Why Imran Khan’s HARDtalk interview would make every Pakistani cringe

Published: June 17, 2018

Leaders and polished politicians are frequently called masters of the art of spin. They use this ‘spin doctrine’ in debates and interviews to satisfy the viewers, all the while deflecting from the real questions being asked. Similarly, even second-tier politicians know that defensive body language like hand-wringing, arms folded across the chest, clenched fists or narrowed eyes should be avoided during interviews, so as to seem collected in their responses.

But perhaps Imran Khan is not a seasoned politician yet, or he simply is not good at being asked critical questions.

His recent interview to Zeinab Badawi, the host of the famous BBC show HARDtalk, proves this statement. Imran – the darling of the Pakistani media who is not accustomed to giving a genuine interview loaded with critical questions – seemed helpless during the show. On the other hand, Badawi was successful in highlighting that Imran and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are only limited to sloganeering.

To start off, Imran was asked why he is sure of his electoral win in the upcoming elections, as recent surveys still show the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ahead of the PTI and expected to win. He simply responded that surveys are never an accurate indicator for anyone winning the polls.

Fair enough.

However, while answering a question later regarding his party’s government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Imran referred to surveys which showed his party’s popularity in K-P – the same surveys which he earlier suggested offer no indication of reality on the ground.

This was not a one-off event; Imran appeared rather clueless in the entire interview. When Badawi suggested PTI’s manifesto is not different from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or the PML-N, Imran had no logical argument to counter that. On being questioned regarding missing persons and human rights violations, Imran sounded ill-informed. Likewise, on a question asking why he lives in a 300-acre luxurious house and talks about the slums of Pakistan, Imran had no answer other than saying he acquired the Bani Gala through white money.

The most interesting part of the entire interview, however, was to see a flustered Imran struggle with answering Badawi’s questions regarding PTI’s performance in K-P. Quoting PPP leader Khursheed Shah’s statement, which questioned how a party that could not create a few thousand jobs in K-P during its five-year tenure would create 10 million jobs in the whole country, Badawi asked Imran to comment. Imran’s response – that being his political opponent Khursheed has to pass such remarks – was disheartening to watch.

After prompting him to talk about his party’s performance in K-P, Badawi asked Imran how many hospitals and schools were constructed, or clean drinking facilities provided during PTI’s tenure in K-P, if any at all. Imran’s response was that his party is “very popular” in K-P and will win the elections once again. He did his best to avoid answering the question, but as this was a BBC show, there was no hope of any pressure on the channel to not ask such “tough” questions.

This interview proved what some people in the country, particularly those who live in the province, have known for a while – PTI has nothing considerable to show for its performance in K-P. Imran may have celebrity charm in his favour and millions of devoted fans, but politics is not all about charm or blind followers. To get votes, one has to be able to claim some progress, and Imran has failed miserably on that front.

During PTI’s five years in government, Imran was busy bashing the PML-N and PPP and showing his love for street agitation. While his dharnas wasted the time, energy and resources of our nation, all to try and topple the PML-N government, it is evident through this interview that nothing was being done in K-P. After all, Imran could not claim having built a single university, or any significant improvement in hospitals, structural reforms, or infrastructural projects. His lack of response makes one doubt the veracity of the billion tsunami project, as well as the 350 dams that have allegedly been built but do not seem to exist.

In the entire interview, Imran could be seen getting defensive, and yet he remained unable to prove any single point in favour of PTI’s performance in K-P. On the contrary, his diversions from the questions and his U-turns from positions stated by him earlier on in the conversation (such as his contradictory response on the surveys), all showed that Imran still has a long way to go to learn the art of speaking rationally.

Perhaps Imran needs to realise he cannot grow in stature simply by declaring all his opponents to be dwarfs incapable of governing the country, especially when he cannot even govern a province. This interview has proved that apart from those who blindly follow him, the world has a clear view of the dismal performance the PTI has delivered thus far. Instead of simply making tall claims, it’s time for Mr Khan to do some real work.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

The writer is a columnist and writes for various English and Urdu publications. He tweets at @rjimad (twitter.com/rjimad)

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

  • voidist

    at last a first proper assesment of khans performance…The whole thing was so stage managed to far , that it looked an outright farceRecommend

  • Zainab Khan

    So on the basis of one single interview dear author you concluded that pti has delivered nothing in KP!!.
    How convenient is that for you!!Recommend

  • Fahad

    Imran khan had the courage to give an interview! Ask Nawaz or Zardari if they can? Last time i saw Nawaz’s son give an interview to Hardtalk where he accidentally spilled the beans! hahaRecommend

  • F J

    Writer’s bias against PTI is pretty obvious as he completely refutes all the recent opinions news articles no other than published by Dawn underling the improvement in the KPK structure. We as a nation have become accustomed to seeing development of roads and infrastructure as the only goal, whereas social amelioration is seen as unimportant thing. Maybe the elite of this country wants it to be like this as they can afford their medical and education.

    Yes, we can agree that IK wasn’t aware of the facts and figures which is wrong on his part considering he is contesting for the premiership. This ill preparedness pins his attitude but we can never compare him with others who just read what is mentioned on the paper.Recommend

  • Dr Haroon Khan

    I agree, IK struggled to answer the questions properly and he should have done his home work prior to the interview. But in no way , does it demonstrate that his government has not done enough. Even the mention of the 1 billion trees would be one such answer. Along with improvement in the infrastructure in health and education. Mr writer, one does not need to build new hospitals or universities, just for the sake of it to show to the world. Improving the standards of our universities is what’s needed the most.
    Sitting in a place other than Pukhtunkhwa, to comment that no progress made in Pukhtunkhwa is indeed a farce, than the other way round.Recommend

  • Khuds

    I’m not a pti fan, but this article is highly biased against pti and based on one instance of the survey the writer has opined that imran khan was backtracking on his words. All i understand from this article is that I’ll have to watch the interview myself to form my own opinion.
    Also I don’t like Imran khan much and I agree that there’s not going to be any humungous ‘tabdeli’ but can’t deny that he has really been the man behind the wave of accountability sweeping the nation.Recommend

  • Humayun Iqbal

    I Think the Nation has seen enough of this Drama done by IK since 2013 and above all his tall claims have been demolished by none other than himself ..Mr U.Turn claimed all these Years about Crouption and Status Que but in the end he’s also from the same Bunch of Rotten Eggs looking to hatch under the wings of any Hen ..Recommend

  • Humayun Iqbal

    The Whole World has seen the 100 Billon tress from the Space as they are not to be seen in KP from Planet Earth But on the other hand a great job has been done by IK and the Crimnal bunch around him to Pocket that money ..Great IK full marks to you and your cronies.Recommend

  • Patwari101

    “Imran – the darling of the Pakistani media who is not accustomed to giving a genuine interview loaded with critical questions – seemed helpless during the show.”

    Joke of the century. Thanks for making me laughRecommend

  • Abdul Qayyum

    Well, if the nation has set their heart upon Imran as PM whether he has performed or not then let the nation taste the dish.Recommend

  • Shah Hussain

    Being a doctor and having association with PTI, as vice President Insaf Doctors Forum the truth is that PTI’Govt in KPK has failed miserably and nothing Major is done but yes everything is done and completed on social media and electronic media which is being heavily paid by PTI. …Anyone give me the logical answer that how is Imran living such a Lavish life with the fact that he has retired 27 years ago and having no other Business and neither he is a Landlord. ..From where all this money is coming ?Can somebody help me to live a royal life without any Job, Business or Paternal Landlordship? ?If yes, please help me so that I can leave My job of being a doctor and live a life like him. ..Recommend

  • Shah Hussain

    How can one defend such a person who has taken an U TURN of 360 degrees from the manifesto for which the party was formed…It was against status quo but now it has become a part of that status quo…It has collected in its arms all the filth and garbage from every party as was done by Musharraf under the Umbrella of Q League …My opinion is all these politicians from A to Z are corrupt and are aiming to get Wealth, Power, Chair and Protocol by making people fool in the name of Sab sy pehly Pakistan, Roti kapra aur Makaan, Islam ka Nifaz, Tabdeeli, Vote ko Izzat dou, Qoomiyat and much more…No one is sincere with the poor Awaam…Recommend

  • Faisal Zeeshan

    wow what a article…!!!Recommend

  • Ali Asgher

    Initially I thought this article would provide a critical examination of Imran’s interview quoting his answers to different questions but as it turned out, this is nothing more than a typical unyielding bashing of a particular person and a party.Recommend

  • zeeshan haider

    We chose the two parties against PTI i.e pmln and ppp 4 times in fedral and provincial assemblies but unfortunately their performance is less than zero.
    I think PT lower performance in kp due to ik busy in Panama case against Sharif etc.

    But interestingly the lower performance in kp compare with full performance of another party leadrs in their respective province is on top of the list.
    So pti and imran Khan is best for next government. Only IK is our first and last hope. If he could not change Pakistani fortune then no one can do that…..Recommend

  • Amer Lodi

    A very biased article to be fair…Recommend

  • sajid

    the Writer wants Zardari & Nawaz should come again so Pakistan GDP would be 10 to 15% .Recommend

  • Dani

    Okay IK has failed in this interview (if you say so) but how can that justify pml n or ppp. Yes an envelope from these 2 can sure justify how angelic nawaz has been and what a perfect opposition khursheed was doing.

    When our Creator has allowed one to spend one’s own money the way they want, who are we to question why he is living in acres and not marlas? That is his own decission. We as public or government can only question if the source is clear or not and in this case it is.

  • jaguarwarrior300

    First of all every Pakistani will cringe after reading this biased blog not after watching the interview.
    Secondly, most of the people would comment their views without even reading the complete blog.
    Thirdly, very few people would read this biased blog and then watch the complete interview.
    Finally, in my personal opinion IK is the only politician who could give a decent reply in International as well as national media without holding chits and he has the confidence to give such interviews as in Hardtalk.Recommend

  • Junaid Anjum

    That sir is the best answer that I have read in a long long time. Thank You for making my day.Recommend

  • fARooq…

    If he had nothing to offer, why would he choose to sit in the show. Moreover, there is only one politician who appeared on this show twice..Recommend

  • Muhammad Ali

    the interviewer needs more expereince to question Imran Khan. She is as poor as the writer of this articleRecommend

  • Osama HT

    He said,
    Terrorism has been declined and its result in decrease in poverty. 70% Industries were closed back in 2013 but now they’re open. All credits to Kp police. That’s the employment part.
    Herald surveys explains and covers the whole health achievements by kpk govt.
    He didn’t have to provide each single and tiny detail but he conveyed his stance beautifully in this interview. Kpk govt has become more popular because they have fulfilled their manifesto.
    t’s upto Patwaris to understand his statement.
    According to Herald survey, kp is ahead of other provinces.Recommend

  • Zaid Khan

    Yes. Let’s nation taste PTI rule too and see if they are in different. May have very minor difference as it appears as their tactics are similar to traditional parties.Recommend

  • Abdul W khan

    Pti had done a lot in KPK at least far more than other parties who had a chance in power before pti in KP. Now to all Pakistanis I have a question to ask, do we have any better choice than Imran khan as we had been disappointed heavily by the corrupt mafia called PPP and PMLN in the past. If we beat the same bushes again and again same mice will come out. Thanks and God be with you.Recommend

  • Junaid

    Well i am not a political analyst but having watched the full interview even i can say that there wasnt any single proper leading answer by the ik .building trees in northern areas is his top priorty can only highlight is ethnicity to lead a nation thank uRecommend

  • Kril

    The day he took in Amir Liquat, was the day I stopped supporting Imran Khan.Recommend

  • SAFA

    I have never been a fan of IK. I have seen PPP, NOON,Q& 2 Marshall law Govt. For the first time somebody has raised voice against these corrupts mafias. They made billions through Political Business. All the political parties are literally crying with pain though NOON feeling more.Recommend

  • Anon

    If someone of this intelligence was vice president of the Insaf Doctors Forum, then yes, it definitely seems like PTI has done something horribly wrong in the medical field!Recommend

  • Anon

    You just have to look at ‘More by this writer’ to get a sense of how balanced and accurate this article is!Recommend

  • Jamal Abbasi

    Things which make Imran Khans opponents/voters dislike him
    1- Zero Performance
    2- False Promises
    3- No clear vision of governance
    4- No broader political insight essentially required for a National Level Leader
    5- Morally challenged in sight of general publics ethical and general values
    6- Financial Corruption
    7- Dishonesty
    8- Anti democratic perspective
    9- Drug addiction
    10- No self control

    Things which make Imran Khans allies/voters support him
    1- Supported by deep state
    2- Able to use social media OR 5th generation war tactics for targets achievement
    3- Playboy personality
    4- Limited approach beneficial for specific groups
    5- Incapacity to watch-over or lead a strong team due to lack of intelligence

    All of the above can be defended logically and very strongly so if any one has any observation can comment with their political opinion or insight, this will either educate me to be more correct or enlighten them (which may be a stretch keeping in view of PTI blind supporters) to understand better

    Please do not put futile effort to malign me in person for having a personal and clear political & tactical opinion and insight since it will only disable me and others to actually acquire any correct insight of current National crisis.

    If Imran Khan fails the elections (which he apparently will) it will and should be a very dangerous indication for the deep state, It will enlighten them of their weak and failed approach to tackle a tiny issue of local politics in comparison to the current global political crisis and us being in the midst of a 5th generation international war.
    Thank you.
    Pakistan ZindabaadRecommend

  • Dr. Abdul Razaque

    Are you vice president of InsafDoctors? where? May I know please?Recommend

  • Dr. Abdul Razaque

    You(Dr. shah Hussain) must have first ability like Imran khan then think dream to live like legend Imran KhanRecommend

  • Dr. Abdul Razaque

    Agreed upon you Amer Lodi sahibRecommend

  • khalid saeed

    It is unfair to call politicians as corrupt. The entire Pakistani society is corrupt in one or other manner. Where will you bring honest people to run the country?Recommend

  • khalid saeed

    I only wished if there was a direct debate among political leaders on TV prior to election so that people can themselves judge and see the capabilities of the leaders they are supporting. Recommend

  • Rizwan

    Can you not make out plain and simple. He blasted all others only because of jealousy and arrogance. He wants an equal share in loot and plunder which has been pinching him for years and realizes the only way for him to achieve is by amassing numbers and not by sticking to principles. So he’s made a huge shift and already welcome choicest lotas n rotten eggs who will enable him to reap his share of billions and offcourse will let his cronies to make even more from the poor nation.Recommend

  • LittleBlackDust

    Yes. Of course. He made mistake so it must be proper. Imran Khan has done for kpk in the past 5 years what our “leaders” couldn’t do for Pakistan since they took over the country more than 30 years ago.. You must be in opposite party. Am I wrong? You aren’t? 😅Recommend

  • LittleBlackDust

    You obviously aren’t updated to the news. Parents in kpk in the recent 4 years have been transferring their children from private to government education because the education has developed so much. He’s living a lavish life? Dude, he would be living a lavish life if he would leave politics then his neck would disappear as well just like the other fatso’s of this country. He’s rich because he was a billionaire cricket player in his youth and obviously he invested some of his money from that time. He was also married to Jemimah who is a VVVIP in her country so maybe some money is from her. At least none of his money is stolen from the country or taken through debt in the name of the country like how maryam nawaz stole 1.3 billion rupees in the name of women education and had no answer where it went when asked by the court. Lol.
    I get it that you might another patriot but listen, those country has seen worse. We can’t possibly get sink lower. The only way is up now. We have tried our luck with every corrupt idiot so how about someone who hasn’t faced any corruption charges. Things couldn’t possibly get worse.Recommend

  • LittleBlackDust

    He doesn’t really have any control in the other provinces. You think that if he went to Punjab or sindh to plant trees he would be welcomed with open arms? They mocked him when he lost the elections five years ago that he couldn’t even handle the government of kpk. This man proved them wrong so in a way his answer is understandable. IMORecommend

  • LittleBlackDust

    IK already has the things that you mentioned our politicians strive for.Recommend

  • Sum Ding Wong

    U have a good point doctor. How does he afford a life of luxury and pvt jets. Why isn’t anyone asking these very relevant questions?Recommend

  • ziaulislam khan

    So you prefer zardari how says “NAB kee kya majal hey” or nawaz sharif or bilawal bhutto supporting 400 killer murderous outlaw like Roa, or your former PM saying “people can leave the country if they want..live on BBC..my question is who are you comparing him to? i shake my head in disbelieve how the educated class is behaving..Recommend

  • shams muzammal

    Highly Biased article. Every article of this writer is anti PTI.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The people of KP have over the past few decades not voted a political part back to power because they were dissatisfied with their performance …… this time, even PTI’s enemies conceded that PTI will be voted back in KP ….. that was the point being made in the interview but Badawi chose to gloss over that.
    In such interviews the interviewer plays the devils advocate in order to make the program interesting …… and Badawi was tough. For you to draw big ( I will not say biased ) conclusions from a single interview certainly indicates where you’re coming from.Recommend

  • imran gorija

    This is true that khan couldn’t make his impression in the interview as he usually does in much planned local tv shows with his choice of anchors. But still this column could have put a far better impression on reader’s mind than what it’s doing right now.Recommend

  • Voiceof Reason

    Some people do good not for the recognition but because it is the right thing to do. Such people may find it hard to remember all they have done.
    As a politician though Imran needs to promote the impact his party has had and tell the world about it. This is the sort of change we need in this countryRecommend

  • Muhammad Irfan

    Things could be right as this article showing IK. But one thing we really need to understand that what we have learnt as a Nation. All these leaders representing us means Nation. So we really need to change ourselves, One thing i really Support said by IK human development. Education! is the only way you can bring the change in your life and society as well. So being a Muslim Nation we really need to work on our education system . Bring QURAN to your syllabus with translation from day one and equality to the education system.”I think Competition can overcome all these disabilities”Recommend

  • Patwari

    What about when Maryam’s papa, the Darbari from Raiwind Palace, put her in charge of the ‘Youth Entrepreneur Scheme’ …of Rs. One Billion!! With no
    oversight!! Like running your personal bank…worth one billion rupees.
    She quit when the Lahore High Court asked to see her two degrees!!Recommend

  • Patwari

    If you make a left at the door, go down the lane, you will come
    to your rightful destination. The madrassa.
    Ask the Qari to help you with your annunciation. Piece of cake.Recommend

  • Sami Ullah

    and look mr writer…he is a great player…we all know that…a player a game changer….who has passion…passion for winning…sportsmanship…courage…leadership…tolerance….and a game changer…he changed the game for…us…and we dont want…any more politicians..or military rulers here….i work in dhq hospital hangu…but in tge past worked in khyber teaching and lady reading hospital ….and now when i see them the services they provide..and the services we provide…are extraordinary…let me give you an examplr…my uncle had heart attack and in 2004..i was searching like a mad man across different pharmacies..in kohat..to get inj streptokinase..( i was a med student in khyber med college).and i got it in back…and look ..now in hangu a category c hospital….far below the standards of kohat dhq hospital..we provide that rs 5000 injection for free…


  • Israr Khan

    imad a ppp jiyala was badly hurt when IK did not take khusheed’s comments seriously and that too was a wrong comment, how can BBC come unprepared .. IK created 40,000 new jobs for teachers and about 15000 green jobs that again i know as they are getting paid helping growing trees, new forest guards and plant growers are employed … its sad when an aweeen shaween anchors come with bbc or cnn name not taking top leaders of under developed countries seriously …
    this lady should have come prepared and listen to these questions IK would have realised that she has not done any research.
    Lastly Imad and ppl like u there are only two things u have to look in ur leader and if u can find them in any other leader other than IMRAN KHAN then please vote them :)
    honest because we trust him with our money and he spends them exactly how he said he will, on poors on patients and needy and he has delivered the proves are standing tall in lahore mianwali and peshawar with one under construction in karachi
    2nd is SENSITIVE u know y we like IK ? because he feels our pain he feels he opens his heart out he shares his experiences and he comes fw to help ppl hurt .. he feels our pain that is what i need in my leader … Recommend

  • voidist