What does Imran Khan want?

Published: December 3, 2014
The writer heads the independent 
Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

What does Imran Khan want — is it just power or a revolution? This question kept resonating at a recent conference in the UK. Most vocal among the enquirers were at least five foreign diplomats who are familiar with Pakistan because of their assignments in Islamabad. They all sounded sympathetic to the narrative that Khan peddles today i.e., rule of law, accountability, and peoples’ empowerment through district governments and autonomous national institutions. But they clearly differed with the PTI methodology (ouster of the government through sit-ins). Lots of critics at home, too, have had a similar contention with the PTI and its leadership, which have been oscillating between legitimate aspirations (mentioned above) and paradoxical approaches to fulfill those aspirations. Only a few weeks into the Islamabad dharna — once Khan and his cohorts diligently made their point about the rule of law and real democratic values — even sympathisers had begun requesting Khan and company to wrap up the protest and instead build upon the goodwill that the party received in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and elsewhere.

By discarding advice on how the party can consolidate its power base in K-P through institutional reforms and then showcase its achievements there, the entire leadership continues to silently tail Khan and be led by his belligerent, shallow, and at times, contradictory rhetoric. This has certainly taken the attention, even of the PTI leadership, off some of the good work that the party has silently done since the summer of 2013.

In the first place, the PTI narrative since August has polarised the country in two camps i.e., forces of the status quo and those challenging it. The fact that none of the other parties, including the PPP and the PML-N, are in favour of local government elections also underscores their contempt for devolution.

Secondly, (all based on personal experiences of people living in Peshawar, D I Khan and Kohat) no provincial police enjoys as much operational autonomy as the K-P police. Its chief has single-handedly dismissed over 414 officials on corruption or disciplinary charges, recruited several hundred new personnel through the National Testing Service — all without any interference from the chief minister or the party chief.

Thirdly, the land revenue officials (patwari/tehsildar) have never been this dutiful and averse to illegal money. My sister struck a deal for a residential plot in Peshawar Town shortly after the elections last year. She was told — of course, unofficially — by the land revenue official (agents of the patwari) that the transaction (transfer of plot in her name) would cost about Rs300,000. But, lo and behold, the transfer took place only for about Rs29,000 — the official transfer fee deposited in the provincial exchequer. A friend in D I Khan, too, went through a similar experience and had his land issue settled for only a few thousand rupees. This is happening because the provincial government introduced new procedures, including checks on department officials to minimise graft.

Fourth, Peshawar’s two major hospitals have undergone major operational changes. Most Peshawar residents are surprised over the nearly free, but extremely professional and caring treatment administered by the doctors and the paramedics.

Fifth, all contractors and the bureaucracy are up in arms against the provincial government for introducing tendering procedures. Contractors and bureaucrats are systematically stone-walling development work because new procedures have deprived them of their kick-backs and windfalls. That is why much of the development funds for this year have lapsed. Earlier, a pack of contractors would converge at the relevant office, negotiate a deal among themselves and settle on one final bidder. The undeclared part of the process was about 10 per cent of the total tender amount that the bidders would factor into the bid for the ‘authorities’. Now, the bids are discussed openly and contracts awarded only after detailed discussions.

This reflects an effort to bring about institutional changes, if not reforms, to the context of decades of misgoverning and corruption led by deeply entrenched forces of the status quo. Khan and his colleagues will certainly be the beneficiaries if they can push their reform agenda in K-P and then showcase it for the next election. Unfortunately, it seems that they are surrounded by hawkish, short-sighted advisers who refuse to invoke logic and instead, are peddling an agenda that at times sounds hollow, contradictory and self-serving. Their supporters abroad, therefore, are incensed over the continued wailing over ‘electoral fraud’.

As the former ambassadors in the conference questioned, why can’t Khan and the PTI move on for a better future of their constituents rather than staying beholden to ill-advice, which is disruptive and discrediting their reformist agenda.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd,  2014.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Ghazanfer Ali
    Dec 3, 2014 - 1:38AM

    If, as Imran alleges, the elections were fixed on a grand scale then no matter what KPK does or indeed any one else does, elections will always be decided by whoever can rig the polls and do the dirty deals (which invariably are the two main parties with their claws well entrenched). Unfortunately Pakistan’s electoral system does not reflect the mandate of the people and that is precisely what this crisis is about. No matter who the public vote for, the result will continue to be fixed unless we can get a fundamental change in the electoral process, which includes punishing those responsible for the mal-practices.


  • x
    Dec 3, 2014 - 5:54AM

    Good job highlighting the real and huge strides made by pit in kph.


  • raider
    Dec 3, 2014 - 6:59AM

    imran, a state forward politician trying his best to struggle against all malpractices even in election,but he is too naive to understand the great game which the major players always play even in election, fraud is done is systematically that propaganda is launched so vibrantly that truth looks lie, and lie looks truth,imran would have to compromise to great gamer or either he has to perpetuate his struggle as he is going through and getting nothing, this struggle might be so prolonged that perhaps he may could never harness fruit of this exertion but his party, in case he succeeds and culminates to last which seems so difficult in presence of all abusive forces are in line with each other.


  • raider
    Dec 3, 2014 - 7:27AM

    well done imran in kpk, a province with state compromised writ


  • zafar iqbal ranjha
    Dec 3, 2014 - 7:46AM

    without fixing electoral defects and bringing to book who were involved in rigging during last election,the concept of rule of law will ever remain elusive. No democracy without fair and free election. why N League is so opposed to recounting in just four constituencies? It means they have so some thing to conceal. For God sake support demand for recounting, this will ensure fair and free future election. Otherwise election will a futile exercise to be repeated after five years.


  • abreez
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:21AM

    What does Imran Khan want — his role as a front man in $300,000,000,000 trade, not complicated at all to guess.


  • Anjum Arshi
    Dec 3, 2014 - 9:03AM

    Very interesting and in-depth analysis indeed. It takes a seasoned social and political scientist to objectively list facts and put them together to make sense for the common reader. Congratulations to the author for doing just that.

    However, I differ with the perspective of the status quo, at least, the author’s definition is incomplete. An extremely important part of the status quo is the military, which has maintained superiority over the civilian rule during the last sixty years. In my view, PTI and Imran Khan are part of the same game – namely, to keep civilian political governments subdued under the military command. While our military has not done well in its job of defending our borders, it has excelled in tactics to keep the civilian governments under its complete control. Every foreign government knows that, particularly USA, which has again shown ‘confidence in the Army in its ability to keep Pakistan united’. (Perhaps they conveniently forget 1971). Continuation of democracy has brought India to an enviable position in the world today. Alas! in our country, our own armed forces have prevented the process of democratic development that can only come through repeated regular elections, rigged or not.


  • ny
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:04AM

    Great job highlighting the reforms in KPK. One thing I disagree with however, is when you said people are “incensed over the continued wailing over ‘electoral fraud’.” We’re not. We want to see electoral reforms at any cost whatsoever. Why? Because electoral frauds are the one type of reforms that can bring revolutionary change in the country. So yes, no matter how long it takes, we will fight for electoral reforms.


  • haqster
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:28AM

    What Imitiaz misses out, is the revenue KPK generates from the NFC/18th amendment. All provinces run on the money collected by the FBR and distributed by the central government. CM Khattak (has even taken an ad out) asking for some of the monies to be distributed to KPK which PMLN cronies are sitting on as they do not want PTI to sucseed in KPK.

    And herein lies the duplicity of PMLN. Talk nicely, act honest, but use your state apparatus to stop progress in the other provinces. Election reform is the icing. It is actually a fight to strengthen and change how things work in the government. Good Governance.


  • Rubab Farooqui
    Dec 3, 2014 - 1:20PM

    Imran Khan is totally naïve. He should better start cricket commentary rather than destroying the cricket-loving nation!


  • hassan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 2:06PM

    good advice. so tht there will be more rigging in next elections and again he get only kpk.i dont know why some analyst dont want fair election investigation. he has whole right to demand fair investigation. u people dont want election trial so tht same forces keep getting elected again and again


  • F Khan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:00PM

    What do IK want? Let me tell you what he wants. He wants to be the PM without getting votes. He does not want to go to courts or EC. So he gets over a container and starts blaming A to Z. Khan Sb.’s popularity is not as that of Bhutto in 1971. Even if he is a leader, he is a disputed leader. People who like him do without a reason and people who dislike him have enough reasons. Just one reason because he is a taliban sympathizer is enough not to discuss him even. I will throw my vote in the gutter rather than voting him.


  • Ali S
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:02PM

    What Imran Khan is doing is bold and yes, borderline stupid, but it had to be done and I’m glad he’s following through with it all the way – let’s face it, the status quo is disastrous, the damages caused by IK’s actions are only relative to it. Only a sustained psychological offense will knock the status quo into its rightful place.


  • Jawad Mahmood
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:15PM

    We “the average or above average” people will never be able to understand how Imran Khan works. For him it is making the impossible possible. Can any one of us guessed just 2 years back that Imran Khan would be in this place where he is right now? Same things were said at that time as well that he should compromise on what he has then aim bigger. In order to be GREAT you have to think GREAT.


  • Zulfiqar Paracha
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:15PM

    Imran Khan should Focus on KPK and he should organize its party from gross root level.


  • Shuaib
    Dec 3, 2014 - 9:45PM

    Imran Khan wants Premiership or anarchy. No need to analyse a simple mind which thinks everything is cricket.


  • Systemic
    Dec 3, 2014 - 10:41PM

    IK should have done a better job in looking after the IDPs but he has not. KP resources, such as in transportation, are being used for fueling the dharna, which is immoral. For someone who talks of corruption he should not misuse KP resources.
    In a word, by hook or crook, IK wants “power.” Period.


  • Napier Mole
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:58AM

    PTI supporters, confirming the general perception about their lack of depth, have predictably and gleefully jumped up on the mention of some supposed achievements of PTI in KPK while ignoring the pun and the irony in the title of the article. Freud asked the famous question, What does a woman want, and was not able to answer. Same applies to Imran Khan.


  • Mirza
    Dec 4, 2014 - 9:31AM

    @F Khan:
    You said it Khan Sahib. IK cannot wait and not be the PM. Elections would never bring him to power especially when he is not in two out of four provinces at all. He has no presence in Senate none zero. He cannot continue to wait and waste his life with Pakistani men and women who he never associated with. Either he becomes the chief soon or like Qadri he heads to the luxuries of the West at other people’s expense. Regards,


  • Double Standards
    Dec 5, 2014 - 1:34AM

    We all know what IK wants, that is power. But we should also know what he does not want. He does not want the continuation of the present Government as a logical corollary to his desire to acquire power. He also does not want anyone to talk about the child he fathered with Sita White, as that is an impediment to his objective of achieving power.


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