What kind of Naya Pakistan do Imran Khan and PTI have in mind exactly?

Published: April 28, 2017

I keep reading that only Imran is the right choice due to his clean image.

A lot has happened in the last few days. The much awaited “historic” verdict of the number one obsession of Pakistani TV anchors, Pakistan’s chattering white collar urban middle classes, and their favourite political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), finally arrived.

When the news came that a joint investigating team (JIT) had been formed to investigate the corruption of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, I contacted a famous journalist whom I have the privilege of knowing and expressed my frustration that this nonsense would drag further. His reply was:

“Well, in a country where there is no entertainment, such things fill the gap!”

He could not have said it better.

The opening wording of the verdict, a quote from the movie The Godfather, depicts less about the corruption of the prime minister and more about the over-dramatic nature of the entire episode.

For a year, every issue has literally taken a backseat and the media discourse has been largely focused on “corruption” of the prime minister. The remaining focus is on trivial issues of the same nature such as the Dawn leaks case.

Frankly speaking, the Panamagate issue is nothing but an over-sensationalised and over-promoted soap opera which the hyperbolic self-righteous urban middle class in Pakistan has gobbled and its political representative PTI has exploited. PTI has been so fixated with the issue that even suicide bomb blasts have been termed as a conspiracy by the government to divert the focus away from the Panama leaks.

The latest gem to come from PTI Chief Imran Khan entails accusations that the prime minister had offered him 10 billion rupees to stay mum on the Panama case. Any sensible person will merely laugh at this absurd claim by the great Khan.

Is corruption an important issue? Yes, it is, but it is not the only issue or not even the most important one. Pakistan has a myriad of more serious issues, including gender imbalance, rising extremism, chronic civil-military imbalance, risk to religious minorities and ethnic fractionalisation which is always tearing the polity apart. Overzealous obsession about corruption is basically an urban middle class characteristic emanating from its own morality.  Since the media disproportionately focuses on the concerns of this class, this is highlighted at the cost of all other issues.

Even if one assumes that corruption is the top most issue, then the prime minister’s alleged tax evasion committed decades ago, while condemnable, is not that big of deal to merit such obsession. For the past one year, it seems that Pakistan’s entire future is hinging upon finding whether those apartments purchased in 1990s were obtained through tax evaded money or not.

Let me clarify for the benefit of the obsessive PTI brigade that there were literally hundreds of Pakistani names in that list including of top business houses. Considering the fact that Pakistan is largely an undocumented economy, many business houses during the past decades established such offshore companies. What Nawaz did was wrong but not unusual. I am not justifying it; it is certainly wrong but does not merit the kind of singular focus given to it.

If corruption as an issue is so dear, then as a principle we should be asking for broad reforms including demanding public audit of every institution. However, rather than a campaign against corruption, it is simply a campaign against one person.

The funniest nonsensical comparisons being made are with Iceland. Since the prime minister of Iceland resigned after the Panama leaks, our over-smart TV anchors and PTI supporters have been constantly citing that as an example. I have also read passionate articles where Nawaz’s lack of “sadaqat” and “amanat” as required by Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, is compared with principled gesture of the prime minister of Iceland.

As a student of comparative politics, let me assure you that comparison between a developed and a developing country is wrong at many levels. While comparing countries, we should be mindful of the differences in population, history, socioeconomic indicators, and political institutionalisation.

Moreover, if all of you are so concerned that Pakistan should follow Iceland then why not emulate it with respect to gender equality, which frankly is a far graver issue as far as Pakistan is concerned. Iceland topped the Gender Gap index in 2016 whereas Pakistan was second last in the entire world! Have the PTI supporters and even general critics who are so obsessed over the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister ever shown concern over that disparity? Why not raise our voices to make Pakistan an improved place for women who form half of our population? But no, the only thing in which we want to follow Iceland is its prime minister’s resignation! Let me politely remind everyone again that PTI even opposed the women protection bill!

I keep reading that only Imran is the right choice due to his clean image. Even those who claim that he may have issues think that he is the “bitter” pill we have to swallow since he exposed Nawaz’s corruption. The fact that Imran has consistently undermined democratic process has not played a role in any progressive legislation, and the fact that he has also courted hardliners is simply disregarded. Recently, Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson, has turned himself in and claimed that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has been funding TTP. Let me politely remind all, that once upon a time, Imran had wanted TTP to be allowed to their open offices in Pakistan and TTP also nominated Imran as their representative for peace talks with the Pakistani government. If TTP is indeed funded by RAW, then this implies that Imran was actually inadvertently aiding the enemy. To call him a “bitter pill” is an understatement.

Recently, the “Lion of Punjab”, Mustafa Khar has also decided to join PTI. Mr Khar’s record with respect to domestic violence and misogyny is well known.

I really don’t know what kind of Naya Pakistan PTI has in mind? If Shaikh Rasheed and Khar are the faces of Naya Pakistan, then we’re better off with the current one.


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 (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

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

  • Answers needed

    Good points raised. Can any PTI representative give us answers?Recommend

  • Asma Sheikh

    These are exactly my sentiments. It’s nothing but waste of precious resources and time. We as a nation need to focus on important and bigger issues such as education, health, unemployment and law and order situation. Recommend

  • salman

    we get it dude, you don’t like IK and PTI :)Recommend

  • salman

    Sure, ask them though….don’t expect them to be trawlling blogs though :)Recommend

  • Lakhkar Khan

    Very well written. PTI is the party of empty slogans, promise big and deliver nothing. If the litmus test of a political party in Pakistan is corruption and honesty than PTI does not qualify to run the country either.

    If Imran Niazi sahib wants to create a “Naya Pakistan”, he should start removing corrupt lawmakers from his party. PTI is currently the ruling party in Pukhtunkhwa but most of his party elected officials are corrupt. They are not only corrupt but every bad thing to disqualify them. You can find form bad apples to bad oranges. Even their Speaker of the House is currently under investigation.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    “”Bitter pill we have to swallow””


    Noman Ansari vs Raza Habib Raja

    Round 1…..


  • Ahmar

    You are trawling this blog

    Imran Khan is a joke!Recommend

  • RHR

    Thank you for “understanding”Recommend

  • Musa

    Raza Bhai – Bravo! I could not have said it better myself. You have described everything wrong with he PTI strategy over the last few years! There is so many more issues far more important that Pakistan needs to focus on and I am fed up of the IK Supporters who think if we criticize him we have committed some kind of blasphemy!! Please keep up your excellent work Raza bhai and keep impartial as you are – May Allah Pak bless Pakistan and give all the leaders Hidiyat!!Recommend

  • Musa

    They can’t answer because you need to be able to use your brain and be impartial as well as objective – qualities they sadly don’t possess!!Recommend

  • http://www.meiermarketing.com/ Abdul Wahid Malek

    Accept what is good and what is wrong for the sake of country. Every sensible man know that NS is guilty and if he steps down it would probably his best decision.Recommend

  • Imran

    contrary statements in ur blog, feeling the smell of favouritism, it really do nt suit a writer, prioritize ur work, thats what I think u hv learned in ur PhD, —–, let me explain; u want to just focus on —————gender imbalance (most of Pakistan is still a tribal society, u can not let their traditions to go away over night, cultural issues too, will take time, we r slowly moving in forward direction), rising extremism (extremism rapidly declining since Musharraf period–see reports and overall society), chronic civil-military imbalance (will remain so until a stable economy is achieved), risk to religious minorities (1st just 3-4% of total population, 2nd working in this field too, going in a better direction) and ethnic fractionalisation (declining too due to merger of different culture)—————- So, corruption is more important, eradicate corruption first, build institutes and move on slowly on ur mentioned issues that is prioritizing ur issues.
    ur 2nd point, In a corrupt, un-educated, tribal, poor society– u can not find angels who too have the ability to win the election. u hv to be with these people, then ur question is what naya Pakistan?
    Seriously I was not expecting this level of stupidity from u, well! u would know the answer when return back to Pakistan, start working and reach on decision making seat. u would be in a circle of same people, but somehow would manage to benefit the people if u r not corrupt.Recommend

  • http://about.me/utg001 utg001

    Are you for real? You say that corruption, or that our sitting PM taking tax money away from us in “no big deal? There were days where we would get nearly the same amount of credit on 100 rupee mobile reload, today we pay govt over 25 rupees. Gold Leaf, a popular cigarette brand actually costs company less than 70 rupees to manufacture, 70 more goes to government and its sold at 140 rupees with more price increases on the way. The point is mister, things like these are sold in millions every single day, and all that money is going to the government. If its going towards timely payment of government employees, OK they’ve earned it, but many times we see strikes due to non payment of monthly incomes or pensions. If it is going towards payment of electricity we need to import to help our needs that is OK but we still get load shedding. If it is going towards building of more infrastructure that is OK, but all I’ve seen in development in big cities like Lahore, Industrial hubs like Faisalabad are left to rot, and are rewarded with exactly one mega project in the last 10 years, if it is going towards cleaning of our cities that is OK, but have you visited Karachi?. AND after that you are telling me that this money that you and I paid for, is being used to make companies and houses for one man and one man only? No, sorry, you may have money to spare but my life has been made more difficult by these “democratic” governments.
    Gender gaps exists, racism exists, issues like these need to be resolved, do you expect someone who steals your money to help you fix issues like these? I certainly don’t. These issues will not be solved without providing proper education to our population. Do you expect this government to pay attention to education when it is so focused on mega projects specifically to get votes, not to uplift the country, and more importantly, a PM who is thinking about ways he can siphon more money into his own business?

    I tried to give Nawaz Shariff a chance, but with this judgement on Panama gate I’m certain that all is not clear. If there is even a slightest chance that PM has done something wrong I want him to pay for doing something wrong to my country and I would never trust such a man to an important position like Prime Minister.Recommend

  • Talhah

    Loved the piece..very well written objective analysis!!!..it is typical PTI self righteousness, focusing on micro issues and never thinking about macro issues.Recommend

  • Humza

    So many people who once supported PTI have left in droves because Imran Khan and his devotees have shown that they have no agenda apart from promoting anarchy and seizing power at all costs – even if that means scaring away the Chinese President or investors.I find the one track agenda of using nasty language, crying and hysteria downright childish. It serves no purpose when Imran Khan is hardly a paragon of perfection in terms of his personal life and character. Whether forgetting his own off shore account, refusing to appear in US courts when summoned about his daughter from Sita White, getting married in the midst of APS massacre, launching endless street dharnas to harm the country’s economy and image or just making claims with no substance like being offered 10 billion to shut up! It;s got nothing to do with corruption or Panama Leaks or anything except for Imran Khan to become PM at all costs and the country be damned. Confused PTI followers have yet to see the light but they will in due course. I did. The big picture is what matters and hopefully it will dawn on everyone just by seeing Imran Khan flanked by characters like Sheikh Rashid, the runaway preacher Tahirul Qadri or Mustafa Khar ! If these icons of “integrity and character” are with Imran Khan- enough said !Recommend

  • dd

    corruption and unjustice is the main problem of pakistan. i dont say Imran Khan is a good leader and Nawaz is bad but he almost sold all our resouces to IMF for his dirty black money and make every Pakistani indebted. I don’t have any help with Nawaz’s so cold project. He just did it for his own wealth and not for us. if PTI want 1 chance for any better changes in Pakistan so why you people become insane.
    Go nawaz GoRecommend

  • Mohsin Khan

    Its disturbing to me that a qualified individual such as yourself thinks that singular focus on the PM over panama gate is unwarranted. None of the Pakistani’s on that list today are the Prime Minister of the country. The PM of the nation is charged with stashing billions of Rupees of tax payer money and you think fighting for justice is a petty issue? It is even more disturbing that you would like to use difference in population and culture as reasons for not drawing parallels with the PM of Ireland. This is an issue of ethics, not comparative politics. I am not a big fan of the PTI based on much of what’s gone down over the last three years, but I also don’t have my head so far up PML N’s backside to understand basic concepts in ethics.Recommend

  • Arsalan

    Not a PTI fan or troll. But I think Imran Khan has started choosing big names because now he knows without electable he cannot win elections. He won KPK and gave two important posts to Asad Qaiser and Pervaiz Khattak. In Punjab he gave tickets to new guys and failed. Look at recent by election trends. PTI has given tough competition with having electable rather than some unknown.Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    only lollypop promises from PTI and did nothing in KPK during last 4 years. If Govt of Punjab can build 5 medical colleges in Punjab during last 5 years why KPK govt could not built even a single new medical college in kpk while he claims no corruption in kpk.Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    4th artcle against IK? Dude you have nothing to say about Panama or Crime Minister?Recommend

  • Arsalan

    And here comes supporter of Nawaz and sons, well you say corruption is not an issue in Pakistan, what were you thinking when you were writing this?? have you ever been to any government office or police station or school, even if you have anything that can be solved legally we still have to pay for that. Corruption is destroying us just take a look at the situation in sindh even to get a sepoy post in police you have to pay the price directly to bilawal house.Recommend

  • Akram Sawleh

    Very well analyzed Raza. Kudos to this well written piece :)Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    The latest gem to come from PTI Chief Imran Khan entails accusations that the prime minister had offered him 10 billion rupees to stay mum on the Panama case. Any sensible person will merely laugh at this absurd claim by the great Khan.

    And one guesses that you include yourself in the sensible category? There are many like you that they still believe that the sharifs are a honest lot despite the request being made by the sister in law to the Prime Minister to return the illegal money to the Treasury. Imran Khan is not a professional politician but as yet not been proven a dishonest individual, the title given to the Prime Minister by the two sc justices.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Abdul moiz

    Just because a developed nation does something, doesn’t mean a developing Nation can’t be expected to do the same
    People eat burgers in Iceland, Pakistanis eat burgers too, people are expected to be honest in Iceland as well as Pakistan, People poop in iceland as well as Pakistan and YES Shady prime Ministers involved in corruption and fraud are Expected to Resign in PAKISTAN as Well as ICELAND
    Pakistan may be poor in gender equality and press freedom and plagued with religious confusion and sectarianism and illiteracy and whatever else you wish to point out to bury Nawaz’s stealing issue, it won’t change the fact that nawaz is a involved in a lot of Purloining and it will be a positive step for pakistan to get him OustedRecommend

  • Sheraz Khalid


  • RHR

    Rex what are you smoking these days Recommend

  • RHR

    It is but not the top one and Panama leaks certainly is not worth the obsession. All of holy are obsessed because of our media which for the last year has just focused on this.

  • RHR

    Actually 10th article! Although I don’t have much to say about Panama but I have a lot to say about gender inequality, religious extremism, intolerance etc. Those are kind of issues which PTI walas don’t care forRecommend

  • RHR

    Sure basic concepts in ethics! I love this term! Lets see this passion for ethics in other issues also. Recommend

  • RHR

    I am for real. Loved your rant Recommend

  • RHR

    Noman Ansari is a well meaning guy. This has nothing to do with him. By the way at least he is critical of IK. Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    Chance is there in KPK for PTI. IK needs to show his performance and then leave this ti voters in 2018 election then everything will be clear for all. why this hy & cry at this stageRecommend

  • RHR

    Thank you Sir.Recommend

  • RHR

    In so called corruption which is your “top” issue , Pakistan has actually made improvement from being ranked in 143 to 116.
    And if this is indeed so much important then why not demand accountability of everyone including public audit of all. If you know what I mean…This entire campaign is just to dislodge one person over “corruption” allegedly committed decades agoRecommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    Gender inequality, religious extremism, intolerance these all linked with corruption of ruling elite. Our prime minister was in cabinet of Zia ul Haq and in fact was his blue eyed boy when these diseases were sowed in society, which you named above. You, “young intellectual children” of elite must understand the root cause of this cancer.Recommend

  • RHR

    Hi PTI troll!Recommend

  • Andy Rabi

    Mr.Raja, you said we have problems such as gender disparity and extremism, what you fail to realize is that to solve those problems, we need to eliminate corruption and favoritism first. Saying that corruption is not a big problem is wrong. Corruption is the root cause of all our problems.Recommend

  • Lakhkar Khan


    You nailed it. There are so many things NOT to support Mr. Niazi. There are so many similarities between him and US President Donald Trump. To cease power, they both will lie, cheat, support worse to gain votes. Donald Trump, for example, sweets up to the white racist “Alt right”, I can go on and on. Shame how Mr. Niazi is fooling the people of Pukhtunkha. Maybe the rest of Pakistanis are a lot smarter than the people of my home province, Pukhtunkha or just he is just so good of an actor.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    I have a lot to say about gender inequality, religious extremism, intolerance

    Genders provide separate identity and not equality, there is no such thng as religious extremism perhaps you mean the instrumentalisation of religion by extremists . Besides any tolerence does not equal to acceptance. The centre of gravity in a society revolves around the integrity of the individual which must not be violated and should be the subject of your writings.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • hasnain khan

    Your sentiment is highly wrong
    we the ppl who dont get education suffering from heck of Ignorance And unemployment is just all and all due to corruption Whether it is Economical or ethical

  • Rex Minor

    This entire campaign is just to dislodge one person over “corruption” allegedly committed decades ago.

    This one person happens to be the God father of the entire Shrif clan which has institutionalised corruption as the trade mark for personal gains. Such crimes in a country of law do not carry an expiry date.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rida Adnan Khan

    You don’t like PTI, okay your choice but then don’t write such article with no contentRecommend

  • RHR

    You don’t like the article, okay your choice but then don’t read and don’t commentRecommend

  • RHR

    Really how? Recommend

  • RHR

    Rex what are you smoking these days?Recommend

  • Saim Ali

    Dude. Just stop. Please. Recommend

  • Shahbaz

    When you have nothing concrete and logical to say in return all you can do is pretend to love the remarks!Recommend

  • Shahbaz

    Very Well Said!Recommend

  • Patwari

    The man need to go and live with his
    Godfather in Saudia. He can take the rest of his family, including Maryam, Humza, his vizier Chotta Sharif Shahbaz, and Kalsoom. Including the mali [gardener] the khaansamah [cook] and all the assorted hanger ons.
    It will be Adios and Sayonara.
    His sell date, shelf life, discard date, expired in the 90’s. He need to go, pronto.
    They can rent a Boeing 747, Easy enough when you have US 4 $billion dollars
    salted away, in foreign accounts. Pack it and be gone. Saudia, hours away.
    Phateechar Khan, [Jemima Goldsmith’s husband]
    does not get to climb up on the throne. Nope.
    He is, simply put,…’ain’t no PM’….. material. But he can be a court jester,
    in the next Darbar. Gullu Butt can write him a ‘parchi’ [recommendations]Recommend

  • Sane

    NAYA PAKISTAN what Imran Khan thinks is a Pakistan free from corrupt and looters politicians and bureaucrats.Recommend

  • Sane

    On 10 crore allegation by Imran Khan, why not Sharifs take him to court? What they are afraid of?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Phateechar Khan made promises to the
    family of Aitzaz Hassan. The teenager
    who saved the lives of more than 250
    fellow students at his school. And gave his
    life in the process.
    Phateechar promised his family a monthly
    stipend. So far not a single ruppee has been
    given to them.
    So another name,… No Remember Khan?
    Miserable Khan?Recommend

  • Ahmar

    I was being sarcastic lol. Both of you are great writers and two of my favorite.Recommend

  • Papadam

    Same Nawaz who made backroom deals to leave the Sharif Family members, Sharif businesses and Punjab alone, rest of the country is yours to do what you like. Same Nawaz, known as the portege of Zia-ul-Haq
    Currently there is a parallel justice system in Punjab. These are Sharia Courts. Run by banned outfits. All over Punjab. Including Lahore.
    Coming back to Nawaz, he is the same man, who wanted to negotiate
    . Until Gen. Raheel went ahead and
    started the military operation. Without Nawaz’s approvalRecommend

  • only truth is nature

    Imran may be un-wise but he is sincere and honest’.He does not deserve to be insulted my dear patwari!Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    They are committed,devoted lot,if not very wise.Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    Poor answer!! Recommend

  • ImranJutt

    Always thought good foreign education especially in a well establish US institution could really help people but then I see the writer of this article.

    Same $0.02 we always hear from bloodee fake liberals of Pakistan who’s strings are being pulled by Indians via K Street Washington lobbyists.Recommend