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Imran Khan: From “Man on Container” to Prime Minister by Dr.Moeed Pirzada in Global Village Space

Imran Khan: From “Man on Container” to Prime Minister


Moeed Pirzada

On 18th August Imran Khan completes the first year as Prime Minister of Pakistan. His journey from days of street agitation to corridors of power offers an interesting glimpse into the man who may become one of the most important statesmen of the contemporary Muslim world, and perhaps soon a fit candidate for Nobel Peace Prize.



August has many important transition points in Pakistan’s history. The country was carved out of the British Indian Empire on 14th August 1947. Gen. Zia’s crash on 17th August 1988 ended a kind of dark age in the nation’s turbulent history. Imran Khan initiated his famous “dharna” (sit-in) on Constitution Avenue, Islamabad on August 2014, and four years later he took over as Prime Minister of Pakistan on 18th August 2019. PTI’s initial 21-member cabinet took its oath on 19th August and so on.

Pakistan’s Middle Class has arrived

History cannot be understood or defined without reference to key events that shape consciousness. The global order cannot be discussed without reference towards the Second World War, Bretton Woods, Vietnam, and 9/11. Russians cannot make sense of themselves without invoking the terms Bolshevik revolution, Great War, and Gorbachev. One cannot understand Modern Europe, without making sense of the French revolution.

History in Pakistan is often understood in terms of the partition, 1965 war, Students movement against Ayub Khan, Fall of Dacca, Bhutto’s nationalization, Zia’s martial law, Nuclear Explosions, Kargil, and so on. In a similar vein, Urdu word “Dharna” has now assumed a peculiar significance in Pakistan’s political psyche. Its meanings may fluctuate with all shades of opinion – good, bad, or evil – depends upon who you are talking with. But no historian will be able to deny that a ‘Naya Pakistan‘ (new Pakistan) emerged from the fossils of the old as a larva emerges from a dying caterpillar. Pakistan’s urban middle class had finally arrived with “Dharna” in August of 2014.

In August of 2014, Nawaz Sharif was sitting in Prime Minister House, and Imran Khan sat on top a container for 126 days of Dharna. In August of 2019, Nawaz is in jail and Imran Khan is Prime Minister

I say “final” because Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s agitation against Field Marshal Ayub Khan, in the late sixties was also a middle-class moment. It was inspired and led by the ideas of intellectuals like JA Rahim, Hanif Ramay and many others on the left and right of Bhutto – supported by the industrial workers of Punjab.

But as soon as Bhutto came to power the feudal nature of his mind overtook, intellectuals were brushed aside, workers suppressed, and the feudals of Sindh and Punjab soon dominated the party. But this time it is different.

Imran Khan is a quintessential representative of Pakistan’s middle class. At times because of his former celebrity status, his first marriage with Jemima Goldsmith and his house on the hilltop in Banigala, he is perceived as part of the “super-rich.” US-based analysts are often misled on this issue; few months before the 2018 elections, a respected US-based analyst compared him with Trump and thought that they both share one thing: they are rich.

But nothing is far from the truth. In 2005, I worked as a TV anchor in London with “PTV Prime” (now called Prime TV UK); we came to Pakistan to interview the then Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, and we also thought of interviewing the cricketer turned politician who was becoming known for his radical positions. We travelled on a dusty road to his newly built residence on top of the hills in Banigala. On the way, we crossed, with difficulty, a somewhat unruly, inhospitable water stream.

After the interview, Khan showed me around; from his lawns, we could barely see a few houses on the hills around. “Why do you prefer to live in this wilderness,” I asked. Khan was candid; he told me that a single Kanal in E-7 sector of Islamabad, his other choice, was for three crores (Rs. 30 million). But he and Jemima had preferred to live in a large open space. “And people will gradually come, they will follow me here, this is how areas develop” he added.

The now-famous, and controversial, Banigala residence spreads over almost 300 Kanals of land, but it cost him little more than Rs. 1 lac per Kanal when he bought it. It’s a different matter that a single Kanal in E-7 has only multiplied 3-4 times in price, but Banigala land may have increased in value ten or more times.

Fast forward 14 years: Pakistan’s first quintessential representative of its middle classes has managed to become its prime minister and through a long drawn political struggle. Ayub, Zia, and Musharraf were also middle class, but they represented their institution and were nothing without it – fish without water. Imran’s opposition also blames him for being an “Establishment stooge” – but they have chosen to believe in their own propaganda. Pakistan’s history has reached a point where the establishment needed a genuinely popular leader to deal with the world and to save the realm from total collapse.

The majestic outpouring of 25,000 plus Pakistani Americans, from all over the East coast of the United States, to catch a glimpse of Khan, at Capital One Arena, Washington in the third week of July was an expression of this popular support. Their enthusiasm cannot be understood without grasping Pakistan’s middle-class moment. In many ways, this is similar to the political change in India; Modi, despite his narrow Hindutva politics, has risen because of new middle classes who despise corruption of dynastic politics and see Modi as a harbinger of change.

Read more: What’s Next for U.S-Pakistan Relations After Imran Khan’s U.S Visit?

Whether Imran Khan succeeds or he fails, PTI progresses as a political force, or it perishes, the fact is: wheel of history has moved on. This is a new Pakistan – and challengers of Imran and PTI will not emerge from the folds of Sharif and Zardari clans. These challengers may creep out from the disgruntled forces inside PTI or its myriad allies.

Pakistan: Experiencing Durkheim’s “Anomie”

French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, had coined the term “Anomie” to describe a state of agitation in the lives of individuals and societies. Durkheim believed that when a social system is in a state of anomie, shared values and common meanings are no longer understood or accepted, and yet new values and meanings have not developed.

Pakistan, today in many ways, can be described as experiencing its moments of anomie. The political order that was thrown up by the martial law of Gen. Zia, after 1977 – and that had comfortably reenacted itself after the end of Musharraf’s benign rule – is finally coming to an end. With it all those polite values of political compromise, built around adjustments and bargaining – often referred to as “mukh mukka” – are vanishing. Old political elite led by the Sharif and Zardari dynasties and many in the administrative and judicial hierarchies took a while in absorbing this new reality, but now it’s becoming evident to them. The stage is being set for a fight unto “political death” or oblivion.

Meeting of National Security Committee starts with PM Imran Khan in chair. Defence Minister, Foreign Minister, Interior Minister, Minister for Kashmir Affairs, CJCSC, COAS, Naval Chief, Air Chief, PM AJ&K, SAPM on Info, DG-ISI & other senior officials are also present.

View image on Twitter

In August of 2014, Nawaz Sharif was sitting in Prime Minister House, and Imran Khan sat on top a container for 126 days of Dharna. In August of 2019, Nawaz is in jail more or less since July of 2018; his sons, his closest confidante, and accountant – Ishaq Dar – and many others are in self-exile. Most key leadership of PML-N – including ex-premier, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and strongmen, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Rana Sanaullah – are in jail and many others may also land there. Nawaz’s daughter, Maryam that looked like creating waves a few weeks ago, looks isolated and rudderless.

PPP leadership is yearning to strike some old fashioned bargain not realized so far. Failure of Nawaz Sharif’s last political move when his nominee – Senator Hasil Bizenjo – failed to dislodge Chairman Senate, Sadiq Sanjarani on 1st August, despite overwhelming numbers in the Senate, reflects the ground realities of this new Pakistan. Failure in the Senate contest sends a strong “realpolitik signal” that now Nawaz and Zardari, and many others facing corruption cases will not get any reprieve from the system.

Imran Khan has successfully engaged Pakistan’s stakeholders – Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, Turkey and Malaysia – and built trust in Washington

The system is now being driven by an angry middle class and its amorphous, inchoate values. Many believe that progress has been denied to Pakistan only and only because of the corruption of its elite. Most proponents of these ideas are under thirty years of age, are unemployed or have worked at best for few years; their incomes often fall below the tax nets, and they believe things will change through strict action against the rich especially those not paying their taxes. While there are serious elements of truth in this narrative, it is not the whole story.

The country suffers from underperformance in several areas including school and college education, industrial and managerial skill sets, and so on. Concept of wealth generation through intelligent ideas, creativity, skilled workforce, and pro-business government policies is not understood. Most sections of the government bureaucracy are used to 9 am to 5 pm jobs, they have never produced a winning product and few winning policies, yet the government is hugely involved in industry and services- almost all loss-making.

If you watch Pakistani TV news and political talk shows, it appears that country has lots of wealth hidden around or abroad in Switzerland, and the government merely has to take decisive honest steps to dig it out or discover.

This is how close we were to bringing back Pakistan’s money from Swiss banks. Klasra sahab reveals how Ishaq Dar and his cronies drowned Pakistan in the sea of despair while they had a golden chance at rescuing its dwindling economy


Even sober people, in Pakistan, believe that if the government manages to accomplish its declared task of collecting Rs. 5.5 trillion of taxes before the end of the fiscal year, it will achieve nirvana and rest will take care of itself. In reality, even if the government achieves its tax targets, it will only be fixing its own balance of payment problem; its expenses will still be almost Rs. 2 trillion more than its declared ability to collect.

Very little, if any debate is taking place around the questions: How will the near collapsed state of trade and commerce turn around? How will Pakistani exporters make competitive products; how the government will reduce its huge expenses, its unproductive footprint into the economy? How will the country get rid of loss-making enterprises? How can Pakistani youth be imparted meaningful skills? How will we renegotiate the bad contracts of “capacity payments” with Independent Power Producers? How do we overcome the recurring scourge of “circular debt”?

At times PTI supporters get angry when someone pointedly asks these questions. Such are now the pressures for conformity that this is perceived as a lack of patriotism or loss of faith. It reminds me of American writer, Walter Lippman’s now immortalized words: “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much”

So, while the political success so far – and it has not been a mean achievement – has depended upon the spirit of the ambitious, over-optimistic, angry young middle class, this now also carries the seed of disappointment, political instability, chaos, and failure –and if not managed well, then growing fascism.

Opposition: its strength and its weakness

Imran Khan’s opposition – mainly PML-N & PPP – could not have been in worse shape. Their key leaders are either under arrest, facing serious investigations of graft or have gone underground keeping a low profile. Yet, this fragmented opposition derives its strength from the economic crisis Pakistan now faces. In May of this year, PML-N leadership brought out a kind of white paper titled “PML-N vs. PTI.”

They compared PML-N’s last year in power (till May 2018) with PTI’s 9 months of rule on facts of tax revenue growth, current expenditure, public sector development programs (PSDP), rupee devaluation, prices of major consumer products, monthly inflation, gross public debt, foreign debt, GDP growth rate and policy rate.

Read more: Imran Khan defeated Indian agenda: US-Pak relations reestablished

PML-N leaders used data from the State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue and Ministry of Finance to blame Khan’s government for creating an absolute mess; multiplying country’s debt as a result of devaluation, reducing its GDP from around $330 billion to approximately $250 billion, destroying its industrial productivity, trade cycle, and market confidence.

The argument is that Imran as a chief executive and PTI as a party are incompetent and inexperienced; they should have rushed to the IMF in August of 2018, should have continued with import driven growth model supported through external financing and internal borrowing – and could have managed with a minimum controlled devaluation of Pakistani rupee. “The United States, China and India are all heavily leveraged, there is nothing wrong in raising public debt, as long as economy continues to grow” they argue. Some economists, many businesspeople, and diplomats of key countries also support this contention.

In July issue of this magazine, Mohammad Zubair, ex-Governor Sindh and former privatization minister in the PML-N government wrote a scathing analysis of PTI government building on the same theme. But PTI supporters, most independent economists and international institutions working inside Pakistan blame PML-N and PPP’s fiscal mismanagement, and overall bad governance, for the economic crisis Pakistan now faces.

Read more: PTI is responsible for Pakistan’s economic mess..?

Economics is far from being an exact science. Economists and bankers seldom agree with each other. It is said that if there are two economists in a room, then there are at least three strong opinions. Most economists of Pakistan have a near consensus that import and debt-driven economic growth model of PML-N (growth rates of 5-6% cited by PML-N) was not possible in the circumstances which existed in August of 2018 – when PTI took over from the interim government.

While PML-N’s critique may not be sound, and PTI government may have inherited a mess created by the 10-year mismanagement of PPP and PMLN, yet the economic crisis Pakistani citizens and businesses now face is humungous. And its effects upon general population so painful that it will continue to present opportunities to a fragmented opposition to find new leaders and stage a come-back. Khan’s government’s handling of its opponents, media and public policy issues at times is also patently unwise.

Britain tried to introduce a similar ID card through an Act of Parliament in 2006, but under growing public opposition from human rights activists, lawyers, academics, security experts and politicians it was scrapped in 2010

The government faces multiple challenges on several fronts, but it continues to open new fronts creating new enemies. For instance, the way it is dealing with traders on the issues of sales tax and national identity card is amusing.

While documenting B2B transactions between manufacturers, suppliers, and the traders makes perfect sense; Pakistan has now become the first country on the planet where any natural citizen making a purchase of more than Rs. 50,000 ($312) will have to deposit his National Identity Card (CNIC) as proof of purchase.

While government and its middle-class supporters continue to offer myriad economic explanations (streamlining taxes, increasing documentation) for this bizarre decision, the Orwellian nature of control it offers a state upon its citizens is patently obvious. In Pakistan’s peculiar political atmosphere – driven by fears of terrorism, slogans of anti-corruption and taxes – few realize that overuse of the National Identity Card, as an absolute tool of control upon citizens, is becoming ridiculous.

Undue criticism on mandatory CNIC for business and trade: Chairman https://arynews.tv/en/chairman-fbr-shabbar-zaidi/ 

Deliberating fix taxation for small traders & businessmen:

Britain tried to introduce a similar ID card through an Act of Parliament in 2006, but under growing public opposition from human rights activists, lawyers, academics, security experts and politicians it was scrapped in 2010, and all data was destroyed. But then perhaps Britain – a big perhaps –as a political and social order – has never experienced the kind of existential fears, Pakistanis continue to suffer.

Imran Khan’s challenge

PTI supporters argue that in less than 12 months, Khan government has reduced current account deficit by around 30 percent, trade deficit by 14 percent, has initiated a crackdown on money laundering, electricity, and gas theft and has pushed hard on accountability drive, has retrieved state land worth hundreds of billions and has pushed back against sectarian organizations like TLP creating an atmosphere where long-pending cases like Asiya Bibi can be amicably resolved.

They point out that Imran’s government is implementing an Rs. 100 billion development package for tribal areas (erstwhile FATA), has held peaceful elections there and launched pro-poor schemes like “Ehsas program” to provide a safety net and “Panahgah” to provide shelters for the homeless and expanded the Health Card to around 80 million Pakistanis.

And why forget he has successfully engaged Pakistan’s stakeholders – Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, Turkey and Malaysia – and built trust in Washington, earning rare plaudits from a US President and Senate. He boldly defended Pakistan against Indian aggression and then delivered peace to South Asia and the world when he gracefully returned the captured Indian pilot, Abhinandan.

Read more: Mike Pompeo to Imran Khan: ‘You were a rockstar at Capital One Arena’

Khan’s critics repeatedly argue that the prime minister has little experience and he is learning on the job. But the kind of challenges, Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister faces are unique, and there was no way he or anyone could have been trained to handle all this. As a young officer in 1797, Napoleon had no idea how to conquer Europe – he learned on the job.

Imran Khan has to fight the Sharif and Zardari clans and their supporters inside the system – including powerful media barons – because his vision of a clean “Naya Pakistan”, which he has sold to his supporters, cannot be achieved if those who savagely abused the public office are allowed back into politics –through a process of legal sanitization.

He has to fight big business, corporations, traders, and tax machinery because he has to resolve his balance of payments and has to meet his recurring commitments with the IMF. He has to deliver on Afghanistan to keep Washington in good humour to ease tensions built around FATF, IMF, and India. He has to tame Pakistan’s Jihadi spirit at a time when Modi government is deliberately creating tensions in Kashmir.

He has to court Washington while keeping Beijing close to his heart. And he has to find ways – no one knows how – to stimulate the economy, build business confidence, increase transactions, restrain FBR harassment of businessmen, collect taxes, and generate jobs. Perhaps most importantly, he has to continue telling his desperate supporters and his ruthless critics with a poker face that “good times are around the corner.”

But he has to do more to earn his place in history. At a time when minorities are being mob lynched across India, he has shown the strength to stand for Pakistan’s Hindu, Christian and Sikh minorities – his wholehearted support to Kartarpur initiative has already eased tensions across Punjab. Liberals have been miserly in not sufficiently praising him, but he has put the genie of TLP (Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan) into a bottle – though admittedly there is much more to be done.

Govt of Pakistan


Prime Minister Imran Khan urges the youth to widely participate in the plantation campaign to make it a success to materialize the dream of green and pollution-free Pakistan.

View image on Twitter

He has initiated schemes for the promotion of tourism, and for “Clean and Green Pakistan” but he has to do more to secure the environment in this region. He has inaugurated Mohmand Dam, but he has to speed up work on dams and preservation of aqueous resources to save millions from a water-deprived future.

And finally, he has to find intelligent, out of the box, ways to engage Modi and Yogi Adityanath’s India driven mad by reactionary forces of Hindutva. Trump – for reasons not fully understood – has already created an impetus in this direction. If Imran Khan delivers on half of these challenges, we should demand universities in Pakistan, UK, and the US to recommend him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Moeed Pirzada is Editor Global Village Space; he is also a prominent TV Anchor and a known columnist. He previously served with the Central Superior Services in Pakistan. Pirzada studied international relations at Columbia University, New York and Law at London School of Economics, UK as a Britannia Chevening Scholar. He has been a participant in Chaophraya Dialogue, and at Salzburg Forum and has lectured and given talks at universities and think tanks including Harvard, Georgetown, Urbana Champaign, National Defense University, FCCU, LUMS, USIP, Middle East Institute and many others. Twitter: MoeedNj


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For the very fact that no other politician has had the temerity to question the legality of the drone attacks, the validity of the election process, the moral courage to challenge a fascist party in its own backyard and to raise the issue of corruption in the dharnas…….. Do we want to live with the pathetic electoral process- where the irregularities, as they are being revealed daily, are mind boggling? Do we want to accept the killing of innocent children, women, men and older people as part of ‘collateral damage’ of the drone attacks? Do we want to be held hostage to a political party that believes in terrorizing the citizens of a whole city? And ultimately, if we want to control terrorism, we will have to address the upstream factors- and the complete and utter failure of the educational, health, law and order and justice systems of Pakistan. And if one man and one party is raising all the above issues and bringing them into our collective political consciousness, what is wrong with that? And what does it matter if the person raising these issues is a sportsman or a shopkeeper or a soldier or a businessman? As long as he is speaking the truth and challenging the status quo, he/she has my support Whether PTI survives or not without IK is a question we must leave for the future. All I know is that if the foundations of any party or an organization or an individual are based on ethics, morals and integrity, that party and that individual will leave a legacy for future generations. That is why we remember Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Nelson Madela and what they stood for. And that is why we do not remember Marcos, Shah or Iran, Idi Amin, Zia ul Haq and others like them

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Imran Khan’s Masterclass Against Nawaz Sharif That The Entire Nation Failed To Understand:

As soon as Imran Khan announced his Civil Disobedience movement the entire opposition and twitterati erupted into a tirade of jokes asking questions such as, how would PTI supporters not pay GST on milk, bread and other groceries. Or that if they wont pay the utility bills the utility services would be disconnected and so on.

However, none of these so-called intellectuals were able to understand that what this Civil Disobedience movement is aiming to do is declare Nawaz regime a dictatorial regime and hence render all foreign debts that the regime would contract as unenforceable. As, I have already explained that a debt becomes illegitimate if a) the regime that contracts it is despotic and/or dictatorial and b) it was not spent on the betterment of the nation.

The entire long march is based on the premise that Nawaz Sharif and his party rigged the 2013 General elections and hence the regime is dictatorial and illegitimate. Before announcing the Civil Disobedience movement Imran Khan went into elaborate details of how the Sharif has previously used foreign debt to fill his coffers. What Imran was trying to do here was to establish a case that the foreign debts which this regime would incur would not be spent on the nation but would rather be laundered out of the country to power the business of the Sharif dynasty.

In simpler words Imran has told the entire world and specially the foreign lenders aka  (IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank) that any loans incurred by the Sharif regime would not be enforceable on the future governments of Pakistan. To make it abundantly clear to our intellectual elite, Imran is telling the foreign lenders that if he ever came to power, he wont pay back the loans that the Sharif regime would borrow. This means that the foreign lenders has only one option left before them and that is to decline all future loans to the Sharif regime. Since, the Sharif regime relies heavily on foreign lending to finance its budget, the move would cripple the government and will bring it down to its knees without any bloodletting on the streets.

I once read a quotation that Brilliance hits a target that no one can hit, Genius hits a target that no one can see.

Imran’s masterstroke against Sharif is such an act of genius that the entire nation is unable to see the target that it has hit. All that PTI and its horde of social media jihadi’s now need to do is explain this to the entire nation that:

Since, we consider the Sharif regime as illegitimate, all foreign debts that it would incur would be illegitimate odious debt and hence would not be paid by the future Pakistani governments.

Imran Khan himself needs to do a better job and explain this to the foreign lenders that since the Sharifs always loot and plunder these loans for their personal gains, future PTI/Pakistani government would consider the foreign loans received by the Sharif regime as illegitimate. Once this is made abundantly clear to both the national and international audiences, it does not matter an iota if the civil disobedience movement fails to reduce the amount of taxes collected at the National level..

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Thugs,Robbers,liars, Frauds,
Murderers, all united in the
Parliament, fighting
       – IMRAN KHAN.
Pakistanis , Wake Up !!

مزید پچاس سال غلامی کے لیے تیار ہوجاؤ
قوم متحد نہ ہوئی مگر سارے لٹیرے یکجا ھوگئے
اے بد نصیب قوم اب تمھارے لیے شاید کوئی نہ اٹھے


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