An open letter to Imran Khan and his followers

Behaving like a dictator while fighting for democracy does not justify Imran’s words

Let’s acknowledge everything which Imran Khan has done for Pakistan. Let’s give him due credit for his all contributions; from winning a World Cup for us to the massive political mobilisation to change or reform our outdated political system. He really deserves our appreciation and support for what he has done, and is still committed to do, for the welfare of people. Thank you Imran Khan for everything!

But the problem with the top PTI leadership and their willful supporters like other political giants and submissive workers in Pakistan is that they are not ready to welcome even a fair account of criticism. PTI is desperate to get appreciation, admiration, acknowledgment and perhaps political power. But there is an unstoppable flood of criticism for those who dare to disagree with the politics of PTI or Imran Khan.

The rule is simple; Imran Khan and his followers are happy as long as you are with them and if you are not with them it simply means you are against them, and perhaps against Pakistan. This logic seems a little silly and politically dangerous.

PTI definitely deserves our appreciation but it is not a party of all-wise-men of the town. There is and should always be a room for constructive criticism so that the process of growth and development does not stop at any level. This is what PTI and its top leadership, and more importantly, their diehard political workers need to understand.

In this write-up, however, I intend to talk about the explicit and implicit political and intellectual challenges which PTI is facing at the moment and it needs to work, I argue,on some coping strategies. First comes politics.

First, PTI has a significant amount of support in urban areas of Pakistan. This is why often PTI is said to be the party of urbanite-middle-class. The reason behind this support and admiration of PTI in urban communities is quite simple and easy-to-understand. People were tired of old slogans and perhaps old faces. It was PTI that offered both; a new political discourse and young and fresh faces. It had a massive appeal, and helped PTI to strengthen its political position at national level.

But with the passage of time things started getting changed. Old replaced new. And in changed political model, new were supposed to be the back benchers. This backfired and people slapped PTI in local government elections in Punjab and particularly in Lahore where it miserably failed to have even some face-saving.

Things turned from bad to worse when old-lovers left their first-love - mother political parties - so indifferently and decided to join PTI. Political love like real-life romance does not last forever. It is not based upon originality or the purity of character rather its building is construed on a different political philosophy that is called opportunism.

The opportunists came into the party and the party got disintegrated. There are different groups in PTI like we see in PPP and PML-N. Ironically, so is the case with the PTI voters. Some are happily following whatever their beloved leader is doing and others are not comfortable to blindly follow some un-trusty-old-lovers, the opportunists.

The internal state of uncertainty and disunity is what will prove an atomic-bomb in coming elections. These factions will be vibrant during elections and may not support PML-N but will surely hit the PTI below the belt. This is an implicit threat to the party.

Now the explicit: What do PTI and Imran khan have to convince the public to vote for them in next elections? Will pointing out others’ flaws compel people to vote for PTI?

It is ironic to observe that Imran’s politics are focused on others’ flaws. He believes bashing Nawaz Sharif and Zardari will make people love him. This is again silly and politically incorrect. PTI is ruling in KP and there are a number of people who want to see a model province as promised by Khan and his party. Does PTI have a model province to show the people of Punjab and other provinces? Or do they have any alternative?

Third, politics in rural Pakistan is still candidate-centered. The tags of political parties in rural areas does not necessarily matter much. As a matter of fact majority of people living in these areas are the staunch supports of ‘Sher’ and most of the candidates too have strong affiliation with the PML-N. There is a reason behind this support in rural areas. PML-N understands the dynamics of electoral politics and know how to make alliance and how to win votes, not hearts. On the contrary the principal focus of the PTI seems to be urban areas throughout these four years. This is a big political challenge for PTI to devise some strategies to win mass support in the rural areas in order to win elections.

Now intellectual challenge: There was a time when Imran Khan introduced new things in a parochial political culture of Pakistan. There was (perhaps theoretically) politics of principles, commitments, and of ideas. But with the passage of time PTI is becoming intellectually drained and old political tools are being used to silence those who criticise or dare to question Imran Khan’s dictatorial stance. The intellectual deficit is leading the party to moral corruption which will presumably end up by transforming the PTI into the present-day PPP.

What PTI is doing to reform the ongoing political trends in the country? Or does the PTI itself has stopped thinking and has decided to go with the flow?

The only way forward for the PTI is to have a serious self-introspection. PTI needs to understand that by welcoming opportunists in the party does not mean the party is getting stronger. Opportunists do not follow or believe in ideologies they only use the most suitable and appropriate platform to capture political power.

Those who question the arrival of PPP’s old friends are not so wrong. They deserve to be answered in an appropriate way in order to reduce disunity within the party.

Secondly, Imran khan needs to understand that he is leading a political party not a crowd. People want to be listened. And as a rule democratic way in decision making is the best available. Behaving like a dictator while fighting for democracy does not justify Imran’s words.

Moreover, Imran’s focus should have been on KP and not on Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari. Fighting against corruption is appreciable but doing one’s entire politics on it is politically immature.

Thirdly, PTI from top leadership to the political workers should review its political ideology and their stance in these days. How do they treat their political opponents? What do they want to achieve? How do they intend to get what they have devised to achieve? And more importantly, how to respect those who do not agree with PTI’s politics?

Lastly, Imran Khan is making all efforts to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. I, however, have another view. Why doesn’t Imran give us a strong political institution based upon principles and democratic norms in form of PTI? Don’t you think it will be a greater service to the nation?

Farah Adeed is a student of Political Science & Sociology at the University of Punjab, Lahore. He can be reached at

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