Imran Khan: Disqualified, convicted but not out of politics
PTI may not win this election but even if they do get away with a small number of seats in the parliament Imran will not go anywhere
Updated Monday Feb 05 2024
Imran Khan had his first spiritual experience when he was hardly fourteen. His mother Shaukat Khanum invited a peerni (female spiritual guide) to her home and introduced her only son to her. She hoped that the peerni would pray for Imran and offer some guidance. Instead of praying for him, the peerni surprised Imran's mother by exposing the truth — known only to Imran or his Qaari sahib — that her son was yet to finish Holy Quran.
Little Imran was shocked because the peerni was right. Only the Qaari sahib, who came to tutor Imran knew that his pupil had not finished the Quran as yet. Imran has been skipping his post-school-hours Quran lessons because of his crazed love for playing cricket in Zaman Park, Lahore.
Imran was a terrible student. He forced the poor Qaari sahib to lie to his mother that he had finished the Quran. Imran never contradicted the peerni and his mother was disappointed but peerni told his mother not to worry. She told Shaukat Khanum that her son was a good boy and would turn out alright.
Khan narrated this incident in his biography, which was first published in 2011. He met another peerni in his late 60s and married her quietly. Many rumours surrounded the timing of that marriage from day one. Some of his close friends told me that he married Bushra Bibi because he was sure that he would become Prime Minister only after marrying her. He became premier within six months of that marriage. He never believed in people’s power to become Prime Minister. He believed in a woman who was famous as Pinky Peerni.
Imran is a victim of his narrative. All his life he has been known as the lady killer or playboy but he preferred to choose the slogan of "Riyasat-e-Madina" for his politics. He introduced the slogan of "Naya Pakistan" but he became Prime Minister by riding on the shoulders of military establishments following in the footsteps of the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
When Imran lost power in April 2022 through a no-confidence vote he blamed the US for hatching a conspiracy against him. After a few months, he hired some lobbyists to win the sympathies of US congress members. His critics dubbed him "U-Turn Khan" and a hypocrite but despite all his contradictions, he is still a hero for a big majority of Pakistanis.
Three different courts convicted Imran Khan in back-to-back decisions just a few days before the election. His opponents are claiming that the verdict in the Cipher case proved him anti-state because he leaked some secrets to the public. The verdict in the Toshakhana case declared him corrupt and the ruling in the unlawful marriage case exposed his immoral character.
His opponents, including Nawaz and Bilawal, are trying their level best to take maximum political benefit out of these verdicts awarded to Imran, who is behind the walls of the jail; however, the ground reality is different. These convictions have garnered more sympathy for Imran Khan. Courts cannot dodge the wisdom of common Pakistanis.
The public remembers the 2018 video statement of Bushra's ex-husband, Dr Khawar Maneka, who, under oath, stated that Imran Khan did not break his marriage and that Bushra was the most pious woman in the world. The same Maneka changed his statement in 2024 about his ex-wife. Many people connect his new stance with his arrest last year and don’t trust him. Some of the Khan's old critics were forced to condemn the court's decision about his marriage.
Take the example of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Imran accused HRCP many times of promoting foreign agendas just to please the military establishment. HRCP expressed dismay over the decision on the unlawful marriage case and said: "The verdict has troubling implications for people's right to privacy, particularly women's right to dignity during court proceedings and to make decisions about divorce and marriage without the intrusion of the state. This could also set a precedent for Pakistan Penal Code Section 496 to be weaponised for political purposes.”
A statement from HRCP in support of Imran Khan is a big defeat for all those who tried to accuse the former Prime Minister through a court verdict. This HRCP statement also stands in complete contradiction to Imran's narrative, who always declared his critics as traitors and accused human rights bodies of promoting enemies' agendas.
When Khan was prime minister he claimed that Pakistani media was freer than Britain's. Imran and Modi were declared press freedom predators by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2021. Khan’s government rejected the RSF claim. Khan cannot deny that he banned Nawaz's coverage in Pakistani media. He cannot deny that my interview with former President Asif Ali Zardari was pulled off air on his orders just because Zardari was under trial.
When pictures and interviews of Khan disappeared from Pakistani media in 2023 and Khan was banned from Pakistani media, the same RSF condemned unannounced censorship in Pakistan. Now Khan is not under trial but convicted. Many journalists like me face questions about why we are criticising the court verdicts against Khan even though I was banned for nine months when Khan was in power. I never had any personal issues with Khan.
I criticised the judgment by Muhammad Bashir against Nawaz Sharif in 2018 and PTI social media trolls declared me anti-Pakistan. Now I am criticising the judgment of Muhammad Bashir against Imran Khan and PML-N media managers are angry with me. I think Imran's recent convictions will further divide the nation. His opponents may benefit from these judgments but remember that you reap what you sow. Imran sowed hatred against his opponents in the hearts and minds of his supporters and today he is reaping the same.
I have known Imran Khan since 1987 when he announced his retirement from cricket after Pakistan’s defeat in the semi-final of the World Cup. As a young reporter, I covered the rally of some students in Lahore who wanted Imran to reverse his retirement decision. Finally, Imran reversed his retirement and I interviewed him for the first time for Daily Jang in 1988.
When General Zia-ul-Haq dismissed the government of Muhammad Khan Junejo in 1988 he approached Imran to become a minister in the new government. Imran once told me that Dr Anwar ul Haq, the younger son of General Zia contacted him and gave the message of his father who wanted him to join his jihad against the corrupt politicians. Imran politely declined but after that many other people tried to motivate him to start a jihad against corrupt politicians.
Imran made many records as a cricketer. He finally won the cricket World Cup for Pakistan in 1992. It was in 1993 when he was approached again by the establishment to join the caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi. This time Khan wanted to join the government because he had left cricket in 1992. One day he was invited to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). Ishaq Dar was the President of LCCI. He donated two million rupees to Shaukat Khanum Hospital. Imran Khan criticised late Benazir Bhutto on the cup of tea in the office of Ishaq Dar. I reported his remarks about Benazir for Daily Jang.
The next day Khan was asked to contradict my story. He approached me to publish a contradiction. When I refused I was told that my story made him controversial and Moeen Qureshi refused to include him in the cabinet. He contacted Ishaq Dar to contradict my story. Dar also refused. Then Khan issued a contradiction through another businessman but even then Khan was not included in the caretaker cabinet. Later on, we resolved this issue because I wanted to help him build a cancer hospital.
I remember a 1996 meeting in Lahore where the late Lt General Hameed Gul advised Imran to join politics. I disagreed with the former DG ISI and told Khan that he was an undisputed national hero who was making a cancer hospital and his politics may create problems for his hospital. Imran agreed with me in that meeting but after a few days, he unveiled his party Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI).
I always believed that Imran Khan was not fit for politics but he proved me wrong. He joined politics to eradicate corruption from Pakistan but ultimately he embraced corrupt politicians to get power. Most political opportunists betrayed him but a large number of his loyal voters never abandoned him.
Now Imran is behind bars but he is making new records in the political history of Pakistan. He made a double century of criminal cases in less than two years. He is down but not finished. He is out of the election race but he is still the most popular leader of Pakistan. Many analysts believe he is popular by default.
He never stabilised the economy of Pakistan. He never fulfilled the promise of making a "Naya Pakistan" but the weaknesses of his opponents became his biggest strength. When he developed some problems with the military establishment and Nawaz Sharif changed his anti-establishment narrative,
Imran Khan immediately pointed his guns at military leadership. I think both sides underestimated each other. Military leadership never thought that PTI would attack military installations on May 9 last year. The PTI never expected that Imran would be convicted in an unlawful marriage case so quickly.
Imran was installed in the Prime Minister's Office in 2018 by the then army chief General Qamar Javaid Bajwa. When Bajwa came to know that Imran had decided to marry Bushra Bibi he tried to stop him. In a message, sent a message to Imran, Bajwa urged him not to proceed with this marriage. Imran rushed into wedlock with Bushra and then told Bajwa that he had done it already. Bajwa wanted a yes man in the prime minister's office. He had his agenda. It is said that Imran disobeyed him more times than he obeyed him.
The verdict in the Cipher case declared him anti-state but he did not reveal many secrets related to Kashmir and Israel because his problem was with General Bajwa not with General Faiz, who was part of important backdoor meetings outside Pakistan. If Imran is anti-state and corrupt then who was responsible for putting him in the Prime Minister's Office?
Imran is jailed, disqualified, and convicted but he is not out of politics. If Nawaz Sharif can make a comeback after convictions and disqualification, why not Imran Khan? If Nawaz Sharif can get relief from superior courts, why not Imran Khan?
Both need to learn lessons from their past mistakes. Pakistan needs the rule of law not rule by law. His supporters will try to help Imran by casting votes in support of PTI candidates on election day. The PTI may not win this election but even if they do get away with a small number of seats in the parliament Imran will not go anywhere.
Hamid Mir is a senior journalist, anchor, and columnist, associated with Geo News. He posts @HamidMirPAK
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