Should Imran Khan be arrested for treating a Taliban leader?

Published: January 7, 2016

The same logic which makes Imran Khan not a helper of terrorists also applies to Asim Hussain.

I will begin by admitting that I support PPP, the party Pakistan’s urban middleclass loves to hate. The basis for my support is just one – in Pakistan’s context, PPP remains the only mainstream party with a liberal and progressive ethos. No matter how you put it, this is a party which, in contemporary times, has tried to act as a bulwark against rising extremism and has paid the price in blood for doing so.

In 2007, it lost Benazir Bhutto and then Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti in 2011. It also played a major role in the modification of the infamous Hudood Ordinance in 2006. Its present leader, young Bilawal Bhutto, has also constantly taken a stance against extremist outfits including Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). On the other hand, we have had leaders like Imran Khan who abstained from criticising the Taliban before the Peshawar attack.

While PPP does have admirable liberal credentials, there is no denying that it has severe issues too. I am not an emotional jiyala and reality is PPP’s name has become synonymous with incompetency and corruption; it is also for this reason that the party suffered heavy losses in the 2013 elections and was virtually wiped out from Punjab. With the way things seem to be moving, losing in Sindh does not seem an unlikely outcome anymore.

At the present moment, PPP is facing the brunt of a ‘clean up’ operation in Sindh. One of its key leaders, the former federal minister, and a close confidante of Asif Ali Zardari, Asim Hussain, is under investigation for various charges ranging from misuse of authority and corruption to alleged abetting and harbouring of militants at his family-owned hospitals in Karachi. The allegation that Hussain was aiding terrorists and militants by allowing them to be treated at his hospital is being considered serious enough by the federal government to try him in an Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC).

But, as a doctor, should the act of treating militants or religious extremists be considered terrorism?

I am in no way trying to defend Dr Asim, but if treating a militant or religious extremist is a crime, then will Imran Khan also be tried at the ATC for treating an Afghan Taliban leader at Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore?

It is obvious that the PPP, to avoid any prejudice, would want the same measures to be taken against Imran Khan, as were taken in the case of Dr Asim; they will want Khan to also be arrested for the same crime Dr Asim is being accused for.

The admission, of course, was made by Imran Khan himself, yet many from the urban middleclass are laughing at PPP’s claim and have tried to imply that the two cases cannot be equated. In their eyes, Dr Asim is a terrorist and Khan is completely innocent.

While I agree that treating a patient, albeit a Taliban leader, at Shaukat Khanum does not make Imran a terrorist, it is important that the same criteria should be applied in a case that is so starkly similar to Dr Asims. In all probability, Imran was not even aware that a Taliban leader was being treated at Shaukat Khanum – but even if he had known, it should still not be considered an act of terrorism purely because hospitals are meant to treat the injured and ill, irrespective of their religious or political affiliations.

PPP is obviously making a mistake in demanding Imran’s arrest, but at the same time I would like to point out that it seems that this demand is being made only in light of this inconsistency and prejudice being applied to both the cases. The same logic that exonerates Imran should also apply to Hussain. Unfortunately, the way Hussain is being tried smacks of political vendetta and selective justice.

It is important for us to strive for fairness, in all ambits of life. I am all for this drive against corruption. Hussain should be tried for corruption and punished if convicted. But trying him at the ATC just because militants have been treated at his family-run hospital is stretching it too much.

And if that is enough to indict Dr Asim, then what about the many times Imran Khan has openly displayed, and maintained, a Taliban apologist stance? If I am not wrong, it was also Imran Khan who did not consent to, in fact vehemently opposed, military action due to which political consensus could not be reached, right? Are these not reasons enough to believe that Khan could in fact have had knowledge of the Taliban leader being treated at Shaukat Khanum and perhaps even ordered the treatment?

Going back to what I had said earlier, I still do believe that Imran Khan was probably unaware of the leader being treated, just like Dr Asim was probably unaware of militants being treated. I will also maintain that treating a patient does not make Imran Khan or Dr Asim Hussain a terrorist.

Right now, it is important the both the cases in question be tried and dealt with on equal grounds. It is important for us to keep a broader perspective in mind and if we continue to do what we are doing, we will set a dangerously prejudiced precedent. And that is never a good thing.


Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    There is a lot of a difference between the case (if there is any) of Imran Khan and Dr. Asim. Imran Khan was revealed about this only after a letter was received. While Dr. Asim was knowingly treating and sheltering the terrorist. Not only this Dr. Asim is involved in financial corruption till the extent he and his allies could do. They have gravely damaged this country. One of the main reason of increasing poverty in Pakistan is financial and administrative corruption. Dr. Asim and his cronies have done worst kind of corruption in the history of this country and I am sure it surpasses many global mega corruption scandals. Please don’t match Imran Khan and Dr. Asim. I do not support Imran Khan, but at least he had never been involved in financial corruption.Recommend

  • NR

    What utter non-sense. You are trying to be clever by saying not to trial IK but also suggesting to do it…. The “Taliban Leader” was from Afghanistan and was treated as a normal Afghan national. Nobody even knew at the hospital that he was a “Taliban Leader” from Afghanistan. IK mentioned to support an augment that SKMH treats people from both Afghanistan and Tribal areas.Recommend

  • Spooky

    Two different issues. Asim Hussain used hospital for political militancy and corruption but on the same token Imran Khan treat that person as a cancer patient with out any tag to it political or militancy. So Asim Hussain is justified but if IK is arrested it will be mistake.Recommend

  • salman

    IK is not involved in the running, administration or management of the hospital in any way. He is involved in fund raising and building of the new hospitals. I know this because my father has been treated in SKMH, and I have spent many hours there and met a lot of the doctors and a great many of the management team.

    Secondly, SKMH do not ask if you are a terrorist or Taliban sympathizer or a Justin Bieber fan before they decide to accept your case. They look at two things, your medical history and if you are a pay or free patient (this is because they don’t want to take 100% paying patients instead of the poor, but at the same time they don’t want to take all poor as they need some revenue for operating expenses. I believe the split is about 70% free to 30% paying).

    Therefore, the probability of IK knowing or even ordering treatment of a particular person is exactly zero. I know of a case where IK has tried to put a good word in for a patient, only for the SKMH management team to say no.
    Now I don’t know the details of the case of Dr.Asim. But if it is a similar scenario as above, where he is not managing anything or is not aware of who the patients are then he should NOT be brought up on these charges. And even if he was aware, he should not be charged for treating them, but possibly there could be a charge for not informing the authorities that he was treating them.
    But don’t worry, if he is innocent, he has nothing to worry about.
    By the way, your second Para is totally unnecessary in the context of your article. We all know PPP scarified Benazir, etc. We hear about it every 5 mins. (what we don’t hear about, and maybe you can write an article on that one day, is how poor her governance record actually was) And the last line of the 2nd para is factually incorrect. Google can help you here…
    Best Wishes.Recommend

  • Wanderer

    ‘On the other hand, we have had leaders like Imran Khan who abstained
    from even saying the words ‘Taliban’ before the Peshawar attack’.

    1. Not true. He had condemned Taliban atrocities on numerous occasions before APS. As Salman mentioned, just Google it or visit IK’s TL.
    2. Supporting talks with Taliban (which all parties agreed to in 2013 APC ) is not the same as supporting Taliban. By this logic, if the US pursues peace talks with Afghan Taliban, it makes them Taliban supporters.
    3. You conveniently forgot that it was Benazir government in the 1990s that recognized Taliban. The others being UAE & Saudis. Quite a liberal camp, I must say.

    You claim to be objective. Saw that you wrote a blog after PTI’s narrow loss in NA 122, basically arguing that IK lied about rigging in 2013. Why not follow up with a blog on NA 154 results? I guess there is no cure for bigotry.Recommend

  • Shah (Berline)

    Now you are comparing two completely different issues. Making a hospital for only terrorists is a crime. But if a criminal comes and gets treated and no one in administration knew tht he is a terrorist is a complete different issue….. E.g If your job is to transport terrorists from A to B are a criminal on the other hand if a criminal sits in Metro and travels and send yo a letter that the bus service was nice, you wont arrest the driver or the administration. Regards…Recommend

  • RHR

    I know about SKMT
    Please read the following lines from the article
    “In all probability, Imran was not even aware that a Taliban leader was being treated at Shaukat Khanum – but even if he had known, it should still not be considered an act of terrorism purely because hospitals are meant to treat the injured and ill, irrespective of their religious or political affiliations.”Recommend

  • Rohan

    Yes he should be arrested if it’s the Afghan Taliban.But he should get a medal if he hospitalized a TTP guy because TTP are freedom fightersRecommend

  • Saleem

    But, as a doctor, should the act of treating militants or religious extremists be considered terrorism?…

    Yes, it is terrorism. Treating a patient is one thing but disguising their identity to help them treat or providing them temporary refuge to hide or any support is totally different.

    I am not a supporter of Imran Khan but will say that so called medial treatment that Dr. Asim was providing is totally different than what a man got by walking into SKMH. For treatment of later, no political big wig called neither big bucks were paid!

    Those who can’t see the difference between the two scenarios are nothing but lunatic and exploiting it for their personal gains. Please don’t waste time by comparing the two.Recommend

  • Umair Qureshi

    Failure of intelligence agencies doesn’t make imran a culprit, Secondly hospitals do not have terrorist detecting machine at the entrance & last but not the least Taliban doesn’t wear the same costumes, carry hand grenade & weapons when they come to get treated at hospitals.Recommend

  • Noman Farooqi

    Yes IK should be tried for making an institution which works independently. Something PPP and PMLN are unfamiliar with.Recommend

  • shahid

    It does not matter if you are PPP supporter, but most important thing here is ..whether you are unbiased and impartial..; By the way, you article shows ignorance and jumping the gun .. writing without knowledge or facts.. .. for your attention, it was 2000 or 2001, and at the time Pakistan, Saudi etc recognized Taliban government in Afghanistan.. so, as a start, it was neighbor country senior leader, of Taliban government, which Pakistan had diplomatic relations, Rabbani, needed cancer treatment and was treated at SKCH; If you think you are defending Asim ,.. you need to first make sure this crook is not a crook, and if he is a crook, then MUST be punished. Just if someone wants to oppose and badmouth IK, he/she has full right to do so, but media, reporters, bloggers and freelancers must learn the ethics of honesty, truth and facts before they, including you, the author, needs to measure the scale of damage you inflict.. it shows you and your colleagues and peers need to be properly trained prior to crossing the line and put pen to paper.Recommend

  • Hammad Khan

    Treating cancer and providing shelter to target killers, criminals, and party armed wings in hospitals is different. Dr Asim is accused of providing false medical certificates to target killers of MQM, PPPP in karachi to courts for giving them bails in different cases.Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    PPPP and progressive party, joke of the century. After reading first few lines, it is not worth to read this articleRecommend

  • Adnan

    In the eyes of the law both did the same thing but Pakistan is for Punjabis and Pathans.Recommend

  • Abuzar Jamil

    Please stop defending a corrupt person.The level of corruption done by Mr. Asim is enough to cut his head off….and so should be done to all the corrupt elements in the military, judicial, political and bureaucracy stream. This menace has ruined us inside out.Recommend

  • Farhan

    This article sums up ET’s editorial standards.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was a poor attempt at trying to justify something that needs no justification because there is really no comparison.Recommend

  • Orakzai

    Nawaz was also against the operation. Arrest him too.Recommend

  • goldconsumer

    Apples and Oranges! Asim Hussain was not just treating some terrorist, but liari gang members loyal to PPP. Thus a political angle is created. Imran Khan on the other note is not in the management of SKMH. The least he and someone responsible from SKMH should be tried for not informing the authorities on time.Recommend

  • Avid_reader

    You cannot be seriously writing this!? Let’s be clear that it’s not a case of him treating 2-3 terrorists at his hospital. It’s numerous cases. The crime is him not reporting to authorities the wanted terrorists or criminals. He further gained monetary or some intangible corrupt benefits in return for keeping quiet. This allowed terrorism to flourish. It’s one big factor that kept Karachi in a constant state of terror and crime. Of course there’s all the other charges against him. It’s too naive to think his crimes aren’t worthy of being tried in a terrorism court. Also, the sudden wealth and power that he amassed–his family cannot possibly be naive to think that the sudden wealth came from hard work and ethical standards. Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I am not pro IK, but come on.Recommend

  • Adnoon Siddiqui

    Yes, Mr “Container” Niazi Khan should totally go to jail. How dare he run not one but TWO free Cancer hospitals to treat less fortunate cancer patients. The nation will never forgive him for the atrocities he’s committed against the nation.Recommend

  • salman

    Thank you.

    I did read that. Majority of my post was in reply to the following lines (in fact, I wasn’t even going to comment until I read those lines):

    “Are these not reasons enough to believe that Khan could in fact have had knowledge of the Taliban leader being treated at Shaukat Khanum and perhaps even ordered the treatment?”
    Best wishes.Recommend

  • salman

    Only if they were aware of it.Recommend

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    Mullah Rabbani died in April 2001, popular TV personality Dr. Israr Ahmad was visiting Afghanistan at the time of Mullah Rabbani’s funeral. See
    Back in April 2001, Taliban were the recognized government of Afghanistan as per the Pakistani government.Recommend

  • Aaliya

    Read some rubbish in ET blogs before btu this takes the case. Does no one actually check if a piece is even worth printing. Juvenile article, juvenile logic.Recommend

  • RHR

    As usual the IK fans are getting angry and indulging all sort of vitriolic. If I had written a a flattering piece on the great Khan, then it would have been a different issue.
    However, if they even bother to read properly, this article is NOT saying that Imran should be arrested or that he is guilty. It is merely saying that treating patients at hospitals does not make you a terrorist. It is even saying that I disagree with PPP on its demand to “arrest” Imran Khan
    Dr. Asim may be guilty of corruption and I have written that if convicted he should be punished. However, trying him at ATC just because militants were given treatment is stretching it too much.
    And yes, it is also saying that Imran is a terrorist apologist, a fact which is extremely well known.

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    Ziauddin Hospitals weren’t created “for terrorists only”. They deliver relatively reasonably priced quaility healthcare for the urbanites.Recommend

  • Shehzad Khan

    Well Mr. Raja you should start studying Dr Asim’s case thoroughly. I couldn’t find any research done on this article but it was a lousy attempt to justify the corruption. There is no way both these cases can be compared. Also please start studying how PPP was formed and how it became a personnel property of Bhutto family and the shift it took from a socialist left wing political party into a capitalist pro-elite group. Also i would recommend you should study Fatima Bhutto’s views about her Wadi Bua ( ).Recommend

  • M

    There is also a different angle. To all of this. Unfortunately.
    UTurn Khan wanted to ‘negotiate’ with extremists and terrorists.
    He offered to open an office for these animals in Islamabad. He
    NEVER condemned ANY barbaric, heinous act by these sick dredges
    of human society. Killers of children, women and men, and soldiers.
    The Peshawar Church attack 194 killed, The Shia restaurant attack,
    in Qissa Khawani, 36 killed. The Govt. employees bus attack, 45 killed.
    He called them ‘Hamara Bhai’. That is aiding and abetting the enemy.
    If you recall, it took him 5 days to visit the family of Aitezaz Hassan
    The teenager from Bannu, who prevented a suicide bomber from
    entering his school and blowing up about 400 children. Nobody even
    remembers all this, now. History, now. How pathetic, a country this is.
    His 26 car entourage was denied entry at APS in Peshawar.
    The parents, know what he is. A fake. They did not want him there.
    No, Parvez, this man is lacking a moral compass. No better than
    the corruption kings of Sindh,..or the Punjab Duo, of Sharif Brothers Exception being, he is not stealing money hand over fist, but he
    looks the other way and gets his cut. From the timber mafia, the
    minerals mafia, the stolen historic artifacts mafia mainly Buddhist,
    from the Gandhara Civilization. Worth $millions in Japan, Thailand
    and Korea. Including the West. Taliban Khan is just as guilty as those

    MQM, PPP thugs in Sindh.Recommend

  • M

    It would have been better if you had not commented. In spades.
    This happened a few years ago, aided and abetted by Karzai.
    Mullah Fazullah, the mastermind of the APS School Massacre
    was grievously injured when he was escaping from Swat. By a
    drone strike. He was given safe harbor by Karzai, and allowed to be treated in a hospital in, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Fazlullah
    recovered, recuperated and went on to plot the inhuman
    massacre of 140 children in Peshawar.
    Imran Khan is a well known sympathizer of extremists/terrorists.
    This Afghan Taliban leader was aided and abetted by Imran.
    He was given safe harbor by Imran and allowed to be treated at SKMH. He recovered, recuperated and went on to plot how much death and destruction in Afghanistan? You have no idea.

  • Ashar Pervez

    In what parallel universe did this story take place?Recommend

  • Ashar Pervez

    Why do people like you twist things? Does lying come naturally to you?Recommend

  • Rukhshan Meer

    Afghan Taliban are not terrorist for our state. I met a pathan/afghan who showed me a dual nationality card. He can freely cross Durand line (2200km long border b/w pak and aghan) so if he was deserved to get operated in SKMH how could the administration refuse himRecommend

  • Bibloo

    ‘…only if they were aware of it..’
    We are all weeping, with tears, at YOUR forthright, sanctimonious
    answer. May another 1000 like YOU join PTI. And keep the Kaptaan
    happy. And may he be given another befitting name,..RBAPS Khan,
    [Rejected By APS Khan] or better still NO-E Khan [No Election Khan]
    Please, enlightened us some more, with your ‘oh so honest’ and
    brilliant deductions.Recommend

  • CH Waqas ali Saqib

    These are two different stories,You can not mix up both.IK has nothing to do with SKMH as it is different body.Meanwhile In Dr Asim;case he did it,he accepted he was corrupt so they are two different things.Recommend

  • Junaid

    I noted this article’s author’s stated reasons for supporting PPP. Seriously, he couldn’t find a less preposterous reason to support that party? If he honestly thinks that PPP is a liberal rather than utterly classicist, feudal and conservative traditionalist party that has opposed rather than massively backed extremism and terrorism in Pakistan, then he has no business writing his political opinions on a national newspaper. The Express Tribune always has a penchant for getting grossly disingenuous propagandists to write its blogs. It’s incredible that this newspaper’s New York Times ownership hasn’t infused any journalistic professionalism into it.Recommend

  • salman

    Please do then give me some idea. Where did IK give safe harbor to this terrorist? How did IK aid and abet him? What was he treated at SKMH for? SKMH only treats cancer patients as you may or may not know.
    Obviously, I’m expecting your response (if it is forthcoming) to answer all these questions with solid evidence and links.
    Best wishes.Recommend

  • salman

    Dear Bibloo,
    Please read my previous post further up this thread. But I will repeat..SKMH does not enquire about your political affiliations, or past before deciding to admit you as a patient or not.
    I’m not defending PTI or IK in any political sense. I’m not even a member of PTI. What I am doing is defending the hospital.
    In any case, you didn’t state exactly what you objected to in my statement? Do you think if a criminal is not identified and then treated at a hospital; the hospital, doctor and owners are responsible for telling the authorities, EVEN if they are not aware? How is that even possible when they are not aware of who the patient is?
    Maybe after you calm down we can have a rational discussion like adults.
    Best wishes.Recommend