Pied Piper of Lahore


The people of Pakistan want change. They are not happy with the status quo and want to get rid of the corrupt turncoats, the regressive clerics, and the meddling retired generals who currently share power in Pakistan and are responsible for the state we are in. But is Imran Khan capable of bringing that change?

Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar won the 2002 elections on a PPP ticket. But when he realised his party was not ready to side with a dictator, he rebelled and became part of a group of PPP dissidents that joined the Pervez Musharraf government in return for favours. Eventually, he joined the establishment-backed PML(Q). The PML(Q) lost in 2008 and the military ruler fell. In 2010, Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar made a comeback. He contested a by-election in Lahore on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.

Ijaz Khan Jazi belonged to the faction of Muslim League led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. After General Pervez Musharraf ousted Nawaz, Ijaz Khan was one of the many turncoats who parted ways with Nawaz. After the fall of Musharraf, Jazi Khan also made a comeback in 2010. He contested a by-election from Rawalpindi on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.

One key member of the establishment-backed PML(Q) in Punjab was Mian Mirajuddin. He was the senior vice president of PML(Q) Punjab and a provincial minister for Excise and Taxation in the cabinet of chief minister Chaudhry Pevaiz Elahi. After the fall of PML(Q), Mian Mirajuddin did not resurge. But his son entered politics in 2010, contesting a by-election in Lahore, on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.

Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, who is credited with organising this week’s surprisingly large public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan, was a nazim of Islami Jamiat Talaba, an organisation accused of sabotage, violence and moral policing in a number of universities in Pakistan, including beating up girls and boys who interact, and professors who resist the group’s authority. In 2007, when Imran Khan arrived at Punjab University to speak to students as part of his campaign against Gen Musharraf, members of the IJT beat him up, dragged him around, and then shut him down in a room until the police arrived and arrested him. In 2008, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed was made the president of PTI Lahore, ad hoc.

Shireen Mazari was the director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, a think tank funded by the foreign office and linked closely to the security establishment. She continued to work with the institute until 2008, despite Pakistan’s decision to support the US in its war on terror. In 2008, she fell out of favour and was removed. In November the same year, she joined Tehreek-e-Insaaf after a meeting with Imran Khan and was then made a vice president without elections.

Gen (r) Hamid Gul was one of the architects of Pakistan’s policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The policy involved creating private religious militias with weapons and money from the US, and it backfired when many of those groups began to resist the authority of Pakistani state and committing acts of terrorism in Pakistan. Veteran columnist Haroon Rasheed said in a column in August this year that Hamid Gul had sent him to Imran Khan to persuade him to join politics. The two have recently been accused by philanthropist Abdus Sattar Edhi in jointing PTI. Hamid Gul is Imran Khan’s mentor.

Flanked with people who are part of the problem, how is it possible for Imran Khan to be able to identify and resolve it?

Imran Khan held a huge public meeting in Lahore this week. Tens of thousands of his young followers see him as a messiah. But that reminds me of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Someone who had come to rid the town of plague was not paid what he had been promised, and took away their children. The story probably refers to Nicholas of Cologne, who claimed to have had religious visions and lured away a great number of children on a disastrous Children’s Crusade in 1212. Imran Khan has claimed similar religious visions in his new book. But the establishment will not give him what he wants, and he may lead our children away to somewhere they might never return from.

The writer is a media and culture critic and works at The Friday Times. He tweets @paagalinsaan and gets email at [email protected]


  1. What load of crap!!! Please do some research first!! All politicians of PPPP and PML-N are corrupt by the way.

      • Good propaganda Harris and let you know that what ever you wrote its baseless and you will never achieve your what ever you have and some one is definitely sponsoring you but keep it going otherwise you can't feed yourself but change is undeniable and can't make few people for the excuse if you want a wider context so make your self more mature and more realistic after few month you will see the new beggining……………..a better future and better Pakistan

        • So everyone who doesn't support Imran Khan is evil and must have been sponsored?
          Is that the kind of politics we're up for?

  2. what beauty…Mehmood ur Rashid was nazim of Punjab and MPA in non political elections of Zia elections…was involved in qabza group on Ferozpur road..and left the JI ….PTI senior vice president Ijaz Chaudhry is the son in Law of Main Tufail..chief of Jammat Islami

    • On Going in right direction do support them. Go for right way and choose your heart not the motive or classes , ethnics or tribes. Take the right decision get rid of corrupt politician and choose the right one I mean IK best choice believe it or not

  3. Harris – You are not the first.  I have read numerous such critical pieces about Imran Khan.  Well, I think everyone has the right to hold an opinion.  But I do want to ask you some fundamental questions.  Answer those with honesty, or please do not answer at all.

    1) If you carry out an equally incisive analysis of abilities of Sharif Brothers & team and Zardari & team, will your logical mind tell you to support the movement Imran is trying to cultivate to break the duopoly of doom?

    2) Do you acknowledge the complexity of Pakistan’s political landscape?  A successful politician is a shrewd politician.  The childish politics of piety, righteousness and straight-talking Imran is over.  I am glad he’s learnt politics.  If Imran has to succeed in clearing the swamp full of crocodiles, Imran must learn to swim with them first.  You are apparently a column-writer on politics, so I am sure these issues of pragmatism are well understood by you.  Then my question is – why do you, and a bunch of well-read folks, put Imran Khan through the Utopian litmus test?

    I believe this is because Imran doesn’t leave much for genuine criticism relative to the mainstream thugs.  So those with limited mental capacities stand up and raise issues from his personal life (e.g. his sexually liberal youth, a broken marriage etc.) or those with a greater perspective like you want to criticize his team building, lack of experience etc. – What do you expect – Imran to become Prime Minister with a cabinet full of innocent / honest fresh graduates from Pakistan’s universities?  He has got to swim with crocodiles to get to a higher ground first.  He’ll face many challenges on every step of the way.  And we MUST be there to support him if we MUST break-free from the duopoly of doom.

    • Azar Saab,
      Thank you for not being abusive 🙂 That's very rare for an Imran Khan to be this polite.

      I get your point but doesn't your second point invalidate the second one?
      If his sole qualification is that he is new and clean, then he must have a new and clean team that we can give a chance. What's the point in electing the same old people who were part of what you call the duopoly of doom?
      And if it is okay to be pragmatist and ally with such corrupt politicians, then why shouldn't Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif be given the same concessions? Why shouldn't I vote for the most shrewd politician of all, Asif Zardari?

      I am only putting Imran Khan through a litmus test that he had set for himself.

      • I am speechless….that you STILL feel you can give “concessions” to Zardari and Sharifs. I… I don’t know how to answer that.

  4. This guy Harris has some serious mental problem. Even if Imran wins elections he would still be crying.

    • Well he's not winning any elections any time soon, but even if he does, it will be the same turncoats from Jamiat and PML who will be winning on PTI tickets.

      So, just because I do not agree with you, means I have a mental problem? That's the typical self-righteous Taliban mentality of Imran Khan supporters.

  5. Imrani Qadris are supporters of dialogue with taliban…so Jamatias are integral part of his team.

  6. I agree with Azar's comments. It requires a dedicated individual at the top with a handful of trusted aides to revamp a system. As was the case with Mao in China or Mandela in South Africa. And i think Imran has those trusted few around him.

    Even if PTI turns out to be just another lot of corrupt individuals, the worse that'll happen is loadshedding, mismanagement, unemployment will go up, state institutions will come down and drone will hit islamabad and lahore. Events that people of Pakistan might consider normal under the current situation.

    Yes, there will be regret if PTI ,in power, turns out to be like the others. But at least our conscience would be content with the fact that we tried for a change. It would still be better than the regret of never having tried at all.

  7. Oh boy. Haris Bin Munawar, I can see you and your writing are incorrigible. Now I'm willing to go through your shallow opinions but I refuse to look at that god awful photo you've got up. And can you please clarify what it is you are trying to tell us?

    And finally, only a hirsute moron like you would go pronouncing the Pied Pipers hometown as Hemlin. It was Hamelin. Now go do the research properly for your next childish rant.

  8. Harris, I like what you've written. I am a solid Imran Khan supporter and when I read what you wrote, it worried me a little. However, Azar above has made some good points.

    The need of our time is not that of a naive idealist who sees rainbows and flowers blooming everywhere but someone who's sharp and quick and knows how to play the game of politics without losing himself in it. The key here is not to loose yourself in the enthralling, exciting and sometimes extremely seductively powerful world of politics. I pray and hope that Imran Khan can do that.

    The reason I wouldn't want you to vote for Asif Ali Zardari is because he has proven to us and everyone else that he succumbs to the temptations of power fairly quickly. He's too used to being corrupt. It comes naturally to him. Imran Khan, on the other hand, is untried and untested. He may have a mixture of people around him, ship jumpers and loyalists but here I would just like to say (at the risk of being labelled a naive idealist) is that people can and do change. Some of these people who have jumped ship to join PTI may have done so with the right intentions and not the intentions implied in your article. Please note that I use the word "may". I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt, for now. And if they have only joined for selfish reasons, so be it. I am pretty certain Mr. Khan is aware of these individual's previous leanings and he accepts it for the simple reason that he will treat them as resources, as tools and manage them accordingly.

  9. It's not Hemlin Mr.Arris Bon Monawir, It's Hamelin. The Pied Piper wishes for his pipe to end up where the sun dont shine on your body.

  10. Haris is right on the background of these people he mentioned. I don't know why he missed the clean man Mian Azhar or Umar Cheema? Either Imran has to run political party with completely unknown names who have no past political affiliation or search for Angels in Pakistani politics which might not exist. But the fact is young generation is supporting him wholeheartedly. And they are hurt when some one like Harris has negative opinion about Imran. But this is the beauty of Democracy – having different opinions and respect the person who has an opinion not similar to mine. We need to discuss and not get hostile and personal. I have a doubt that Imran may not cash the youth support to a sizable election win as most of these Jalsa youngsters may not be registered voters. One big jalsa in a big city is not a guarantee to come in power as most of the Seats are in Rural area where he has no base yet unless all those feudal join him also. Then he should be ready to be Pied piper as Harris suggested as the same very feudal failed Bhutto also who was a similar icon of Change. Instead of criticizing Harris, take his points positively and remove your deficiencies and weaknesses. We like to see a real change and not another try of testing a new Change Agent. Harris! keep on writing positively and continue highlighting the weaknesses and flaws of our "leaders" so people are not fooled by them. Have you written something on NILC scam and acquittal of Moonis Elahi or Makhdoom Amin fahim? Be fair with all and have across the board filtration. No partisan, otherwise, you will lose your credibility.

  11. I would like to side with Azar here,everyone has a baggage of grey area,all politicians by the very nature of politics have it underlined as a streak,why on earth should we deem anyone to subscribe to a fairplay?IK may not be man of words or actions but he’s a breeze of fresh air(though I disagree to agree as him being our ONLY hope),and the tried and tested PML-N,Q,PPP have failed to strike a chord with public,they led us on to the verge of being suicidally hopeless,let us cut some slack here for IK,afterall whats here to lose,our trust/faith is already all-time low in our politicians.

  12. Nice work Haris once again in rather straight way as compare to past…You have made clear views of your’s about IK…My request for all supporters of Ik that if they are in favor of democracy then one of the beauty of it is free expression of one’s views and respect for it…Keep the good work Haris..All the best

  13. yaar its pseudos like this guy who like to sit on their armchairs….sipping coffee and criticizing EVERYTHING around them without moving an inch to change their country. When someone criticizes them…theyre all uncompromising Taliban-like fundos. This is more Fox news than genuine journalism. And to all the readers just notice ONE consistent aspect of all such articles…they will NEVER offer a solution to u and me…..they will offer pseudo-liberal articles about what they feel is wrong with IK/PTI but not offer candid comparisons to other parties.

    we shouldnt pay any heed to such people…..as by following them we would never strive for change….we will never believe in a cause….we will never struggle for an ideal….we will just decay and become cynical armchair critics like this writer!

    • You are a funny man, perhaps you need to take a course in basic english or perhaps you are too good to read between the lines. The writer just stated the basic facts nothing more and the possible analogies and correlation that can be drawn from those facts.

      Truly, Pakistanis are in dire need of a Messiah perhaps it is time for return of our holy Father Jesus Christ.

      All Praise the Lord!

  14. Yes, i agree with haris, i think he is right. and loving your leader should not take to the extent where you can only consider him as messiah or nijaat dahinda or bhagwan. IK is a nice person, no doubt but his followers are blindly presenting him as someone who is beyond limitations and larger than life. the titles like akhri umeed conveys what? if god forbidden IK got some health issues or loses his life due to any reason, does it mean pakistan is finished?
    personality oriented politics is the problem of pakistani politics. seems like no difference in jiyalas and IK lovers. IK is a human and has limitations.
    and my humble request to all, if someone criticise IK, it doesnt mean he belongs to corrupt political parties or himself a part of corruption.
    we should as a nation, start questioning our leaders who have big claims rather than presenting them as autaar or bhagwaan.

  15. A revolution can be neither made nor stopped. The only thing that can be done is for one of several of its children to give it a direction by dint of victories.
    Napoleon Bonaparte


  16. Then what, its better to vote imran still, Instead of choosing corrupt team with corrupt leaders. In KAPTAN's Teams, at least leader is neat, vigilant, truthful, trustworthy, and without any corruption charges

  17. Not very well researched. I like your writing usually though! the skepticism gets annoying sometimes. 🙂

  18. Harris, is there a reason your picture makes it look like you have an afro? I mean, can we really take the words of a newspaper seriously that can't even do a half-decent job of cropping and photo-shopping the picture of their columnists?



    • Grow up, quit blaming other people for our shortcomings. Nobody said that the world is fair. Try asking the thoughts of your friends in Baluchistan and Afghanistan and also some parts of Kashmir and Muslims in India, I am sure they would have an interesting story to tell about the terrific accomplishment of Jihad / terrorism.

      Not every bearded person is a taliban, just like not all bearded and pious people are from Jamiat. But forming an alliance with Jamiat essentially means that Imran Khan too stands for the similar fascist ideologies that Jamiat stands for. (If you have not seen them in action for a small scale demonstration please visit Punjab University of UET Lahore).

  20. why people keep hitting at the picture of Harris…Don't they have any logical and rational argument….Use your brains in defence of Taliban Khan…!

  21. I loved it- And for all those critiques of Harris, Just watch- This is not more than a political Paradox. Time will give you a better judgement. And for all the supporters of Imran khan- DO you guys need a change??? Keep on Hallucinating( Thats all iI can suggest)!!! LOL.

    I personally like him as a captain, but as a politician he is a stiff necked ass. I have no doubt that he has links with religious extremists, the flags of SIPPAH E SAHABA which uis ALARMING- and all you psuedo supporters of his- WAKE UP!!!

  22. We have no option but to change or at least strive for changing the situation we Pakistanis are currently facing.I agree totally with comments posted by Change,Azhar and Ahmed.
    It really is painful to see such gloom and disappointment all around.In these circumstances PTI is the hope we should believe in.

  23. We have no option but to change or at least strive for changing the situation we Pakistanis are currently facing.I agree totally with comments posted by Change,Azhar and Ahmed.

  24. Dear Mr. Haris,
    Now that you've written an article which will be hard for the PTI wallahs to digest (however pragmatic the contents may be !), be ready to become a trget of their wrath !

  25. just waiting to see when you will do a research on PPP and PMLN and others. Probably you will need full newspaper to list their credentials.

    I would be very happy if you would have put forward a solution to teh problems as well.

  26. You make no sense. So you're suggesting Imran Khan should run a PTI without ANY single person who has worked for any other political party or think tank in the country before, or he shouldn't have any support whatsoever?

    If you really believe people from political parties like PPP, PML (N), PML (Q), MQM etc. are ALL corrupt and wasted, you're naive, and that is very prejudiced generalizing. There are many people in our country who are genuinely good politicians and hard working people in their own domains, yes, maybe a little less popular but nontheless good. The reason they worked for other parties before was because they didn't have better options or the finances to run as independent candidates. So they just went with what was available and tried to do their best at their job. If today they are changing their decisions and joining PTI, all the better, don't you think? Not only are they experienced and popular among the masses that voted for them, if they were really that corrupt and lazy as you make them sound why would they have left the comfort of their own parties and filthily-paying seats and joined a brand new, comparatively less popular forum where they'll pretty much have to work from scratch?

    If change is coming, let it come. By posing hurdles in it's way with articles that are based on no substantial logic and research, you're not doing anyone much good, especially not our nation which if anything needs good leadership now more than ever before.

  27. why dont we try to join PTI . rather then setting home and taking about Shits, who is getting in who shouldn't be in PTI . Some one has to take the seat to make the decision .
    Don't Shout . Do Or Die . Baby

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