poor will have equal opportunities.[95][96][97][98][99][100][101][102] Khan ended his south Punjab campaign by addressing rallies at Bahawalpur, Khanpur, Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur.[103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111]

Khan ended the campaign by addressing a rally of supporters in Islamabad via a video link while lying on a bed at a hospital in Lahore.[112] According to the last survey before the elections by The Herald showed 24.98 percent of voters nationally planned to vote for his party, just a whisker behind former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).[113][114] On 7 May, just four days before the elections, Khan was rushed to Shaukat Khanum hospital in Lahore after he tumbled from a forklift at the edge of a stage and fell headfirst to the ground.[115][116] Pakistan's 2013 elections were held on 11 May 2013 throughout the country. The elections resulted in a clear majority of Pakistan Muslim League.[117][118] Khan's PTI emerged as the second largest party by popular vote nationally, in Karachi[119][120] Khan's party PTI won 30 directly elected parliamentary seats.[121]

In opposition

See also: Azadi March, Pervez Khattak administration, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Investment Roadshow, and Panama Papers case

Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf became the opposition party in Punjab and Sindh. Khan became the parliamentary leader of his party.[122][123] On 31 July 2013 Khan was issued a contempt of court notice for allegedly criticising the superior judiciary,[124] and his use of the word shameful for the judiciary. The notice was discharged after Khan submitted before the Supreme Court that he criticised the lower judiciary for their actions during the May 2013 general election while those judicial officers were working as returning officers.[125] Khan's party swooped the militancy-hit northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and has formed the provincial government.[126][127] PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government presented a balanced, tax-free budget for the fiscal year 2013–14.[128]

On 13 November 2013, Imran Khan, being party leader, ordered Pervez Khattak to dismiss ministers of Qaumi Watan Party who were allegedly involved in corruption. Bakht Baidar and Ibrar Hussan Kamoli of Qaumi Watan Party, ministers for Manpower & Industry and Forest & Environment respectively, were dismissed.[129] Khan ordered Chief Minister KPK to end the alliance with Qaumi Watan Party. Chief Minister KPK also dismissed Minister for Communication and Works of PTI "Yousuf Ayub" due to a fake degree.[130]

One year after elections, on 11 May 2014, Khan alleged that 2013 general elections were rigged in favour of the ruling Pakistan Muslim Leaque.[131] On 14 August 2014, Imran Khan led a rally of supporters from Lahore to Islamabad, promising Nawaz Sharif's resignation and investigation into alleged electoral fraud.[132] On its way to the capital Khan's convoy was attacked by stones from Muslim League supporters in Gujranwala; however, there were no fatalities.[133] Khan was reported to be attacked with guns which forced him to travel him in bullet-proof vehicle.[134] On 15 August Khan led protesters entered the capital and a few days later marched into the high-security Red Zone; on 1 September 2014, according to Al Jazeera, attempted to storm Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's official residence, which prompted the outbreak of violence which has resulted in three deaths and more than 595 people injured, including 115 police officers.[135]

By September Khan had entered into a de facto alliance with Canadian-Pakistani cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri; both have aimed to mobilise their supporters for regime change.[136][137] Khan entered into an agreement with Sharif administration to establish a three-member high-powered judicial commission which would be formed under a presidential ordinance. The commission would make its final report public. If the commission finds a country-wide pattern of rigging proved, the prime minister would dissolve the national and provincial assemblies in terms of the articles 58(1) and 112(1) of the Constitution – thereby meaning that the premier would also appoint the caretaker setup in consultation with the leader of opposition and fresh elections would be held.[138]

Ideology

Basing his wider paradigm on the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal and the Iranian writer-sociologist Ali Shariati he came across in his youth,[139] Khan is generally described as a populist.[140] Khan's proclaimed political platform and declarations include: Islamic values, to which he rededicated himself in the 1990s; liberal economics, with the promise of deregulating the economy and creating a welfare state; decreased bureaucracy and the implementation of anti-corruption laws, to create and ensure a clean government; the establishment of an independent judiciary; overhaul of the country's police system; and an anti-militant vision for a democratic Pakistan.[141][40][142][143][144] David Rose described Khan as a threat to the Americans and the feudal lords who have ruled Pakistan for decades.[145]

Khan publicly demanded a Pakistani apology towards the Bangladeshi people for the atrocities committed in 1971,[146][147] He called the 1971 operation a "blunder"[148] and likened it to today's treatment of Pashtuns in the war on terror.[147] However, he repeatedly criticized the war crimes trials in Bangladesh in favor of the convicts, perpetuating the culture of genocide denial[149] on the part of Pakistan.[150][151] Khan is often mocked as "Taliban Khan" because of his pacifist stance regarding the war in North-West Pakistan. He believes in negotiations with Taliban and the pull out of the Pakistan Army from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He is against US drone strikes and plans to disengage Pakistan from the US-led war on terror. Khan also opposes almost all military operations, including the Siege of Lal Masjid.[152][153][154]

In August 2012, the Pakistani Taliban issued death threats if he went ahead with his march to their tribal stronghold along the Afghan border to protest US drone attacks, because he calls himself a "liberal" – a term they associate with a lack of religious belief.[155] On 1 October 2012, prior to his plan to address a rally in South Waziristan, senior commanders of Pakistani Taliban said after a meeting headed by the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud that they now offered Khan security assistance for the rally because of Khan's opposition to drone attacks in Pakistan, reversing their previous stance.[156]

Khan spoke against the forced conversion of the Kalash people under threat from Taliban and labelled it un-Islamic.[157] Khan views the Kashmir issue as a humanitarian issue, as opposed to a territorial dispute between two countries (India and Pakistan). He also proposed secret talks to settle the issue as he thinks the vested interests on both sides will try to subvert them. He ruled out a military solution to the conflict and denied the possibility of a fourth war between India and Pakistan over the disputed mountainous region.[158] Khan visited embassies of Iran and Saudi Arabia and met their head of commissions in Islamabad on 8 January 2015 to understand their stance about the conflict which is engulfing both nations after execution of Sheikh Nimr by Saudi Arabia. He urged the Government of Pakistan to play a positive role to resolve the matter between both countries.[159]

Wealth

Net worth

In 2012, Khan had net worth of ₨22.9 million (US$220,000) which decreased to ₨14 million (US$130,000) in the election year 2013 and then gradually increased to ₨33.3 million (US$320,000) in 2014. In 2015 Khan's assets were valued ₨1.33 billion (US$13 million). As of 2017, his net worth is ₨1.4 billion (US$13 million).[2]

Assets

Khan owns a 300 kanal mansion in Bani Gala, Islamabad worth ₨750 million (US$7.1 million). He has a house in Zaman Park, Lahore worth ₨29 million (US$270,000). Khan has also been an investor, investing more than ₨40 million (US$380,000) in various businesses. He owns furniture of ₨0.6 million (US$5,700) and four goats of ₨0.2 million (US$1,900). However he has no vehicle registered in his name.[160]

Tax

In July 2017, Federal Board of Revenue Pakistan revealed the tax directory of Pakistani MP's. According to FBR, Khan paid ₨76,200 (US$720) of tax in 2015 and ₨1.59 lakh (US$1,500) in 2016.[161]

Public image

After the May 2013 elections, Mohammed Hanif writing for The Guardian termed Khan's support as appealing "to the educated middle classes but Pakistan's main problem is that there aren't enough educated urban middle-class citizens in the country".[162]Pankaj Mishra writing for The New York Times in 2012, charactised Khan as a "cogent picture out of his—and Pakistan's—clashing identities" adding that "his identification with the suffering masses and his attacks on his affluent, English-speaking peers have long been mocked in the living rooms of Lahore and Karachi as the hypocritical ravings of “Im the Dim” and “Taliban Khan”—the two favored monikers for him." Mishra concluded with "like all populist politicians, Khan appears to offer something to everyone. Yet the great differences between his constituencies—socially liberal, upper-middle-class Pakistanis and the deeply conservative residents of Pakistan’s tribal areas—seem irreconcilable."[163]

On March 18, 2012, Salman Rushdie critiqued Khan after Khan refused to attend the India Today Conference because of Rushdie's attendance citing the “immeasurable hurt” that Rushdie’s writings have caused Muslims around the world. Rushdie, in turn, suggested Khan was a “dictator in waiting.”[164] In 2011, While writing for The Washington Post, Richard Leiby termed Khan as an underdog adding that he "often sounds like a pro-democracy liberal but is well-known for his coziness with conservative Islamist parties."[165]Ayesha Siddiqa, in September 2014, writing for The Express Tribune, claimed that "while we can all sympathise with Khan’s right to change the political tone, it would be worthwhile for him to envision how he would, if he did become the prime minister of this country, put the genie back into the bottle."[166]H. M. Naqvi termed Khan as a "sort of a Ron Paul figure", adding that "there is no taint of corruption and there is his anti-establishment message.”[165]

During the 1970s and 1980s, Khan became known as a socialite and sported a playboy image due to his "non-stop partying" at London nightclubs such as Annabel's and Tramp, though he claims to have hated English pubs and never drank alcohol.[8][21][40][167] British heiress Sita White, daughter of Gordon White, Baron White of Hull, became the mother of his alleged lovechild daughter, Tyrian Jade White. A judge in the US ruled him to be the father of Tyrian, but Khan has denied paternity publicly.[168][169] Later in 2007, Election Commission of Pakistan ruled in favour of Khan and dismissed the ex parte judgment of the US court, on grounds that it was neither admissible in evidence before any court or tribunal in Pakistan nor executable against him.[170] About his lifestyle as a bachelor, he has often said that, "I never claim to have led an angelic life."[21]

Declan Walsh in The Guardian newspaper in England in 2005 described Khan as a "miserable politician," observing that, "Khan's ideas and affiliations since entering politics in 1996 have swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rainshower... He preaches democracy one day but gives a vote to reactionary mullahs the next."[171] Khan has also been accused by some opponents and critics of hypocrisy and opportunism, including what has been called his life's "playboy to puritan U-turn."[33] Political commentator Najam Sethi, stated that, "A lot of the Imran Khan story is about backtracking on a lot of things he said earlier, which is why this doesn't inspire people."[33] Author Fatima Bhutto has criticised Khan for "incredible coziness not with the military but with dictatorship" as well as some of his political decisions.[172]

In popular culture

See also: Kaptaan: The Making of a Legend and Go Nawaz Go

In 2010, a Pakistani production house produced a biographical film based on Khan's life, titled Kaptaan: The Making of a Legend. The title, which is Urdu for 'Captain', depicts Khan's captaincy and career with the Pakistan cricket team which led them to victory in the 1992 cricket world cup, as well as events which shaped his life; from being ridiculed in cricket to being labelled a playboy; from the tragic death of his mother to his efforts and endeavours in building the first cancer hospital in Pakistan; from being the first Chancellor of the University of Bradford to the building of Namal University.[173][174]

Personal life

On 16 May 1995, Khan married Jemima Goldsmith, in a two-minute ceremony conducted in Urdu

Khan at a political rally in Peshawar in 1996.
Khan tearing his nomination paper for National Assembly at a press conference, Khan boycotted his 2008 elections.
Khan addressing an Interfaith Christmas Dinner in 2014.

Several hundred people throng the entrance to a building near Lahore’s Model Town area. It is the Lahore secretariat of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the party’s chairman, Imran Khan, is holding a series of meetings inside. Those outside cannot wait to have him amid them — and yet they do not show any signs of going away any time soon.

He emerges from the gate a little while later in a big black four-wheeler, with his party’s secretary general Jahangir Tareen in the driving seat. The windows of the vehicle are not rolled up and the two can be seen talking to party officials who are walking along the car. When Imran Khan notices the crowd, he steps out and waves briefly. Then he is gone in a jiffy.

The encounter takes place at the start of a week that is to end with a massive PTI public meeting on September 30 this year.

Imran Khan first announced the meeting this April at a gathering held in Islamabad to celebrate his party’s 20th foundation day. Only a couple of weeks before the announcement, leaked papers belonging to a Panama-based law firm had revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children owned assets worth billions of rupees in England. Imran Khan told his foundation day audience that the time had arrived for a protest movement around what is now variously known as Panama Papers and Panama Leaks.

The venue for the protest, he said, was not to be Islamabad’s D-Chowk where he had held his prolonged 2014 sit-in against election rigging. The site of his latest agitation was to be the private estate of Prime Minister Sharif and family — just outside Lahore.

Six months after the announcement in Islamabad, Imran Khan wanted to swarm the place with his supporters. The rank and file of his party at first seemed disorganised, if not ill-prepared, for the task. He needed to awaken and unify them first.

But before that he had to watch them bring their conflicts right in front of the media’s glare. He left the stage in disgust as PTI members and supporters pushed and shoved each other during a workers’ convention in Islamabad on September 18.

The same day, a long-standing member of PTI’s central secretariat, Saifullah Niazi, resigned from his post as additional general secretary. He cited differences with Tareen and disagreement with his policies about the party’s labour and youth wings.

The rank and file of his party at first seemed disorganised, if not ill-prepared, for the task. He needed to awaken and unify them first.

By September 26, Wajihuddin Ahmed, a retired Supreme Court judge and a PTI member who was also a presidential candidate in 2008, left the party. Imran Khan had made him the head of a commission to probe irregularities in the party’s first internal election held in early 2013.

Other parties in the opposition were also not happy with his plans.

Also read: National Assembly meaningless to people of Pakistan: Imran Khan

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League–Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) did not approve of his idea to hold a public meeting next to the private residence of his political opponents. Some of them saw it as socially unacceptable; others viewed it as a violation of democratic norms.

PAT chief Tahirul Qadri, whose party staged a simultaneous sit-in with Imran Khan in 2014, would leave Pakistan. He announced that his party did not want a repeat of the Model Town incident in which about 14 PAT activists had lost their lives in clashes with the police.

Imran Khan’s aides responded by claiming that protests around political opponents’ houses were not new: workers of Prime Minister Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PMLN) tried to besiege the private farmland and residence of Farooq Leghari – president of the country at the time – in Dera Ghazi Khan district in the 1990s. Participants of anti-rigging protests that began immediately after the general elections in 2013 also gathered in front of PMLN leader Khawaja Saad Rafique’s house in Lahore in large numbers. But, then, those protesters were all PTI’s own members and supporters.

Imran Khan arrives in Lahore from Islamabad on September 26. The public meeting near the Sharifs’ estate is only four days away.

He is immediately thrust into a series of meetings with his party’s representatives in local governments and provincial and national assemblies. The next round of meetings is with various PTI wings — students, the youth, women and labour, among others. Shah Mehmood Qureshi later joins him for a dinner with the newly-appointed Punjab office-bearers of their party.

Imran Khan listens to his party members during these meetings. When he speaks to the lawyers, he tells them to secure the release of the party’s protesters if they get arrested. He advises the youth wing to prepare itself for tackling any roadblocks the government may erect to stop the gathering. He also warns them about the possibility of a sudden crackdown by the police.

Talking to women, Imran Khan emphasises their importance in nation-building. One activist asks him to get the support of foreign countries and Chief of the Army Staff Raheel Sharif for the party’s cause.
“We do not need [the support of] anyone except the public. Shah of Iran had the support of America. What good can that do if your people are not with you,” Imran Khan responds.

Also read: From the archives—Who's afraid of Imran Khan?

Two days later, he starts a rally; with his core team in tow, he passes through all 10 points where camps are set up to mobilise participation for the gathering. The rally continues well into the night. His audience is small and his address to them brief but the rally helps change the atmosphere in Lahore in favour of the public meeting.

The gathering is to take place at Adda Plot, a bus stop on the road between Lahore’s southern edge in Thokar Niaz Beg and Raiwind town in the east. The Sharifs’ estate is about three kilometres to the south of the venue.

The area has seen an enormous amount of urbanisation and development over the last twenty years. Once the stomping ground of Qizilbash nawabs, it has changed dramatically after the Sharifs set up their estate here in the 1990s.

The area falls in the home constituency of PTI’s rural Lahore president, Zaheer Abbas Khokhar — a traditional politician from the Khokhar clan which resides here in large numbers. (He won the local National Assembly constituency as a PPP candidate in the 2002 election but defected to the Pervez Musharraf-backed patriot faction of the party.) He has been given the task of putting together volunteer teams, providing boarding and lodging for out-of-town protesters and making overall arrangements at the venue.

“We do not need [the support of] anyone except the public. Shah of Iran had the support of America. What good can that do if your people are not with you,” says Khan.

Adda Plot and its surroundings sport a festive feel, a day ahead of the public meeting. People with their faces painted in red and green can be seen everywhere. Their slogans reverberate through the dark streets leading to the venue.

The night before the public meeting is the time for a sort of reunion of workers and supporters who have participated in various earlier PTI rallies and protests. “This is our chaand raat (pre-festival celebration),” says Zeeshan Ali Majid, draped in his party’s colours, as he hugs a couple of PTI workers from Gilgit. This is a PTI tradition for all its major events, he says.

Also read: Pakistan's thriving culture of corruption

He has never met a lot of the people who are here but he has communicated with them on Facebook. “Now we are all meeting in person.” Majid, a middle-aged man from Lahore, has just completed a long week of making arrangements for the public meeting. He says he is as committed to his party as he was when he joined it in 1999. He belongs to the group of people who were inspired by Imran Khan’s work as a cricketer and a philanthropist.

Before he says anything else about himself, he quickly introduces another PTI supporter: an engineering student in Dubai who has returned to Pakistan to participate in the public meeting. They hug each other and immediately start discussing the role of corruption in ruining institutions. “Purana (old) Pakistan is running on a manual system. We want to bring about a system in which institutions will not be run on the whims of individuals. They will be made for us, the people. That is what naya (new) Pakistan is all about. This is what this movement is all about,” says Majid.

A large part of PTI’s ideological cadre has its roots in the lawyers’ movement.

Imran Khan was a part of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM), a multiparty alliance for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry sacked by then president Pervez Musharraf. He utilised this platform to reach out to students and a new generation of activists from the middle class who had either abandoned other mainstream political parties or were not members of any party to begin with.

Ahsan Rasheed, a businessman who has been with Imran Khan and PTI for years, took over the party’s reins in Lahore and slowly started expanding its base. The first meetings between Imran Khan and the students took place following the imposition of emergency rule by Musharraf on November 3, 2007.

Imran Khan went to the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to address students even though orders for his arrest were already issued. He went underground immediately after the address.

Next day, the first meeting of what would become Insaf Students Federation (ISF) was held at his Zaman Park residence, says Zubair Niazi, a former student leader who later contested the 2013 elections for a Punjab Assembly constituency in Lahore on a PTI ticket and lost.

Less than two weeks after the imposition of emergency, Imran Khan was arrested from the Punjab University where activists of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, a student organisation affiliated with JI, beat him up and handed him over to the police.

Bushra Rehman recalls how in the midst of the fundraising frenzy she turned to Imran Khan and said: “The country needs you as prime minister.”

His arrest did not deter his plans to mobilise the youth. In one of her first encounters with Imran Khan in 2008, Andleeb Abbas, a management consultant-turned-political activist, recalls a meeting where PTI discussed plans for the 2013 general elections. “We identified that the largest sector for political mobilisation would be the youth,” she says.  

Abbas, who headed the subsequent mobilisation campaign, says it was in 2010 that the first youth-centric initiative was launched. It was branded as Jaag Utho (wake up).

Also read: From the archives—Public speaking is not my strength: Imran Khan

The party invited singers like Shahzad Roy to sing political and patriotic songs at its public meetings in several cities to mobilise urban middle-class youth. But these activities garnered no substantial media coverage beyond the broadcasting of music.

It took the party some months to realise that its plans were not working. By the close of 2010, Imran Khan started talking of changing strategy and making public meetings newsworthy.

That kick-started his country-wide protests against drone strikes in the tribal areas by the United States and his moves to stop war supplies through Pakistan to foreign – mostly American – troops in Afghanistan.

The timing was immaculate: anti-America sentiments in the country were at their highest then.

In January 2011, an American intelligence contractor, Raymond Davis, shot dead two people in Lahore but managed to fly out of Pakistan without any trial, let alone punishment. In May that year, an American raid in Abbottabad killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Towards the end of the year, foreign forces in Afghanistan bombed a Pakistani check-post on our side of the border, resulting in the death of at least 24 Pakistani soldiers.

And throughout the latter half of 2011, controversy raged around a memo allegedly written by Husain Haqqani, the then ambassador of Pakistan in Washington DC, to American officials. He was reportedly seeking American support for the civilian government in Islamabad against the military establishment.

It took the party some months to realise that its plans were not working. By the close of 2010, Imran Khan started talking of changing strategy and making public meetings newsworthy.

Imran Khan mobilised people to protest on all these issues. This made him the strongest face of anti-Americanism for many Pakistanis who felt frustrated by what they saw as a lacklustre response by the PPP government and the PMLN leaders to the real and imagined transgressions by the US.

He was also able to tie this in with his anti-corruption agenda. This clicked instantly with young middle-class Pakistanis raised on a steady diet of stories of massive corruption by the PPP leadership and, to a lesser degree, by those in the PMLN.

The mobilisation culminated in PTI’s first massive, and by its own reckoning, historic public gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan on October 30, 2011. “That was the year the party became a political phenomenon,” Abbas says.

Hundreds of thousands of young people present at the gathering instantly pledged allegiance to Imran Khan and PTI, she says.

Imran Khan once openly disavowed politics and dismissed suggestions that he join or launch a political party.

In late 1994, he joined hands with former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Hamid Gul and Muhammad Ali Durrani — the latter, at the time, was heading Pasban, a breakaway youth wing of JI. They planned to launch what they called a ‘pressure group’. Short of being a political party, it was meant to work as a civil society watchdog for the government of the day.

In the February 1995 edition of the Herald, the three spoke about how the group was to be a social movement rather than a political entity. They also saw it becoming a “third force” and “the first middle-class movement in the land”.

The pressure group never materialised. Imran Khan quickly became uncomfortable with the idea of being seen as a puppet in the hands of Gul, according to Zaigham Khan, the Herald staffer who reported on the trio’s plans.

Also read: Jahangir Tareen—PTI's money man

Zaigham Khan remembers Imran Khan telling him that political leaders in Pakistan do not just land in the corridors of power. “They are carefully and meticulously cultivated by the powers that be.” He clearly did not want to be “a carefully and meticulously cultivated” leader.

Bushra Rehman, a veteran of both writing and politics, has a similar but much longer story to tell about Imran Khan’s first brush with politics.

“It is the army that parachuted Nawaz Sharif into politics and made him the youngest chief minister of Punjab,” Rehman says.

Married to a businessman in Lahore, she has been a member of the Punjab Assembly and the National Assembly multiple times since 1985. She also writes regular columns in Urdu for the Lahore-based daily Nawa-i-Waqt.

Bushra Rehman comes from a politically influential family in Bahawalpur and is related to Mujataba Shujaur Rehman who is Punjab’s excise and taxation minister (his father Mian Shujaur Rehman was Lahore’s mayor in the 1980s). She has never contested elections but has been in provincial and national legislatures on reserved seats as a member of one faction or the other of Pakistan Muslim League.

There is an aura of respectability around Bushra Rehman as she sits in a quiet office in Lahore’s Johar Town area where she writes her columns and books. Head covered, hands neatly folded, she frequently punctuates her speech with an apologetic “I am but a woman”. 

“It is the army that parachuted Nawaz Sharif into politics and made him the youngest chief minister of Punjab,” she says. “General Ziaul Haq wished for his own years of life [to be] added to Nawaz Sharif’s,” she adds. “Governor [Lieutenant General] Ghulam Jillani was asked to nurture him as a politician and to prepare him for national politics,” she recounts. “We stood by Nawaz Sharif and watched him rise to the highest seat of power in the 1990s, propped up against Benazir Bhutto.”

She describes the political turbulence of the 1990s as a battle between two “wrestlers” who cheated at the game. “Both [Prime Minister Sharif and Benazir Bhutto] were considered corrupt to the core so the establishment felt there was need for an honest leader who truly served the country and the people of Pakistan.”

They saw that in Imran Khan, she says. “In fact, many of us did.”

Back in the early 1990s, Bushra Rehman accompanied Imran Khan on his tour of Bahawalpur to raise funds for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. In a column for Nawa-i-Waqt she wrote after the tour, she described it as one of the most touching experiences she had ever had: “Dressed in ordinary clothes, riding an ordinary jeep, Imran uses simple words to move thousands of people. They line the streets he passes through and bring in hundreds of thousands of rupees. Yet, Imran hugs the person who donates a single rupee with the same vigour as he does the wealthy trader who gives him millions [of rupees].”

Bushra Rehman recalls how in the midst of the fundraising frenzy she turned to Imran Khan and said: “The country needs you as prime minister.” 

He laughed it off. He hated the idea, she says.

Soon afterwards, Mujeebur Rehman (her husband’s friend who had retired from the army as a lieutenant general and who had worked as Haq’s information secretary for years) discussed the same idea with her. He and some other “retired generals” were envisioning a political future for Imran Khan, he told her. “I immediately told him that Imran Khan would never agree,” she says.

“Both [Prime Minister Sharif and Benazir Bhutto] were considered corrupt to the core so the establishment felt there was need for an honest leader who truly served the country and the people of Pakistan.”

Mujeebur Rehman’s powers of persuasion were legendary and he thought he could convince Imran Khan to come into politics, she says. Persuasive sweet talk with the regime’s opponents, journalists and intellectuals was, after all, one of his main tools of trade when he worked with Haq. He did not identify with the military dictator’s religious ideology but, in the words of senior journalist Ghani Jaffar, “was simply good at his job”.

Also read: Shah Mehmood Qureshi—Always next in line

Mujeebur Rehman became close to the military dictator when, in 1980, he unveiled a coup attempt by a retired major general, Tajammul Hussain Malik, and his revolutionary council.

Mujeebur Rehman asked Bushra Rehman to invite Imran Khan to dinner at her place.

On September 28, 1995, Imran Khan and three of his friends arrived at her residence. “Before dinner, they sat together with Mujeebur Rehman who presented Imran with a proposal.”

Imran Khan voiced some reservations and put certain preconditions on his entry into politics. A series of secret meetings followed, she says. In April 1996, Imran Khan eventually launched his own political party.

Mujeebur Rehman’s persuasion seemed to have worked.

Over the next three to four months, a document would be prepared in bits and pieces and put together under the title Blueprint for a Democratic Revolution. “There were two copies of the document. I kept one and gave the other to Mujeebur Rehman,” says Jaffar.

After the party’s formal inauguration, Mujeebur Rehman became its first secretary general. His association with Imran Khan did not last long, though. When he was asked about it later, he responded: “There is nothing I can do; he [Imran Khan] listens to no one.”

Another prominent Pakistani – with a completely different background from Mujeebur Rehman – would say the same thing seven years later.

Mairaj Muhammad Khan, a Karachi-based politician who started his career as a left-wing student activist in the 1960s and who once was close to – and later in serious discord with – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, joined PTI in 1998. He resigned five years later, saying the party was not serious about building an organisational structure and had done little to prepare for the 2002 general elections and local government elections held a little earlier.

Mairaj Muhammad Khan alleged that “non-political” members of the party wanted a shortcut to power. He also lamented that PTI failed to protest various violations of the Constitution under Musharraf’s rule – and even endorsed the referendum that he had organised to elect himself as a president in uniform. Mairaj Muhammad Khan concluded by saying that he respected Imran Khan but he had the tendency to take a “solo flight”.

Imran Khan and Prime Minister Sharif were once together in APDM. The alliance had decided to boycott the 2008 polls in protest against the imposition of emergency rule by Musharraf in 2007. But Benazir Bhutto convinced Prime Minister Sharif to take part in the elections. The rest of the APDM constituents, including PTI, accused him of betrayal.

Over the next three years, Imran Khan struggled to find a political niche for himself. He had no voice in the parliament where PMLN had virtual monopoly over the opposition benches. Even in the streets, his party was outnumbered by a massive margin when Prime Minister Sharif and the leaders of the lawyers’ movement marched to Islamabad for the restoration of the judges forced out by the emergency.

When the political landscape changed again in 2011, however, Imran Khan was ready to seize the moment. First, he broadened his party’s agenda from a narrow focus on justice for all to the removal of corruption from high places and resistance to American policies towards Pakistan. Secondly, he opened PTI’s doors to new entrants, relaxing the criterion for their admission.

Qureshi was one of the first major political stalwarts to join. He had left the PPP government – in which he was the foreign minister – over the Raymond Davis affair earlier in the year. Weeks later, Javed Hashmi of PMLN and Pervez Khattak – who was a provincial minister in a previous PPP government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – as well as Musharraf-era minister Jahangir Tareen would also join.

The string of current events around PTI and Imran Khan began unfolding when he decided to take to the streets again on September 30, 2016 — after a hiatus of more than a year and a half. This time round, the reason for his protest movement was corruption at the highest level of the government.

The furore that followed the revelation of Panama Leaks lasted a while before ebbing. The government initially denied any wrongdoing by the premier and his family. That gave way to a lengthy and on-again, off-again process of negotiations between the ruling PMLN and the opposition parties. Committees were formed, terms of reference drawn up, scratched, drawn up again — the government wanted the probe to be headed by a retired judge, PTI wanted the sitting Chief Justice of Pakistan to lead it and PPP wanted it done through a parliamentary committee.

After six months of unpromising back and forth, PTI decided to take its case to the people. Not that everyone in the party favoured the idea. There were many critics within the party who talked of a protest fatigue that resulted from 126 days of sit-ins in Islamabad back in 2014 — only to turn back empty-handed, PTI sources say.

Senior PTI members were also sceptical about the benefits of being seen in a state of perpetual agitation — an old accusation against PTI. Once the party chief made the final call, though, the debate died down.

Imran Khan’s message at the Adda Plot gathering was two-pronged. The first, and longer message, was delivered to the Sharifs. Using slideshows, audio recordings and interview clippings, he demonstrated a detailed account of contradictions in their statements regarding their wealth and properties abroad. The second was a warning message directed at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

There were many critics within the party who talked of a protest fatigue that resulted from 126 days of sit-ins in Islamabad back in 2014 — only to turn back empty-handed, PTI sources say.

Then he went on to make a highly anticipated announcement: Islamabad was to be “locked down” until Prime Minister Sharif either resigned or submitted himself for an investigation into his wealth abroad.

Imran Khan ended up calling off the protest — without getting either of his two demands. The anticlimax came when, on November 1, the Supreme Court started hearing many similar petitions over the Panama Leaks.

Many had called his protest plans either audacious or suicidal. They ended in pyrrhic proclamations of victory by him, after oscillating between being audacious and suicidal for quite a few weeks.

His party’s detractors may be gloating. They will gladly point out that this is not the first time that Imran Khan has backtracked. He withdrew his demand for Prime Minister Sharif’s resignation in 2014, too. And he got nothing out of his prolonged protests that year except a promise for electoral reforms yet to materialise and a judicial commission that did not vindicate his allegations of pre-planned rigging in the 2013 elections.

Since the call for his latest agitation was premised on a clear, one-point ultimatum, it had much less room for ambiguity than there was in the list of demands made back in 2014. What does it mean for Imran Khan and PTI to have taken it back? Could this lead to a decline in the party’s popularity and credibility? Will anyone take him seriously if and when he gives another call for a protest — which he may sooner than later?

No matter what the answers to these questions are, Imran Khan’s single-minded focus on holding a protest near the Sharifs’ estate and following it up with warnings to close down Islamabad has troubled almost every other political party in the opposition.

“The ostensible purpose of his [Islamabad] sit-in [was] to protest against Panama Leaks and to that extent we agree with PTI,” says Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) spokesperson Farhatullah Babar. “All of the opposition parties are united in bringing this scandal to its logical end.” But, he adds, Imran Khan was adamantly seeking a solo flight, once again, by bringing the matter to the streets. “It may well be within your constitutional rights to protest but you cannot make a unilateral decision to lock down the capital,” Babar says.

“The only thing that PTI achieved out of the protests in 2014 [was] to lend legitimacy to the security establishment, instead of the [institutions of the] state,” he argues.

The much rumoured collusion between the military establishment and PTI that resulted in the anti-rigging sit-ins, indeed, became the reason why Hashmi would leave the party in the middle of the protests. While resigning from PTI, he said Imran Khan was “conspiring” with the powers that be to dismantle democracy.

Closely tied to even his latest protest are subjects pertaining to the relationship between civilian and military institutions.

Firstly, there is the much discussed appointment of a new Chief of the Army Staff and a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Linked to these is Pakistan’s tense relationship with India and the differences between the military and the civilian leadership over how to resolve it.

“The ostensible purpose of his [Islamabad] sit-in [was] to protest against Panama Leaks and to that extent we agree with PTI,” says Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) spokesperson Farhatullah Babar

Secondly, an investigation into leaked information about a high-level meeting involving participants from the two sides only complicates their mutual equation further. How much did Imran Khan and his protest add to the pressure on the civilian government in this regard is anyone’s guess.

The sudden moving of the judicial wheel is another factor that Imran Khan did not take into consideration before giving his call for shutting down Islamabad.

The Supreme Court hearing over the Panama Leaks petitions is a major step for a court that had returned similar petitions filed by JI and PTI on August 27, 2016, and August 31, 2016, respectively, terming them “frivolous”. It suggests that Imran Khan had not fully exhausted all legal and judicial options available to him before giving the call to lockdown Islamabad. Or, perhaps, he believes that a street protest is the only way to make these options become not just available but also meaningful.

“My hope [was] that when the hearings [began] on [October] 20, they will continue on a daily basis,” says PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haq. “If the Supreme Court had chosen to disqualify Nawaz Sharif within a week or ten days, we would not have needed the sit-in.”

Other PTI leaders have similar opinions. “[Panama Leaks] is a black-and-white case,” says Asad Umar, a senior leader of the party and a member of the National Assembly. He suggests that once the investigations take place, there will be only one outcome — Prime Minister Sharif found guilty as charged. Yet, he asks: “Do you really think Nawaz Sharif is crazy to allow an investigation into Panamagate without a protest?”

The furore that followed the revelation of Panama Leaks lasted a while before ebbing. The government initially denied any wrongdoing by the premier and his family.

What about political risks to PTI as a result of its protests fizzling out one after the other? “Will Imran Khan be finished if his stated objective is not achieved immediately? Not a question,” says Umar. He confirms reports that a lot of senior PTI members had questions about the risks associated with the protests. “Then Raiwind happened and I saw the dynamics change in front of my eyes,” he says. “Even PTI leaders were caught by surprise seeing the number of people who showed up.”

Imran Khan and his party got that kind of impetus first in a 2011 public meeting in Lahore. The crowd that showed up at Minar-e-Pakistan was unprecedented compared to any political event in the city after Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming rally in 1986. It firmly established PTI’s status as one of the most popular parties in the country.

It also highlighted several facets of Pakistan’s changing political landscape. For the first time in the country’s post-1971 history, the urban, professional, affluent middle class deigned to come on to the streets and join a public meeting. In another first for post-Musharraf Pakistan, the liberals and the conservatives were seen together, standing right next to Imran Khan. The same party stage where he offered his prayer in full public view later echoed with the beat of music and PTI-themed songs.

So, who does PTI really represent? Why do people on opposite sides of the sociocultural and ideological spectrum support it? Is it a party that, in the words of its critics, “means whatever you want it to mean”?

Umar offers this explanation, quoting Imran Khan: “The politics of right and left has been replaced by the politics of right and wrong.” According to him, “PTI is not confused — you are merely trying to force-fit our thinking into a 20th century political divide.”

An ideological divide does not exist anymore in politics, says Umar, and what we are left with is the politics of delivering justice to the people. “It is not just about good governance, alongside which an extremely unjust system can still thrive.”

There are many other questions about the party — some of them raised by its own disillusioned supporters.

Soon after an October 2011 public meeting, PTI became the Pakistani party à la mode, its critics say.

“Will Imran Khan be finished if his stated objective is not achieved immediately? Not a question,” says Umar.

Many political leaders who did not fit into the top echelons of dynasty-based parties such as PMLN and PPP rushed to join PTI. A number of constituency-level politicians – driven either by the prospect of winning an election on the back of the party’s popularity or by the absence of any other prospects for them – made a beeline to be accepted into PTI’s fold.

Critics say the two groups of new entrants brought with them the same political baggage that Imran Khan has been vowing to fight against — corruption, misuse of authority, nepotism and political opportunism.

After remaining in political wilderness for 15 years, the temptation to induct these heavyweights – electables, to use a term favoured by the media and analysts – was too big to resist for Imran Khan. This is how Umar defends it: “The bigger issue is not whether an individual is a good person or not. It is whether the party changes its politics based on the induction of those people. Did Imran Khan’s or PTI’s stance on corruption change because of it? In the bigger picture, no individual has enough of an impact to steer the party from its course — they will have to merge into the party, not the other way round.”

A couple of admittedly theoretical questions remain unaddressed: if PTI fields a tainted candidate in an election, is it being hypocritical to the people of that constituency due to the gap between what it preaches about clean politics and what it practices? If many PTI electables have a chequered political history, will they change their conduct if and when they get into power as part of a PTI government? Most importantly, if you cannot find enough clean – and electable – people to get a party into power, how will you find enough clean and competent people to run a country?

Abdul Aleem Khan was a PMLQ candidate in southern Lahore against Tahirul Qadri for a National Assembly seat in 2002, but he lost by a margin of less than 5,000 votes. He then contested and won a Punjab Assembly seat from central Lahore in a by-election in January 2003 – again as a member of PMLQ – and became a provincial minister. He is known to have spent tens of millions of rupees in campaigns for each of the two contests.

Abdul Aleem Khan joined PTI in 2012.

It was people like him who were at the centre of subsequent grouping within the party — at least in Punjab and Lahore.

The crowd that showed up at Minar-e-Pakistan was unprecedented compared to any political event in the city after Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming rally in 1986.

When Imran Khan decided to hold the first internal polls of the party in early 2013, Hashmi and Qureshi were visibly at odds with each other. The former enjoyed the support of those PTI members who had defected from JI – the likes of Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Mahmoodur Rasheed – as well as students and the youth. The latter commanded the respect of those who had defected from PPP and PMLQ and a significant number of PTI’s left-of-centre, liberal members. Abdul Aleem Khan would emerge as PTI’s Lahore president in the party election.

By that time, many senior PTI members had already made their displeasure public over prominent party positions going to new entrants. In September 2012, Shireen Mazari, who was then the central vice president of the party, resigned from her position after alleging that the party programme had been “taken over by big money”. She said the membership drive was also hijacked by big money and that “has compromised the party elections”. She, however, did not leave PTI.

Admiral (retd) Javed Iqbal, who had been a PTI member since 2004, resigned a month later for the same reasons. “Companions of former army ruler Musharraf have assumed control of the party and have introduced a philosophy that has no link with PTI’s established viewpoint,” he told the media after resigning.

Imran Khan proudly announced the arrival of many political stalwarts into his party to tens of thousands of his supporters gathered next to Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum in Karachi on December 25, 2011. Prominent among them were Hashmi and former foreign minister Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali.

The public meeting was a highly impressive show of strength, even by Karachi’s standards where Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and PPP have managed to pull record crowds over the decades. It gave Imran Khan the reason to believe that, come 2013, PTI could snatch some legislative seats in the city from the traditional occupants of its politics.

A beaming Imran Khan left Karachi, not to return for the next couple of years, putting Karachi in the hands of leaders who all wanted a slice of a pie that none of them wanted to bake.

By the time Imran Khan began giving serious thought to PTI’s internal polls, the 2013 general elections were already around the corner. His party’s first tier leadership decided to run for legislative positions, leaving the party organisation in the hands of the second-tier and the third-tier members. The party, however, left its internal polls incomplete and stepped into its first major electoral contest, almost unprepared.

Yet, it surprised many of its own leaders by its strong showing. While it won only a handful of seats – one for the National Assembly and three for the Sindh Assembly – it polled the second-highest number of votes in the city after MQM.

A beaming Imran Khan left Karachi, not to return for the next couple of years, putting Karachi in the hands of leaders who all wanted a slice of a pie that none of them wanted to bake.

Over the years, PTI’s Karachi office never moved from Sharae Faisal, as the party struggled to make room for itself in the megacity. Firdous Shamim Naqvi, PTI’s Karachi president says, “Its prospective members were often bullied to keep them away from it. When students and young people signed its membership forms, their worried parents would force them to return those. Doing politics on the MQM’s turf, with its much feared street power, was never easy.”

The general elections of 2013, however, suggested that PTI may break that barrier. The party snatched a National Assembly seat that MQM had won in the 2008 polls and many PTI candidates in the city’s south, west and central districts garnered votes in tens of thousands.

Things, however, have gone downhill since then. The party was barely visible in this year’s local government polls in Karachi.

The reason: PTI, like elsewhere in the country, has been plagued with grouping in Karachi. When there is no head of the family, its disintegration is only natural, is how PTI’s Sindh spokesperson Dawa Khan Sabir comments on the situation.

The organisational structure of the party’s city chapter has remained missing for prolonged periods of time and in the absence of a permanent president, it has lost most of the ground it had gained during the previous general elections. This vacuum has allowed PTI’s internal fissures to only deepen. “Everyone became a leader here during this period, making fun of each other. This is the worst thing for a party,” says Naqvi.

He believes the lack of structure at the grass-roots level has led to the emergence of factions and caused the local government poll debacle. He says he needs four to six more months to enforce discipline.

His opponents believe he will only clamp down upon voices of dissent in the name of discipline. They point out that Naqvi and his long-time associates – Arif Alvi, Imran Ismail, Samar Ali Khan and Najeeb Haroon – are referred to as ‘panjtan’ or the ‘Karachi cartel’ that has tightened its grip over all things PTI and Karachi.

There are many other questions about the party — some of them raised by its own disillusioned supporters.

The impact of the organisational vacuum is easy to find even in the party’s day-to-day affairs. Walking into Insaf House, PTI’s new Karachi headquarters, also on Sharae Faisal, one is greeted by a giant banner that explains the importance of women in society and why the party focuses so much on their active participation in politics. It is 7 pm and a party meeting has just ended, with men scurrying in and out of different rooms. Not a single woman is in sight.

The influx of people that PTI experienced during 2011 and 2013 led to the consolidation – at least in Karachi – of its old guard whose members identify themselves as ideological workers. The presence of people they call political opportunists in the party irks them immensely. “We suspect that some within our ranks are working for the interests of their former parties,” says PTI Karachi’s senior vice president Khurrum Sher Zaman.

Former PTI office-bearers like Mirza Jahangir Rehman have no qualms about naming names. A founding member of the party, he quit its Sindh presidency in 2005, having served only two years in office. His resignation letter, said Imran Khan himself was the biggest obstacle in the development of his party’s organisation. “Self-serving politicians have come in, starting with Jahangir Tareen. They [have brought] aboard their own loyalists,” he says.

Some believe strings of some groups in Karachi are pulled from the federal capital. “Tareen brought Nadir Leghari [into the party] in 2012. That gentleman is of the old mould. These people destroyed the party,” says Rehman.

Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed does not mince his words while speaking to the Herald in a phone interview from London. “My team and I specifically highlighted four names [for involvement in rigging PTI’s internal election in 2013]: Jahangir Tareen, Aleem Khan, Pervez Khattak and Nadir Leghari. The … election … was massively rigged by them and a lot of money was used for the purpose.”

Ahmed says the reason he resigned from PTI was that there was major discrepancy in the party’s stated ideology and its actual practices. His PTI membership was suspended for a year after he went public with his rigging allegations in spite of repeated warnings from Imran Khan. These days he is said to be in the process of forming his own political party.

“Instead of cooperating with our request for investigations, [Imran Khan] appointed the same people as advisers on the new election panel,” says Ahmed. “They even went to the extent of dissolving a committee on accountability and discipline after it recommended suspending Abdul Aleem Khan. How can those who do not even qualify under the basic criteria of the party be made its representatives?”

The influx of people that PTI experienced during 2011 and 2013 led to the consolidation – at least in Karachi – of its old guard whose members identify themselves as ideological workers.

PTI leaders have termed these accusations as “prejudiced”. Ahmed heard only five out of the 65 election petitions presented to him before he made a decision, they say. And he never had the authority to adjudicate on the election process as a whole, let alone annul it, they add.

They say the same thing for Tasneem Noorani, election commissioner for PTI’s second internal polls. He also ended up resigning from his post earlier this year.

Noorani says he made certain recommendations on how PTI’s internal structure should be shaped and how candidates should be appointed — the major bone of contention being whether positions should be elected or nominated. “If we nominated a majority of the posts, especially the important ones, then it is not really an election,” he says.

“I think such decisions, along with bad management, are preventing PTI’s grass-roots workers from rising up and hindering the full potential of the party.” His verdict: “I do think [PTI] has become dominated more by electables and less by ideologues.”

In the past five years, this sentiment has echoed frequently among the party’s old-timers. “Imran’s strength is in the middle class and the youth of this country,” says Raoof Hasan, PTI’s former media adviser and now the head of Regional Peace Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank. “If he hadn’t opened the floodgates to political bigwigs, PTI would have fared better in the last election. To his credit, though, no matter how much money they spend on the party, he has never compromised on his intention or stance.”

Hasan then makes a counterpoint. “Even an incorruptible man like Imran has limitations in how much he can single-handedly change a society where corruption has been institutionalised.”

He remembers times when he would push Imran Khan on the subject. “What would you like me to do, bring people from Holland or Sweden?” he quotes the PTI chief as responding to his queries.

In June this year, Imran Khan notified that Tareen would retain his post as PTI’s general secretary and Qureshi would continue to occupy the position of the party’s senior vice chairman.

Tareen issued the first set of his decisions a month later. He designated Saifullah Niazi as additional secretary general and former ISF president Murad Saeed as deputy secretary general. This was followed three months later by the party’s national convention in Islamabad which created an interim leadership for Punjab.

Imran Khan issued a stern warning to the members of his party at the convention — that they were free to join any other party if they did not agree with his decisions and that it was important that the party workers followed discipline.

The new party leadership announced under the pre-convention restructuring, however, seems to be distracted from its assignment of organising the party at the grass-roots level. The need to be in a seemingly perpetual agitation mode is what they are becoming acutely aware of.

“Right now, we are more of a movement than a party,” says Walid Iqbal, PTI’s Lahore president. It is a Saturday morning at his law office. Walid Iqbal’s associates and staff are not there. On the wall behind him is a postmodern portrait of his grandfather, poet and thinker Allama Muhammad Iqbal, when he was studying in Germany.

Walid Iqbal cuts a pleasant figure, standing above six-feet tall and possessing countless academic degrees. His late father, Javed Iqbal, retired as a Supreme Court judge and is also known for his writings (he dabbled in politics, too, in the 1970s, albeit unsuccessfully). His mother, Nasira Iqbal, is a former judge of the Lahore High Court and a civil society activist.

Walid Iqbal juggles three different jobs — his law practice, a weekend teaching gig at LUMS and his latest PTI assignment. He has no experience of running an organisation, let alone a political party.

As he settles into his car to go to a PTI meeting last month, he pulls out the latest column by Hassan Nisar, a popular Urdu-language columnist. This particular column is of personal interest to Walid Iqbal. It is a tribute to him and to Hammad Azhar, general secretary of PTI’s Lahore chapter. Azhar, too, has little to no personal experience of running a political organisation.

Imran Khan is scheduled to visit PTI’s Lahore secretariat that day. While waiting for his arrival, Azhar starts talking. “[Even though Imran Khan] is still stressing the same issues that he did when he began his politics, I feel he has got first-hand experience of constituency politics and the challenges a mainstream party faces.”

Azhar’s father Mian Muhammad Azhar, is a former mayor of Lahore and a former governor of Punjab — both positions obtained in the 1990s thanks to Prime Minister Sharif. He is also the founding president of PMLQ — the Musharraf-era ‘King’s party’.

Scores of media vans and cameras wait patiently on September 30 2016, outside Imran Khan’s house in Zaman Park, a leafy canal-side residence in Lahore. It is his family house where he grew up and spent most of his early youth, playing sports and catching kites which he would store in his bedroom closet. Today, he is a busy man whose schedule is carefully managed and guarded by trusted aides.

When he shows up in front of the cameras, he is standing between Qureshi on one side and Tareen on the other. It is the first time in months the two men seem to have put aside their differences. Imran Khan exudes the confidence that comes with the assurance that he has the right people around him to launch an anti-government movement.

Imran Khan prides himself at his ability to have managed many strong personalities — first as a cricket captain and later in his philanthropic work. He seems to be doing the same with Qureshi and Tareen.

Tareen’s parents were not in politics. His father-in-law, Makhdoomzada Hassan Mehmood, was. Tareen first won a National Assembly seat from a constituency in Rahim Yar Kan where his brother-in-law, Makhdoom Syed Ahmad Mehmood, still wields considerable spiritual and feudal influence. On his mother’s side, Tareen is closely related to two-time federal minister Humayun Akhtar Khan, whose brother Haroon Akhtar Khan is a special assistant to Prime Minister Sharif. They are sons of General Akhtar Abdur Rehman who ran the ISI under Haq and died with him in a 1988 plane crash.

After winning the election in 2002 on a PMLQ ticket, Tareen served as federal minister for industries for five years. In 2008, he was a candidate from the same Rahim Yar Khan constituency but as a nominee of Pakistan Muslim League–Functional, then headed by the late Pir Pagara Ali Mardan Shah, who was a brother-in-law of Makhdoomzada Hassan Mehmood.

Donning a crisp white shalwar kameez and sitting inside his lavish home near Islamabad’s Kohsar Market, Tareen is bemused when asked about his political past.

Tareen resigned from the National Assembly in 2011 and joined PTI.

His political pedigree is deeply rooted in the status quo. He is also a rich industrialist and agriculturalist whose private plane has been in Imran Khan’s use over the last five years. And, like the Sharifs, Tareen owns properties abroad.

All this is certain to direct a lot of criticism his way and that of his party, on his behalf. Donning a crisp white shalwar kameez and sitting inside his lavish home near Islamabad’s Kohsar Market, Tareen is bemused when asked about his political past.

“The small band of supporters surrounding Imran Khan before 2011 comprised highly commendable and trustworthy people,” he says, setting his spectacles aside on an ivory-inlaid table, “but they were not nearly enough to organise the party at a national scale”.

On the other hand, he says, “Imran Khan was a godsend for individuals like myself or Shah Mehmood Qureshi who wanted to do something for the country but were left disillusioned after trying and testing other parties.”

Tareen then points to a defect in Pakistan’s electoral system, one that is highlighted time and again by both PTI members and independent observers. “If you want to form a government, you have to win seats one by one, constituency by constituency, until they come together in a majority at the National Assembly.” For that, he argues, “you need the ideological PTI vote bank along with individuals who have the capacity to win those constituencies, especially on election day.”

He brings in a constituency in Punjab’s Lodhran district to illustrate his point (he has won a by-election there recently by a big margin after waging a long judicial battle over rigging to have the 2013 election result overturned). Containing an almost entirely rural population, the constituency is a one-and-a-half hour drive end to end and has 300 polling booths spread out over this area. “To manage this requires a certain level of experience,” he says. And, of course, money.

Many PTI candidates in the previous election lacked both. “In the 2013 elections, PTI handed out one-third of its nominations to the youth and half of our candidates had never contested an election before. While this formula may work for urban settlements, we have to be more careful in rural areas because the dynamics are completely different there — but that is what politics is about: putting together different strategies for different areas.”

He waves off suggestions that he has got the second -most important job in PTI because of being a traditional political heavyweight. Instead, he makes a case for himself as a technocrat. He has spearheaded multiple public policy and development programmes such as Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Punjab Vocational Training Council, People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative and his own Tareen Education Foundation.

Why is he, then, alleged to have used money to rig PTI’s internal polls and accused of wielding feudal-style control over the party’s affairs?

He chuckles. “I do enjoy the confidence of Imran Khan,” he concedes, “but that is because he has seen me work closely and not because he is a man who can be affected by money.”

He shrugs when asked why he is at the centre of every intra-party conflict or controversy — be it his much publicised rift with Qureshi or many less publicised organisational issues that some people in PTI’s “ideological bloc” have raised.

As his party’s secretary general, Tareen says, he is “responsible for … taking some tough decisions and stating opinions openly, which ruffles a lot of feathers”. It is unfortunate, he says, that he has become a target of disgruntled critics of the party.

“They claim I make Imran do things they disagree with,” he says, and laughs, “as if it is that easy.”

On a pleasant October day, Sajid Qureshi paces up and down a driveway in Islamabad’s G-6 sector. Dressed in a starched light-blue shalwar kameez and a waistcoat in a darker shade, he nervously pats his hair down and brushes off imaginary dust from his shoulder. There is an air of self-importance about him.

He is PTI’s information secretary for north Punjab and is waiting for Imran Khan to make a brief pit stop and say a few words of motivation to the party’s members gathered at the house of a PTI member from Azad Kashmir. The mix of excitement and nervousness in the air is palpable, made evident by everyone’s continuous pacing around.

Suddenly, word gets around that Imran Khan has arrived. Those present are ushered into a stuffy lounge and a select welcome party is left at the gate. Soon enough, PTI chairman walks in from a side door. He is welcomed by chants, as much in his favour as against the government. He quiets them down and begins a brief, spontaneous speech. What is more compelling to observe than his words is the dedication with which his audience is listening to him — utterly transfixed and eager to please.

With the reputation of being one of the most successful captains in Test cricket history, Imran Khan surely possesses leadership skills — like how to command a locker room. But whether leading a nation of 200 million people is the same as leading a cricket team is open to question.

After making the rounds at numerous corner meetings, Imran Khan finally takes a seat on a terrace adjoining his new office in Bani Gala to answer such questions. The air is crisp, the tree leaves behind him lush green and the sun slowly setting over Rawal Lake in the distance. He talks about the chances of rain, the gradual onset of winter and his ideology.

“During the 1992 world cup final,” he begins, settling down into a comfortable garden chair, “we were standing around in the drinks break when I announced that Wasim Akram was to bowl next. The entire team said no. ‘What happens if he doesn’t perform well?’ they said. ‘What happens if he does?’ I asked in return. The point is you will never succeed in life if you are not willing to take risks.”

With this, he reaffirms his faith in the ideology of his party and its insusceptibility to vice. “It is my duty to ensure that the philosophy PTI started out with prevails, regardless of who joins us,” he says. “That philosophy is socioeconomic justice, rule of law and subservience to strong institutions.”

Only those people will be able to stay in the party, he says, who agree with this philosophy. “Many have come and gone but that is part of the process.”

He then delineates his choices: between the non-existent, unblemished individuals and jet-black crooks, he says, there are numerous shades of grey. “The unfortunate thing is that anyone who has remained in the political arena will have their detractors and supporters alike, so it becomes difficult to tell one from the other.”

His selection criterion is straightforward. “As long as they can add value to the party, I will bring the right man for the right job on board.”

What of the numerous allegations against members of his core team? “How do we explore the allegations?” he asks emphatically. “It is not the job of a political party to launch investigations against its members. But do you really think if there was anything substantial against a single senior PTI member, the government with all its agencies would not have done something about it?”

Since the 2013 general elections, the central leadership of his party has also come under fire from its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wing for violation of jurisdiction. Tareen and Umar have been specifically blamed for interference in the affairs of the provincial government. The two justify the “interference” as “providing guidelines to ensure that our stated manifesto is enacted”.

Regardless of these rifts, a look of satisfaction appears on Imran Khan’s face as he describes the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s achievements. “For the first time, a province in Pakistan is doing what it needs to do: strengthening its institutions,” he says.

“Even an incorruptible man like Imran has limitations in how much he can single-handedly change a society where corruption has been institutionalised.”

When asked about the area in which the provincial government could have performed better, Imran Khan instantly points to higher education and curriculum development. “We need the best brains of the country to sit together and consistently revamp the syllabus,” he says.

What about religious extremism and violence? Many PTI supporters feel frustrated over its not-so-hard stance towards these issues. Some of them point to Imran Khan’s position in the run-up to the previous elections that the government should hold negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban. He went to the extent of offering the Taliban an office space in Peshawar from where they could operate if and when the negotiations materialised.

More recently, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced a whopping 300 million rupee grant to Darul Uloom Haqqania in Nowshera which is known to have been the alma mater for many senior Taliban leaders and commanders both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. PTI leaders, including Tareen and Chief Minister Khattak, have defended the announcement, saying that it is part of an attempt to reform the madrasa and that a memorandum will be signed with its administrator to specify what exactly will be done with the money. No money will be disbursed until the criteria are met, they say.

When asked if he thinks such moves affect his popularity among liberal voters, Imran Khan says he does not go after a particular vote bank. “I believe that there is a privileged class and then there are all the people who are being deprived of their rights. Bridging that divide is what I represent.”

Many of his critics argue that his agitation undermines parliamentary institutions of which he is also a part. His participation in the parliamentary proceedings has, indeed, remained patchy. A recent survey by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) named him as one of the worst-performing members of the National Assembly, along with PPP’s Faryal Talpur and PMLN’s Hamza Shahbaz.

This is how he responds to that: “Performing in the National Assembly is like winning a poker game on the Titanic. The ship is going down, but you are winning your cards.”

He also believes that the “National Assembly is the most boring place on Earth” where no significant debate takes place because its members “skirt around” issues such as corruption and tax evasion. “The house is meaningless.”

Is he aware of the magnitude of political risks he often takes with his all-or-nothing demands and frequent calls for indefinite protests? “Of course, I am aware,” he says with a smug smile, as he walks back into his office flanked by his advisers. “I only play a high-stakes game. Low stakes bore me.”


This article was originally published in the Herald's November issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.


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