Imran Khan’s nemesis: The Parliamentary system

Published: November 4, 2011

Even though the PTI rally was a raging success, this still doesn't mean that Imran Khan will win the elections. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Those previously in doubt of Imran Khan’s growing popularity must have either slept through the whole of Sunday, or exiled themselves in to a state of oblivion to be still holding on to their flawed perceptions. To say that PTI’s October 30 rally was a success is probably an understatement.

The sea of people in attendance (near 100,000 according to estimates) in the main heartland of Punjab was not just a slap on arch rival PML-N’s face and evidence of support for PTI, but it also symbolized the growing aspiration for change amongst the population. The slogan Imran the only hope for Pakistan’ probably captured the sentiments best.

PML-N leader Pervez Rashid, in his response to the rally, was quick to conclude that all recent public gatherings are reflective of people’s desire for change, but what he fails to take in to account is who they consider to be the agent of it. To compliment the success of political rallies, numerous research results have also declared Imran to be head and shoulders above the rest of his political rivals in terms of popularity. Yet despite these constant reinforcements the scepticism still remains; can the support translate in to votes?

Many political pundits would do well in not risking their credibility by answering this question, though the question in itself has considerable merit. From the looks of it the biggest bane that stands out for Imran is the prevalent Parliamentary System in itself. Had Pakistan been following a Presidential form of government whereby the head of state is a direct elect of the people, PTIs rally could very well have been just another stamp on the growing authority of Imran, and the certainty of him being the strongest contender to take the helm of affairs come next election.

However, unlike the Presidential form of government, in the Parliamentary System it is rarely ever enough to be a popular leader with mass appealing ideals to secure a position as the country’s Premier. The onus of electing the Prime Minister lies with the members of the National Assembly, who in turn are themselves elected by a popular vote from different constituencies in the country. Hence, one man’s ideals and leadership need to be transformed into that of a group strong enough to project the same at the grass root electoral level. Quite literally put, Imran Khan will need to put together a squad strong enough and big enough to capture a majority of the 272 directly elected seats in the NA to translate his support to votes.

The conundrum for Imran though lies in that most of the established names in Pakistani politics are tried and tested representatives who have failed their public. More worrisome is the fact that those amongst them who pass his selection criteria are even far and few. Hence we might be left with PTI’s most viable, and possibly only option; put up candidates – albeit free of corruption, as unknown commodities, and hope that come election day, the voters can turn a blind eye to the names and stamp the ‘chiragh’  (lamp) in support of who they consider their actual leader i.e. Imran Khan.


Aun Ansari

Aun at present is a Fulbright scholar pursuing a Master's degree in Communication Management at Emerson College, Boston USA. He completed his graduation from LUMS, Lahore in 2009 on the Dean's List.

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

  • faraz

    Imran can’t produce 900 candidates in a year. He should include every lota in his party except for the notoriously corrupt. There is no such thing as corruption free candidate; it’s a struggle for power, not philanthropy. No candidate can survive without hiring a bunch of goons; the young supporter must recognize the realities of constituency politics. And there is no magical solution to the economy; and economy cannot run on remittances. A bankrupt state cannot have an honorable foreign policy; relations are defined by balance of power. US can attack Iraq, kill a million and walk away smiling; but we can’t launch Ajmal Kasabs in other countries. Anyways, our foreign and defense policy is run by the army; Imran won’t be allowed to come near to it. Corruption can’t be proved; existing politicians aren’t foolish enough to leave receipts of illegal embezzlement of funds. This grand accountability plan is also hollow rhetoric. After becoming Prime minister, if Imran controls corruption at the highest level and doesn’t involve in mega scandals, it should be considered a success.Recommend

  • Teeth Maestro

    You say

    “come election day, the voters can turn a blind eye to the names and stamp the ‘chiragh’ (lamp) in support of who they consider their actual leader i.e. Imran Khan.”leader i.e. Imran Khan.”

    Allow me to remind you the behavior of the voting public, its sad, but a stark reality

    No matter who MQM puts on the Ballot Paper – Millions have stamped the “Kite” since 85

    No matter who PPP puts on the Ballot Paper in 2008 – Millions stamped “Arrow

    So – it might not be that umimaginable – come election day, with the tidal wave of change, the Symbol becomes the power of change and not the candidate

    that said – PTI has to go through a rigrous process of selecting credible candidates leader i.e. Imran Khan.” Recommend

  • jameel

    People change and so do parties. Let us give us a chance. Not giving a chance to a party is against the democracy. The role of the party members is or has been very restricted. I don’t want a good MNA/MPA. I want a good Prime minister.Recommend

  • Imran Kamyana

    When I was a kid I used to listen a particular slogan “Zalimo ! Qazi aa raha he”, now after years the phenomena has been translated into something like “Imran! The only hope”
    Same class basis, same sponsors!

    Good old right wing tablet coated this time into green sweet syrup and packed into shiny colorful rapper! Recommend

  • Saif

    Faraz you me be correct in your analysis. However, Pakistan as an entity would not survive if we keep on doing what we have done for the last 6 decades. IK, out of the given lot, could possibly bring a positive change.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    @Faraz Sb. What you think is like a typical Pakistani who wants change but cannot think of it positively. Look at the past of nations like China – Turkey (not very past ?) the most common thing has been they ‘stood up’ and they had good leader(s). Currently we are in need of a true leader who can lift the nation. Imran has no magic stick but he at least has the WILL to change the corrupt system that has been only in the hands of few families and Army since independence.Recommend

  • watching dream through imran,s eye

    i think u did not see the captaincy of imran khan and i have only three words for u WAIT AND WATCH.everything will be cleared in upcoming election if fair election happens Recommend

  • Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    You have rightly pointed out that Imran had better chances in a presidential system, though by no means would that have been a slam-dunk either. He has skeletons in his personal closet and they come out at times like these. In my view, however, a parliamentary system is a better form of democracy as it can be more focused on ideology and less on personality. It is a pity that thus far Pakistani politics has not taken advantage of this. Personalities, even the best of them, have a way of going awry. The problem with Imran and his party is that they have not worked on this. It is all about Imran and not about building a party. I disagree with Faraz above that the only way to build a party is to take turncoats and corrupt local bosses in. There is also a different path—that of taking in very competent people, who may not sweep the election the first time around but would win a few seats, make a difference and then win the second election on the basis of merit and in larger numbers. But in order for Imran to do this he would have to listen to those people, who may be more competent than he is, and respect them and allow them to have as much input as he does in the party. This is where he fails miserably. There are examples of people like Usman Tarakai (who won his election against Asfandyar Wali as an independent) who are in politics to serve—he housed 6000 IDPs on his own property–and did other good works in his area. But PTI will never be able to lure people like that because of Imran’s ego issues and the fact that he has surrounded himself with people who like to worship him and constantly inflate that ego—that is why they get so worked up on the internet every time anyone says anything slightly critical. Haven’t you noticed: they always use the words: Join Imran. Not join PTI. If Imran were not around tomorrow, there would be no PTI. Other parties in our country also have a long way to go in terms of building party structures but their reliance on hereditary structures and a few good men and women outside of the family get them further than PTI.Recommend

  • Mohsin Ikram

    Imran’s integrity, devotion and ability is certainly unquestionable. Selecting and putting up candidates in the next elections is one of his most challenging task and one can only wish him godspeed in his endeavours. Recommend

  • Born Again Pakistani

    The reality is no matter how honest he maybe he needs winning horses and for that he would need the one’s who dominate their areas hence corrupt politicans with proven track record of plunder. dont expect alot Recommend

  • The Reader

    @Ayesha Ijaz Khan:
    You are so cruelly opinionated! Recommend

  • Arim

    @ Ayesha Ijaz Khan: You said it better than all others.. Summed it up..Recommend

  • Areej

    Immu please implement what you preach

  • Zoaib

    @Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    With all due to respect, if you think Imran has ego issues, then you don’t know Imran at all. If he had such issues how in the world did he manage to command respect from his team in cricket? And manage to build a world class hospital, which is also Pakistan’s largest charitable organization? Surely with such ego issues, the SKMH board would not have stayed with him for so long, struggling for a near impossible feat. Please arrange a meeting with Imran himself, before you jump onto such simplistic conclusions about his character. Or maybe read his autobiography to get a better idea of what he’s all about….Recommend

  • Aahmed

    One thing is politicial harmonay. PPP, PML(N), MQM, PML(Q) and JUI, Imran was with sowrd against all these parties time to time. If you have differences with everyone on board, it is the best time to think about yourself instead of “Slapping” others.Recommend

  • Engr.Mohsin Raza

    Whatever the ‘intellectuals’ argue, I am gonna vote for Imran Khan with all my friends and family. Recommend

  • Saher

    I wholeheartedly support Imran but Ayesha has summarized it better. Ponder over it .Yes Imran has ego issues. His “holier than thou attitude” doesn’t go well with his questionable past. He has to show his plan and agendas rather than hitting Govt 24 hours a day.I don’t doubt his honesty but his political immaturity is a big question mark.Recommend

  • faraz


    China has a 2000 years old history of self-rule and Turkey has ruled Middle East and Balkans for 500 years. Both countries underwent a revolution and fought imperial powers. As nations, Chinese and Turks belong to a different league. While Pakistan got independence under Muslim League which was party of opportunist feudals and British loyalists who wanted to protect their privileges in post British era. We suffer from an identity crisis; the founder of the nation who was hated by the mullahs has been given the status of torch bearer of Islam, and he himself had contradictory views on role of religion in a state. The party which founded Pakistan simply had no socio economic agenda!

    Great leaders don’t emerge in every society. Our society isn’t politically mature. We have no history of resistance or mobilization. The middle class is stubborn and dogmatic and lacks critical thinking. There are deep sectarian, provincial, ethnic and linguistic divides in the society. People prefer patronage networks, family and clan linkages, and tribe loyalties. Institutional and vested interests are more powerful than national interests. We need to first come out of these mental, cultural and ideological barriers.

    @watching dream through imran,s eye

    In a years’ time, you will see lotas from PML-Q, PPP and PML-N taking over PTI. And I am sure, you wont find any contradiction between those lotas and the revolutionary manifesto of PTI.

    @Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    To introduce new candidates and attract competent people, a leader must have an ideology. And a comprehensive, workable and intellectually sound ideology that appeals to all segments of the society. A leader always has an inflated ego which is based on superior knowledge of history, politics and sociology. You can’t have a brilliant Trotsky working under the leadership of a naive Lenin. Our youth isn’t politically mature and expect miracles and short solutions to complex problems. For example, Imran says that come out the war on terror and everything will be fine. Now nobody will explain how should we ‘come out’? But his supporters find this solution simple, short and appealing. It reaffirms their believes that they have developed through textbook indoctrination. In Pakistan, the political and military elites can’t be displaced. Imran can’t change the power structure of the country. In Lahore, PTI had more posters than PML-N. Who do you think is paying for his campaign? Slightly better governance and lesser corruption is all he can offer.Recommend

  • Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    @ Zoaib—I have met Imran a couple of times and also know personally some of the directors on the Board of SKMT. Most of them agree with me about Imran’s ego. However the manner in which he has run SKMT–i.e., delegation, and the manner in which he has run PTI–i.e., micromanagement, is very different and hence cannot be compared. SKMT is a success and PTI—well, the less said the better.

    @ Faraz—I think you are saying some of the same things I am saying but on some things we disagree. I agree absolutely that in order to introduce new candidates and competent people, you need an ideology which PTI lacks. I think I said that already. However I do not agree that all leaders have an ego. I think some of the most successful politicians don’t have an ego—for example, Nelson Mandela. Also, in the Pakistani context, I don’t think Aitzaz Ahsan has an ego–I have met him a few times as well. I think that is the reason he was able to come up with a competent team during the lawyers’ movement. However, I agree with you that the fact that Imran says once America leaves Afghanistan everything will be ok is very naive and can only appeal to those who don’t understand the nature of the conflict within Pakistan at the moment. I agree that Imran can’t change the power structures because I think he also does not want to and that he has support from the establishment. But I do not agree that these structures can never be displaced. They can but will require a lot of work, time and a very competent team followed by masses—not a one man cult.Recommend

  • Zoaib

    @Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    As far as I know, there is a lot of dicussion and debate in the PTI CEC on major issues and Imran is often cross questioned, sometimes quite harshly. It is not the typical party meeting where everyone agrees with the leader and it doesn’t always turn out Imran’s way. For example, he was not in favor of contesting the 1997 elections, but he was over-ruled by the CEC. Of course it was a disaster because the party was barely five months old at that time but Imran respected the decision of the party. At the time of taking a decision about Musharraf after the 1999 coup, the CEC met for two days, but was not able to reach a decision. Only when a video conference was arranged with Musharraf personally and the CEC got to ask him some questions, did they decide to support him on his agenda (at that time).

    So, I would be interested to know how have you drawn the conclusion that Imran is “micro-managing” PTI and does not respect anyone’s opinion but his own.Recommend

  • Murtaza

    WE LOVE YOU AUN !!! Recommend

  • faraz

    @Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    South Africa was subject to a complex set of sanctions aimed at influencing the government to dismantle the apartheid system. In 1962 the UN passed a resolution that deemed apartheid to be a violation of South Africa’s obligations under UN Charter and a threat to international peace and security. It was not Mandela but global isolation and full blown economic crisis that ended apartheid.

    Aitzaz Ahsan is not a leader. He is a prominent lawyer and led a movement of lawyers. His naiveté can be judged from the poems he wrote about the miracles that would unfold after restoration of chief justice (state would be like Mom, dad!). The Lawyers movement was not a revolution, and restoration of chief justice had no impact on the common man’s life. Judiciary or bureaucracy can’t bring revolutions. They can’t even reform themselves.

    You are lawyer; you can better answer my question. Where is that NRO case and the letter that was to be written to Swiss courts. Is it a coincidence that the judiciary has gone silent on the NRO case since army chief got the extension and Zardari handed over complete control of foreign and security policy to the army?Recommend

  • Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    @ Zoaib—my information is coming from those who have been part of the PTI in the past but then left as well as those who are currently members. I think your information is faulty—in 1997 Imran stupidly contested from about 9 constituencies. Someone who wants to boycott doesn’t then go and contest from 9 places with no political machinery in place. If he was reluctantly contesting, as you claim, then he would be contesting from only one place, not nine. Again, it was his exaggerated sense of self-worth that led him to do that. There are many matters that I have been told about by several party members that he does as he pleases–for instance, many women in the party wanted him to support the Women Protection Bill but he did not. Many in his party did not want him to stop at the controversial and militant Akora Khattak madrassa on his way to the Peshawar dharna but he did. It is mostly one man decisions endorsed by hero-worshippers.

    @ Faraz—I did not even mention apartheid. I was referring more to Mandela’s style of leadership and personality. However, you must be the only one who thinks Mandela had nothing to do with ending apartheid. International sanctions and global isolation can be factors but without the internal struggle would have come to naught. As for Aitzaz Ahsan, again I was talking of leadership style that he demonstrated during the lawyers’ movement. At no point did I say that he brought a revolution. I don’t think you can discard the movement either though. It would be wrong to say that it has brought no change just as it would be wrong to say that it has transformed the judiciary. These things take a long time and one movement alone cannot make all the difference. It is a process and one that was crucial also to ending Musharraf’s dictatorial rule. It is not just the NRO case but many other things that remain unsorted. But at the same time, it is also the first time that high ranking bureaucrats have been called in for questioning, a sitting government’s actions being scrutinized (some believe too much), and even the intelligence being asked questions on missing persons. By no means is it enough but this is a process, as I said. Using your bar, no movement in history would match up to expectations.Recommend

  • Zoaib

    @Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    Imran did not want to contest the 1997 elections, but when the party decided to contest (as a consensus), he stood by the party decision. This is mentioned in his book as well. I don’t know why he would lie about such things, as I think not even you consider him as dishonest. Hamid Khan, one of the leaders in the lawyers’ movement, had the opinion that contesting would give the party good practice.

    About other matters, there are always two sides to a debate. But the CEC is the proper forum for it. I have yet to see any evidence that the CEC was in consensus on some issue, and Imran overruled it. Or that he disregarded the majority opinion, preferring his instead. Recommend

  • Ayesha Ijaz Khan

    @ Zoaib—Like almost all PTI supporters I have spoken to, your only evidence/point of reference is based on what Imran says or writes. Obviously, he is going to write and say stuff that makes him look good and conciliatory. I am sorry but that is not how I judge politicians—I judge them based on the amount of difference between what they say and their actions, their voting record, what others say about them as well as circumstantial evidence. And regarding his dishonesty, I think he is no more honest than any other politician in Pakistan. I can give you several examples of things he has lied about when they don’t make him look good. Here are a few examples:
    1) He continually says that Nawaz Sharif agreed to a boycott in the APDM and then went into the election behind the others’ back. This is not true and Imran is lying simply because he made the wrong decision. Nawaz Sharif decided to boycott but when he found out that PPP is going ahead, he decided to go ahead and also tried to convince the other parties of the APDM, but some like Imran and Achakzai did not get convinced.
    2) He never tells the truth about why his case against Altaf Hussain is not progressing in London. It is not progressing because the lawyer that he has given the case to is not being paid and thus he is taking it easy (that is how most lawyers take pro bono cases). The big difference why he won his ball tampering case so quickly was because his father in law got him a good and expensive lawyer. By not spending money on a lawyer, you can in all likelihood ,expect not to win a big case like this one. But Imran makes all kinds of stories when asked about it but never brings up this point that he is not paying his lawyer.
    3) He said in his speech that 16,000 died of suicides in Pakistan when in reality the number is 1600.
    4) He campaigned for his brother in law in London by telling Muslim communities that he will be a pro-Muslim candidate. Imran also claims to be anti-war on terror. But the Conservative party that his brother in law is a part of has taken very strict action on immigration which has hurt many Muslims badly. The Conservative party is also the most pro-war on terror of all British political parties. So these were blatant lies when campaigning for his brother in law.
    5) When it comes to his personal life, there are even more dishonesties. He does not acknowledge his daughter in pakistan but acknowledges her in UK, even posed for a photograph with her for Hello Magazine. Also, I heard him on a Pakistani talk show saying that a British court decided that his children should stay in Britain. This would have only been the case if he had decided to contest for custody, which he never did. So it was not a British court that decided this but Jemima and he decided this on their own. Generally, when such matters are contested in a British Court the father often gets custody of the sons and the mother of daughters. But Imran decided that his children should stay in Britain. In fact, I often find him lying about things that those in Pakistan would not know about as he probably feels he can fool them.
    I could go on but basically, as I said, Imran is no more honest than any other politician and I don’t think you should believe everything he says or claims. You should cross-question it for motive just like you should for any other politician.Recommend

  • Moshfit

    Zoaib one Question. When is Tehrik e Insaaf holding elections within the party?Recommend