The back story to Imran Khan’s dharna



During Imran Khan’s four month long Dharna in front of the parliament in Islamabad in 2014, the allegations of election rigging and electoral reforms were only a red herring; a question arises in the minds of curious observers of Pakistan’s politics: what prompted Imran Khan’s sudden about-face?


The stellar success of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the general elections of 2013 was anything but a pleasant surprise for the PTI leadership. Imran Khan and his political party were only accustomed to winning single seats; but PTI mustered 35 National Assembly seats and completely wiped off Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Awami National Party (ANP), in 2013 forming a government with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s tacit support.


When the government agreed to the demand of electoral reforms, Imran Khan started insisting on the unacceptable demand of prime minister’s resignation; and when he was criticized for being unreasonable and causing disruption to the state’s normal functioning, he immediately occupied the moral high-ground, drawing attention to the Model Town tragedy.


Some PTI stalwarts hinted during the course of 2014 protests they were open to a military takeover. So, if things had gotten out of hand during the street demonstrations and the army chief had taken over, exiling the Sharif family for another decade, the political arena would have been wide open for Imran Khan.

PTI could then have easily competed with the only other mainstream political party: Pakistan People’s Party’s 45 National Assembly seats.


PTI played the same spoiler role in Pakistan’s politics which the elusive Tamarod Movement played in Egypt in June 2013. Tamarod was mainly comprised of a few thousand football nuts (“the ultras”), claiming they’d collected “millions” of signatures endorsing the ouster of Mohamed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood only after a year long stint in power in Egypt’s 61 years old political history.


Most Pakistanis don’t know how close we came to yet another martial law in our turbulent history; PTI’s demonstrations in 2014 were not spontaneous protests, they were cleverly planned and choreographed by some unconstitutional forces that have a history of subverting the constitution.


In order to assess the future prospects of PTI as a political institution, we need to study its composition. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that the worst political decision which Nawaz Sharif took after returning from exile in November 2007 was his refusal to accept PML-Q’s defectors back in PML-N’s folds. After that show of moral uprightness in the essentially unprincipled realpolitik, the PML-Q turncoats joined PTI in droves and created Pakistan’s third nation-wide political force.


If we take a cursory look at the PTI’s membership, it’s a hodgepodge of electable politicians from various parties, mostly from PML-Q. A few are: Jahangir Tareen, billionaire businessman (formerly PML-Q, minister in Musharraf’s cabinet); Khurshid Mehmood Qasuri (formerly PML-Q, Musharraf’s foreign minister), Sheikh Rasheed (formerly PML-Q – though not officially from PTI, grew very close to IK during dharnas) and Shah Mehmood Qureshi (a PPP feudal who served as foreign minister during the Zardari Administration until he was forced to resign after the Raymond Davis affair in 2011).


Notwithstanding, there were actually two perpetrators that carried out an assault on democracy and constitution during the mass demonstrations against the government in 2014. PTI is a political party which has a mass following; however, Tahir-ul-Qadri and his Minhaj-ul-Quran is a subversive organisation even more dangerous than the Taliban. The Taliban carry out suicide bombings, while Minhaj launched a concerted assault on our paramount state institutions: the Parliament, the PM House and the Presidency.


During PTI’s Dharna, one can make an excuse that Tahir-ul-Qadri was seeking justice for his workers killed in the Model town tragedy; but what was his defense for holding Islamabad hostage before the May 2013 general elections? Those January 2013 protests by Qadri were also a carefully choreographed last-ditch effort by the security establishment to delay the elections, which Nawaz Sharif was poised to win and the establishment didn’t want Musharraf’s nemesis to dictate terms once again.


It shows that Qadri is a habitual offender, and that Minhaj is nothing more than his private militia. Bear in mind that Qadri and his Minhaj have a lot in common with another establishment-allied cleric: Maulvi Abdul Aziz. Qadri’s club-wielding cult wasn’t different from the cult of Laal masjid and Jamia-e-Hafza.


The role of Imran Khan and PTI in the assault on the Constitution Avenue was only to legitimise it: the peaceful protesters, music concerts, democratic demagoguery, revolutionary rhetoric, everything added up to creating excellent optics; but the real driving force in that assault on democracy was Tahir-ul-Qadri and his Minhaj-ul-Quran, which is a religious-cum-personality cult comparable to the Rajavis of Iran and their Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK,) or the Gulenists in Turkey.


More to the point, the role played by Sheikh Rasheed during the mass demonstrations in Islamabad should not be underestimated. Whoever controls the constituencies of Rawalpindi and Islamabad can bring the capital of Pakistan to a standstill. Non-natives could only stage brief protests, but the natives can stage a Dharna for months. PTI also won 6 out of 14 Punjab Assembly’s constituencies in Rawalpindi, playing to its strength.


2013 results show that an upstart party still managed to perform well; but we must keep in mind that PTI won more than 90% of those seats in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, fought on a single issue: Pakistan’s partnership in the American-led war on terror, which bred resentment and reaction among the Pashtun tribesmen.


KP’s electorate gave a sweeping mandate to the pro-peace PTI against the pro-military operations, Pashtun nationalist party, ANP, which was completely wiped out in the elections. And Imran Khan betrayed the confidence reposed in him by the Pashtun electorate when he endorsed the operation in North Waziristan.

Moreover, to add insult to the injury, when the aforementioned military operation in June 2014 led to the displacement of millions of Pashtun tribesmen, instead of catering to their needs, Imran Khan staged a four month long Dharna in Islamabad.


It would be a miracle if PTI musters even half of the aforementioned seats in the next general elections in KP; whose electorate is once again more likely to vote for the Pashtun nationalist ANP, which at least had the decency to not stab the Pashtuns in the back.


  1. what a lame attempt by a noon league luffafa at work!
    firstly attaching PTI to pro coup forces while IK is clearly pro Taliban and sort of anti Army / Establishment,
    secondly attaching PAT & TUQ to be more dangerous than Taliban…. while he is known around the world as the largest and most effective intellectual enemy of the Taliban… what nonsense..

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