Can Pakistan really afford Imran Khan’s antics right now?

Published: October 7, 2016

Is this the Pakistan that Imran Khan wants to rule as Prime Minister? PHOTO: FILE

As someone who voted for Imran Khan directly in the infamous NA 122 in the 2013 General Elections, I am forced to ask: what game is Imran Khan playing? Boycotting the joint session at a time when the country faces an external threat is not good politics. By harping on about Panama leaks, which is a dead horse, instead of focusing on the clear and present danger that the country faces, Imran Khan is only isolating those who had mistakenly thought he was the country’s great white hope.

On its own, the demand that the Prime Minister of Pakistan should resign because some of his close family members have had offshore companies is not unreasonable. The Prime Minister of Iceland resigned. David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, had to give a long winded explanation of why he had invested in his late father’s offshore company before he was prime minister.

Keeping your elected representatives accountable for their finances is sine qua non to a democratic process. No one denies this in the least. Yet the situation is far from ideal in Pakistan. Indeed the Indian aggression in Kashmir is the least of the structural problems the country faces.

What is even more urgent is the civil military conflagration brewing in the country. If Dawn’s report is to be believed, the civilian government has driven home to the military leadership and if Pakistan does not act against non-state actors, it will face certain international isolation. A great weight has been put on the shoulders of our military leadership, which is now being viewed by the world as either unable to or unwilling to act against non-state actors.

Even China, our staunchest ally, has questioned the logic of Pakistan’s defence of groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leader Masood Azhar. The Pakistani state is under stress. Rightly or wrongly, the world views the democratically elected civilian government as being helpless against an overbearing military establishment and the deep state.

In this atmosphere, if Imran Khan carries out another protest movement, it is likely to be seen by the world as being backed by the military. I’m not saying this will be true, but this is the allegation that the enemies of Pakistan will throw at us. And let us assume that Imran Khan does succeed in creating a momentum that sends Nawaz Sharif packing – Nawaz Sharif’s exit will most definitely lead to international isolation; the military will be seen to have intervened and carried out a coup by other means.

The next conclusion that the world will draw is that the Pakistani military is hell bent on protecting non-state actors. What will stop us from being branded as a terrorist state, then? Don’t even count on China’s support if such a scenario unfolds. We would become another North Korea, a source of perpetual embarrassment and irritation to the Chinese. Meanwhile India would have succeeded fabulously in putting Kashmir on the backburner. Every story will be about the unstable terrorist state with nuclear weapons. Investments would run dry and our economy will nose dive. Is this the Pakistan that Imran Khan wants to rule as prime minister? Besides, very little of what Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has done in recent years inspires any confidence.

I voted for PTI thinking, perhaps naively, that it stands for a just and egalitarian Pakistan, which seemed to be the promise of PTI starting October 30th, 2011. Then, Imran Khan spoke of a Pakistan where every citizen, no matter what his religion, background or gender, would be equally protected. However, since then, and especially after losing the elections in 2013, PTI has stood on a regressive and reactionary platform. Some of the demands made by its lawmakers, wherever they have been elected, are downright comical, for example the demand for a ban on the Doraemon cartoon.

Now, a PTI law maker from Sindh has objected to teaching dance as part of school curriculum. Sindh has an ancient tradition of dance and music that is rooted not just in the cultural moorings of the Indus River but also in Sindh’s syncretic Sufi Islamic traditions. If some schools want to teach dance as part of its school curriculum, what right does a PTI lawmaker have to object to it? Not that PTI’s lawmaker has indicated where it was that such flagrant violation of “Islamic values” and “Pakistani constitution” was taking place. In terms of Islamic provisions, the Pakistani Constitution has an enabling role, not one of enforcement. The constitutional directives with regards to Islam cannot be enforced to satisfy the personal religious beliefs of a single individual.

What is amazing is that this demand has come from PTI, which itself faced legal challenges regarding its dharnas by the religious right wing on grounds that they were violating Islamic injunctions of the Constitution. The one positive thing about the dharna that Imran Khan carried out was the festive, inclusive and gender balanced crowds that he pulled. And yes, there was dancing there too.

The problem with PTI is that it is fuelled by the youth who have grown up on a diet of bigoted curriculum and utter confusion about faith and identity. This is the long term result of the slow poison that was introduced by General Ziaul Haq’s government. What was planted as a seed has grown into a full-fledged tree. The middle-class man from his 20s or 30s who supports PTI might look liberal because he wears jeans, but deep down he is a neem-mullah or a half-baked cleric.

One fears what will happen if a party, brought up on Khan’s charisma and a diet of rabid ultra-nationalism, comes to power. Can we afford it?

At this time, however, it is clear that the strongest duty of any patriotic Pakistani is to stand with the democratically elected government, no matter what our criticisms of it are. Pakistan cannot afford any adventurism by any quarter. I hope better sense prevails on Imran Khan. After all, the next election is hardly a year and a half away.

Yasser Latif Hamdani

Yasser Latif Hamdani

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He tweets as @theRealYLH (

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

  • Tahir

    Hamdani, are you too naive to sense Govt resorted on Kashmir issue to avoid Panama investigation? With such writting, you clearly appear so unfortunately. How was this session necessary? With such logic, we shall also help Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman as he sees Islam always in danger and needs our help in this regard.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Okay after a long time, I have read a sensible article from you. Good writing.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    I am a great fan of conspiracy theories.
    But this is pushing it a little bit too far.
    NS did not ask Modi to do a “surgical strike”.
    NS did not order the attack on Indian held kashmir.
    NS did not stage the entire Kashmir episode to get rid of Panama leaks issue.
    At the time when we need to present a united front .
    IK has thrown his lot in with people such as Acackzai and Altaf Hussain.
    I expected better from IK.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Mr Hamdani forgets that while the elected Prime Ministers in Pakistan have come and gone but the majority of the electorates have more or less remained the same. Imran Khan is hoping to win their approval relying on the claim that the Sharifs are accumulating wealth in offshore accounts. You are aware Sir, that the very being of Pakistan is an adventure or did in your view the founder of the country anticipated the country to be ruled by the military and later the same military will combat citizens of the land?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • FAM

    My Hamdani, what was the total count of the legislators present in this joint session? If you dont know, find out the count and you will know the seriousness of the government on the issue.
    what has “Kashmir committee” chairman Fazal Ur Rehman has done for the cause? I hope you will be picked for judge appointment in Punjab soon or AG office?
    India or any other country will never be able to do the kind of damage to this country, which corrupt leadership is doing. Corruption and incompetency is the biggest danger Recommend

  • fze

    Are you saying that what ever is happening in Kashmir is not worth mentioning or being taken up in international forum? Remember, Kashmir mantra is not a civilian necessity but that of establishment. Their whole existence depends upon keeping the issue alive.Recommend

  • Sd Ad

    Can Pakistan afford to continue giving a piggy back ride to the thugs in Government [so called champions of democracy] who claim immunity [against accountability] in defiance of all morality?Recommend

  • Nana

    Honest or not, Pakistan cannot afford this child politician called Imran Khan. He should concentrate on his social work and shouldn’t try to cash upon it.Recommend

  • rao amjad ali

    First, the movement for independence in IOC is wholly indigenous, fueled by many years of resistance which has been paid by the blood of martyred and maimed men, women and children in the Valley!

    Second, how does a call for accountability in the face of glaring evidence of corruption and boycotting the mostly ceremonious joint session of the parliament legitimize or embolden Indian action in Kashmir and, as you allege, weaken Pakistan’s position on Kashmir?

    Going by your logic, the global diplomatic community will likely loathe Pakistanis for rising against corruption, shunning them as irresponsible yahoos who ought to set all national matters aside until Kashmir achieves freedom? Or will it look at Pakistan as a country that has the capacity of redeeming itself as a self respecting country of 200 million hardworking men and women who are ready to fight for the rule of law and a corruption free institutional order? Therefore, fighting against corruption does not mean that Kashmir automatically gets sent to the back burner. This kind of knowledge is clearly convoluted.

    The world knows well that the people of Pakistan are united in defending the country and stand firmly behind its highly professional armed forces that remain in a heightened state of readiness.Recommend

  • RA

    This can all go away if Nawaz Sharif allows an investigation into Panama gate.Recommend

  • Sami

    One history lesson: Imran Khan’s family has a history of stupidity and tall claims. Kindly keep in kind that “Tiger Niazi” is also from this family.
    The infamous picture where One general is signing for surrender in 1971 is the uncle of Imran Khan.
    He was the one who ordered surrender without a fight till last drop of blood.

    Imran Khan is keeping this family tradition alive. He wants to become the Tiger Niazi 2.
    One tiger Niazi gave away half of the Pakistan. Tiger Niazi 2 ( Imran Khan) want to end the rest of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Khalid M

    Mr Hamdani how much cash has some PML-N wala has paid you. Seems like you have no comprehension of the way this country has been destroyed by the like of Nawaz Sharif gang and Zardari gang. Recommend

  • Akber Shakil

    With gross corruption, incompetence on foreign affairs front and frantic borrowing, the corrupt government of nawaz sharif no longer a regime merely guilty of pulling down pakistan in debt rut, this pushing back is infact now become a national security threat because of current looming war scenario. To confront india we cannot afford to be economically crippled for long.

    Cyril Almeida a self admitted pmln supporter wrote what suits the gov narrative, otherwise who doesn’t know that it was punjab government who have close links with these banned or under watch sectarian and kashmiri insurgency outfits whom they use for political leverage, who doesn’t know it was punjab government who was reluctant to start a karachi style combing operation in punjab against these outfit.

    I believe it will be naive of us to actually believe in pmln who corrupted every institution in country specially punjab police will be interested in upholding of rule of law and taking out militants which are their political asset in punjab.

    About Imran khan, When you manipulate and corrupt every institution that could keep a check on government and than block every Avenue where a grieved person can seek justice than what option do you left to the people either they accept the injustice as their fate or fight back to shake the system to wake up and start functioning.Recommend

  • Dr R Hashmi

    Mr Hamdani I do not believe that you ever voted for PTI. Whenever PTI starts a protest against corruption in the country different reasons are given by govt individuals and so called intellectuals urging not to procee with it and the lamest one that I have heard now is that the country will be isolated. Corruption and incompetence are the two hinderences in progress of the country. Get rid of all the corrupt individuals and install competent persons on key posts then see how the country will progress.

  • Wanderer

    1. ‘Keeping your elected representatives accountable for their finances is sine qua non to a democratic process. No one denies this in the least. Yet the situation is far from ideal in Pakistan’.

    Situation for accountability of ruling elite will never be ideal. So, lets forget it and move on.

    2. ‘The middle-class man from his 20s or 30s who supports PTI might look liberal because he wears jeans, but deep down he is a neem-mullah or a half-baked cleric’.

    That is a sweeping statement. And quite a bigoted one. PTI has supporters from all cross sections of the society. Some are more conservative than others.

    I guess one is not a ‘true liberal’ unless he goes around with a bottle of Johnny Walker in his hands.

    3. What moral authority does a Panama marka PM have on domestic front, let alone on international arena?

    All IK is asking for is NS to give the money trail or resign & let another person from Noon to take over as PM. Whats wrong with it? If Nawaz really wants to forge unity, he should do it as soon as possible.

    4. A major problem with Pakistani liberals is they can not think beyond civil-military binary and bring it into everything. And when you point to politicians’ corruption, they say so are army men. True, corruption permeates all segments of the society, including the army. But how does corruption by the army justifies corruption by elected representatives, that too of a 3rd time PM who built his empire abroad courtesy of his political offices?

    How is Nawaz’s accountability related to protection of non-state jihadi elements, many of which are protected by Noon in Punjab, and are represented in national and provincial assemblies? For one of many examples, read here:

    5. As far as Cyril’s article is concerned, it is just an attempt by Noon to shore up support with liberals and western audiences.

    Shahbaz Sharif, who has had frequent meetings with General Raheel, that too at late nights, has been resisting operation against banned outfits in Punjab for some time. Again, many of his MPAs have links with organizations such as LeJ. Yet, he admonished ISI for protecting non-state actors? Good joke.

    6. Surprisingly, you did not shed light on utter failure of all civilian institutions (FBR, SECP, FBR, FIA, NAB, SC etc) in the wake of Panama Leaks. May be you omitted that in the spirit of national unity. No?

    6. I am no fan of establishment for their hugely negative role in Pakistan’s history, but to suggest that Shahbaz and establishment are on different pages, that too on protection of non-state actors, is baloney.

    Did Shahbaz also admonish ISI over this?

    To sum up, another article on why IK’s strategy is wrong, rather than asking Nawaz to be held accountable. We can not have a genuine democracy without accountability & transparency, no matter the situation.

    The question you should have asked is: Can Pakistan afford a scandal-hit leadership involved in money laundering, tax evasion, white collar crimes etc at this critical juncture?Recommend

  • sher khan

    I don’t understand ,You couldn’t stand three years with the party (3 years in power) you vote for, no matter what. You are telling us to stand with the current setup(30 years or so in power) no ,matter what in your last paragraph?Recommend

  • SalmanAhmed6

    Message from the author >>

    1. Do not go against these corrupt politicians who are destroying the country.

    2. Oh and don’t look at any of their faults too. Only IK has faults. The others are angels.

    Did I miss any other message? Recommend

  • faisal

    fully agreedRecommend

  • Feroz

    Author is acting like an naive and innocent child. Everyone who is anyone knows who is backing Imran Khan and why too. Without that backing all these Dharnas would become a no show and fold up.Recommend

  • Nana

    Very convenient timing of Kashmir uprising. So in essence you are saying that what is happening in Kashmir is Nawaz’s doing. Do you know Kashmir agenda is who’s agenda in pakistan?Recommend

  • Phantom

    Short answer:
    Yes, Pakistan can afford Imran Khan’s antics right now.

    Long Answer:
    Pakistani politics is a farce. Our politicians are corrupt. Any observation of their priorities only reveals a lack of vision and vested interests. There is no focus on infrastructure, health and education. Instead we are wasting millions on shortsighted projects such as the metro bus or orange train.

    With regards to foreign policy, we barely have any. Our only international connections are with countries that need to deal with us due to our geographic position. There are also those who have lent us money.
    In any case, those with any relationship with us, typically have a good, if not better, relationship with India as well.
    With regards the Kashmir issue, we have barely made any progress internationally.

    Given this situation, where the government isn’t interested in drafting out and implementing a policy, but more on political point scoring, attending such meetings and sessions is not going to lead to anything.

    We need an honest leadership with vision. One can argue whether or not Imran Khan fits the bill. But the current political setup certainly does not.Recommend

  • Omer

    Yasir you have always written very balanced articles that contain facts that are very well researched.And given the nightmares of the arab spring I do agree with your advice that leaders like IK should not destabilize the country.However have you taken a look at our debt to GDP ratio since this government has taken over?Or the fact that we spent $2 on our imports and earn $1 from our exports?Or the fact (and I got this information an express tribune article) that the Prime Minister allocated $50 million dollars for the security of his family? And on the other hand what are the figures for youth unemployment or the rising tax burden on the middle class or the absolute lack of focus of this government in general on issues pertaining to the 40% of Pakistanis who live below the poverty line.How many schools or hospitals (which would have created more jobs) could have been made with the money being spent on the orange line or the metro bus project.And is not such elitist mindset and absolute disregard for the ordinary man that pushes our so called youth dividend straight into the hands of the very non state actors?Recommend

  • Humza

    This really shows how misguided PTI followers have become. You really believe the government “resorted” to the Kashmir issue because of Panama Leaks? Now you think Modi and the Indian army is terrorizing citizens in occupied Kashmir due to Panama Leaks? Why not accept that there is a place for discussion which is in parliament and now is the time for solidarity. Not to derail the democratic process or destabilize the nation. For the record, I too was a former PTI supporter but I have since woken up to the danger that Imran Khan poses to the nation as a whole. I am all for accountability, transparency, a better democratic process but all of this times time and patience. The 3 rd world way of dharnas and anarchy will only lead to Arab Spring type instability and I don’t want to see Pakistan become some unstable Arab state like Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen or Egypt. Democracy takes time and patience and respect. Imran Khan has forgot this in his zeal to become PM at all costs. Sadly he is turning more and more of his own supporters against him. Being a stubborn, vindictive and divisive man pleases no one.Recommend

  • cautious

    The Civilian govt doesn’t have a meaningful say in Pakistan’s foreign policy so Imran maybe right on this one. What’s the point in a bunch of speeches about something you don’t influence. Never have understood why typical Pakistani is reluctant to admit that the military controls foreign policy – pretty clear to the rest of the World.Recommend

  • xtremistt crosss

    The truth is imran khan is pakistan’s last hope. Curruption means all the money goes aways mean all the hard work or what ever all the money of the country stolen by some one and most of people who criticize imran khan actually dont see what he is trying to do. Even war is small matter in front of curruption. Think if you had a job and you work all month and then your boss says no salary how you will feel then but the problem here is boss is nawaz sharif and pakistan who dont get payed. Most of pakistanis are so uneducated to understand the meaning of curruption. And they think imran khan is choosing wrong way and nothing gonna happen from protests its true but he is trying and trying is much better than sitting at home making comments on countries curruption. Most of pakistanis are currupt in daily life they can sale there vote for 2000 rs means 20 us dollar and we are famous in foreign countries that if some one give us money to kill our parents we will do and thats what we are doing to pakistan as in the form of votes which you give to nawaz sharif or zardari or anyother…Recommend

  • Patwari

    Nawaz and his incompetency, his govt.’s bumblings is causing more
    problems and grief than anyone attending or not attending joint sessions.Recommend

  • zafar

    Mr Hamdani first of all you loose all your credibility by starting your article oh I voted for PTI so what? and then rest of the article you have promoted PMLn agenda? do I smell something fishy in this article? Go and figure what have your PMLn govt done so far for the cause of Kashmir and Kashmiris? and what was this joint session which you are trying to promote? I disagree with you for going all guns blazing against PTI and PTI supporters.Recommend

  • zafar

    And one more thing I hope your next article is about reality of Panama and how corruption of Nawaz Shareef and his family have damaged common Pakistanise and Pakistan and how they have destroyed all the institutions but I guess that may not be on top of your list? When your mum, sister, brother and child of your family cannot get medicine, cannot drink clean water then you will know how corruption is like a termite to Pakistan. Write against the one who are in power then you will be a real journalist.Recommend

  • Patwari

    When YOU are surrounded on three sides by half a million hindu
    soldiers and the Bay of Bengal is on the fourth side plus the
    Mukhti Bahini is stabbing you in the back, out of ammunition, you have
    no choice but to surrender. You do not sacrifice 85,000 soldiers needlessly. To any general, the welfare and well being of his
    soldiers come first. Even Rommel, the Great German General surrendered,
    during WW TWO. He was out of ammunition, diesel, spare parts and food.
    All his planes were shot down or there was no fuel left. Just like the Pak
    Army was out of everything, No resupplying.. Do you understand this?Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    If only Imran Niazi alias Khan would not be like this in matured age, at least make him acceptable to the matured public. Mr Hamdani only desire is to have a straightforward opposition in a democracy which the country is lacking.Recommend

  • Patwari

    A mentally challenged person from Punjab, brainwashed
    into a lockstep zombie by the Sharif Cabal, with severely
    compromised genes, and a diehard belief in provincial and
    ethnic brotherhood will be unable to comprehend this 1971
    debacle. Caused by the general…..Yahya Khan. A Punjabi.Recommend

  • Nana

    Yahya Khan, Punjabi? LOL! Khans are not punjabis. Go, run and research what are they actually.Recommend

  • BJK

    Good piece, Yasser! There is a lot of logic there. Unfortunately, logical discussion in the present climate is pretty much a waste of time.
    The real problem (which enables stooges like IK, and others of his ilk) is the divide between khakis and the civilian leaders. The khakis do not respect civilian leaders (and the civilian leaders provide them some justification by often kowtowing to populism of the worst kind, and perhaps also by indulging in monetary hanky-pankies for personal/party gains). Since the khakis hold the gun, why would they listen to the sherwanis?
    It is to the advantage of the khakis to keep the proverbial pot boiling — especially with regard to India. This whole “enemy” mindset is self-defeating (your piece also uses that term, so you are also a victim of it) but it keeps the advantage on the khaki side.
    Kashmir is a more complex issue and not enough space here to discuss it. But I agree that there is some wisdom in separating that issue from the issue of who should be calling the shots in Pakistan.
    If one thinks about it long and hard, it is not too difficult to trace the genesis of the khaki mindset to the very mode in which Pakistan was created — through pushing sheer force and completely sans logic, a very khaki approach! :)Recommend

  • Humza

    I understand that you hate Pakistanis in general and the majority native population in particular but at least get your hatred correct. Yahya Khan was not Punjabi but a native Persian speaking Qizilbash from KPK who became chief. He may have been born in Chakwal but his family was from Peshawar KPK. By all means continue your hatred of Pakistanis if it brings you solice but at least get your facts right!Recommend

  • Patwari

    Being born in Punjab makes him a Punjabi. See, that’s why Muhajjirs are still Muhajjirs after 69 years. Because the Punjabis, Pathans, Sindhis will not allow
    them to integrate and become Pakistanis.
    Same thing with Hazaras, Gilgitis, Hunzacuts, Baltis….
    They are all ‘foreigners’ in their own land. Recommend

  • Oliver Craig

    According to the writer, Pak cannot afford Imran but can afford Nawaz Shareef. Recommend

  • Humza

    Is it the same in India too? I hear that people from other regions in India ( UP, Bihar, Andra Pradesh) who move to Mumbai are not considered real Mumbaikers because they are not from Maharashtra. How do you integrate these people in India to fit in among others. Do those who move to Mumbai learn Marathi in addition to speaking Hindi? Do these groups feel like foreigners in Mumbai?Recommend

  • sherzaman

    Imran khan want implemetation of law but himself want to remain above the law as it is obvious from his statement on decision of Islamabad high court not to close down the city. He and his other party leaders simply refuse to follow court orders. Still Imran folowers justify his desiciion with illogical resons.Recommend