Imran Khan, Urban Middleclass Morality and its Contradictions

This article is critical of Imran Khan’s political orientation and tries to introspect middleclass liking for him. It admits Imran’s virtues as a cricketer and philanthropist but argues that his politics is the wrong medicine for the country. It also tries to examine as to why he has not been able to connect with the masses

By Raza Habib Raja

 In Pakistan we, particularly those belonging to relatively more educated and urbanized middleclass, have developed this psyche to find strange solace in other’s miseries and in some rare patches of better times in our history. So when Sialkot lynching occurred, many of us were appalled and shaken to the core and then tried to draw parallels to similar incidences in other countries to bolster our dwindling self esteem. A war of articles started where liberals were described as self loathers and were reminded that such incidences were a norm in other countries. Hence there was no need to worry and be depressed.

And then this scandal broke out and exposed the moral depravity of some of our most talented cricketers on television. Predictably we were first shocked, disgusted and then in an ever familiar way started to look for conspiracy theories to remain in our self created delusional state of denial (and of course link it with corruption of Zardari also!!!). On Express news, actually RAW was cited as the possible culprit ( And their most famous anchor drew parallels to Zardari’s corruption). But deep down we all know that we are actually on a very weak wicket.

Invariably we are also looking towards a rare patch of successful and taintless period of Pakistan cricket much of which was under Imran Khan. Imran is being remembered fondly and as a cricket fan, I can fully understand. Yes those were the days and Pakistan’s cricket team has never been the same after his departure.

The persona of Imran Khan is also in the forefront in flood relief efforts. It is strange that a person who despite being a political minnow commands extraordinary respect in philanthropy. People are willing to entrust him with notes but not with votes.

Sometimes, I really feel disappointed that a person with his education, brilliance as a cricketer and above all his extraordinary services in the field of social work had to take a political direction that I actually have to pray that he never wins.

There is a tendency in the liberal media to lynch Imran Khan (Mr. Nadeem Farooq Paracha it seems has made it a passion of his life) and to some extent it is well deserved also. But let’s not forget that despite his reactionary political orientation, his contributions to Pakistan are enormous. In many ways Imran Khan is Pakistan’s asset and someone who has dedicated his life to this country.  And here lies the irony that a squeaky clean person with an impeccable record, if elected, will be the one of the worst nightmares for Pakistan.

 Personally Imran is the embodiment of good aspects of upper middle class morality such as professional integrity, fairness and self pride. But politically he embodies whatever is wrong with the same class.

Self respect when projected on the political horizon becomes almost naïve delusional state of denial further reinforced by slogans like “Qaumi Ghairat”. Although Imran has not been the conspiracy theorist but suffers from another somewhat related ailment of coming up with apologetic defense of extremism. Both of these “diseases” (conspiracy theories and apologetic defense) are broadly similar outcomes of immense self delusional pride rooted in ideologically determined identity which makes it difficult to find flaws in one’s own culture and tribe particularly when these are under the critical microscope of the others. The middleclass, particularly the upper segment suffers from a strange twisted envy of the West where it follows western fashions and prefers their luxury goods and lifestyles while being ferociously defensive about its own identity defined in terms of religion and Pakistani nationalism.      

 In Imran’s case also the western lifestyle fuses with the strange and immense self pride which extends to include the domestic culture and fails to even see some of its blatant shortcomings. In fact the brutal “justice” system of tribal areas is construed as fair and impartial. Taliban despite atrocities openly committed and then claimed by them are given apologetic defense of “reaction” against USA’s atrocities and drone attacks despite killing militants are interpreted as a violation of sovereignty.

This class which is dominant in Media, Corporate Sector, and all the “establishment” institutions is more conscious about its identity defined in terms of religion and Pakistani nationalism and has a stronger ideological fervor. It will ape West in the desire to be more sophisticated and modern and at the same time retaliate when there is some backlash on ideological front and identity. Even the most sophisticated and foreign educated ones belonging to this class  write articles like “liberal lynch Mob” and are appropriately labeled as “designer patriots”!!

 Other than “National Sovereignty”, corruption becomes another obsessive concern of this class. Real or perceived corruption of the politicians is debated like hell in the drawing rooms ranging from Karachi to Islamabad.  Of course Zardari is perceived as a corruption king and all the ills of the society are attributed to him. Imran khan once again voices that “concern” with utmost zeal on the media and is often perceived as the savior of the country by the same media watching middleclass. In fact if elections were held on internet, he would be a straight winner!!! I am categorically mentioning internet because frankly this class seldom bothers to stand up in the queue and actually vote! On social networking sites like Facebook the young and more sophisticated of this class regularly make Imran Khan the Prime Minister.

 Imran, more than anyone else, symbolizes the middle and upper middleclass morality, its sophistication and its strange contradictions. And no wonder, he is well liked by the same class. This class is sympathetic towards the plight of the poor but is still yet unable to engage with them. Their attitude is more of patronizing rather than equality and once again Imran more than anyone else embodies it. After all despite doing extraordinary work in the field of philanthropy, the poor are the ones who despite respecting him cannot associate with him politically. Politics, particularly modern politics is strongly intertwined with connection and engagement. Successful politicians, particularly in a nascent democratic culture, have to successfully engage masses. Merely having sympathetic attitude towards masses will perhaps make you a respectable philanthropist but not a successful politician.

Imran and for that matter a large chunk of professionals belonging to the middleclass have to realize that in politics you have to engage and on issues which matter to MAJORITY of the people also. Yes corruption is an issue but is not the sole issue. Yes sovereignty is an issue but once again not that important. And yes, downright condescending attitude smacking of intellectual arrogance towards masses will not endear you to them.

 For convincing you have to go mainstream and take your case to the masses. Engage them and that is how a polity changes in democracy. Unfortunately we are not ready for making such engagement and no wonder end up yearning for the military rule again.



Filed under Pakistan

68 responses to “Imran Khan, Urban Middleclass Morality and its Contradictions

  1. yawar

    What utter nonsense. Reza, why dont you just come out of the closet and confess you’re a sucker for the reactionary likes of Immy and so much more.

    You are in pain, bhai. Come out. You are quite clearly a typical (and I’m hoping beardless) apologist of the many number of good looking reactionaries out there. So live with it. And please, stop explaining your naive rants as ‘political analysis.’ (keep the discourse civic and do not jump to the conclusions before even grasping as to what is written)

  2. Raza Raja

    @ Yawar

    Did you even read the article before getting angry. By no stretch of imagination this aerticle is pro imran. It infact criticizes his political leanings. Kindly read it till the end. And secondly mind your language.

  3. Raza Raja

    Just read TILL THE END and then start arguing rather than gettign angry like an immature kid

  4. Imtiaz

    Good article which is critical of Imran Khan and his political leanings. I liked the way author linked it with middleclass mental makeup. I am actually surprised to see mr Yawar’s rather unfair comment above. I think the article was actually critical of imran khan and middleclass. Mr Raza is right to call Mr Yawar an immature kid

  5. Raza Raja

    @ Imtiaz


    I think where Yawar has just jumped to conclusions is that I have appreciated Imran Khan as a cricketer and social worker before starting to criticize him politically. I think he did not bother to read till that part and just assumed that since I am being appreciative of Imran as a social worker therefore I must be a “closet” reactionary.

    I personally think that this is sheer intellectual bankrupcy that you do not even read the article and start drawing conclusions after reading the first few lines.

    Maturity is reflected through the way we pass our judgements. Branding others and that too on flimsy evidence is nothing but immaturity

  6. Ahmed Talha

    The analysis this young writer has made can even shame certain people (politician, religious leader of our country) living upto the late end of their lives who fail to be so clear in their heads.
    i wud say its spot-on!! I really liked all your recent articles!! keep going with the same zeal!!

    Im not as good a writer like you but i think on these very same lines, writings like yours give words to my thoughts!!
    your Analysis of Imran Khan is 100%, i like him as a cricketer & as a humanitarian, but he is too confused to be a Leader!!

  7. Raza Raja

    @ Talha

    Thanks a lot for the encouragement….
    It is good to see that a majority of the readers have actually read the article to understand that it is CRITICAL of Imran as well as middleclass obession with him.

    However objectivity demands that one should give Imran credit for his cricket and social work. Giving credit there does not mean you are a reactionary or that you support him.

    I have mentioned it in the article also that it would be a worst nightmare if Imran gets elected.

  8. @Raza Raja

    Two points, one serious, one hugely not so.

    Welcome to the club!

    One of the painful stumbles in seeking to attract more people to a liberal point of view is the stumble at westernisation. Westernisation is emphatically orthogonal to liberalism; some of the worst reactionaries, and more than they, some of the gilded youth, the jeunesse doree of legend, are very well-educated young people, who are more western in their approach than desi. That doesn’t mean that their values are liberal. Far from it. The bulk are hedonists, and exploit the system and their connections within for all that it’s worth; the smaller, but still significant segment is the conservative, one might even call them the retrogressive element.

    Imran isn’t alone, you know. Not even in his age-group. I don’t know Pakistan well enough – most of the remarks above were extrapolations from Indian society, with all the distortions that involves – but suspect that many sophisticated socialites and their male equivalents couldn’t care a hang about what happens to Pakistan so long as their life-style is preserved.

    The flippant point: have you read Catch 22? Before you have people calling you Raza Raja Raza, take evasive action.

  9. Raza Raja


    Sir this article was also pasted at facebook and there my lynching has started as the pro Imran lobby actually exists only at facebook…Do visit it

    Anyways I am really disappointed in Imran Khan though admire his cricket…..and social work…

    He is a taliban apologist and suffers typical twisted envy of the West…

  10. Amit Kumar

    @Raza Raja.
    I am a great Imran Khan fan. always wanted him to win election..become PM of pakistan.. that will help us Indians.. For me Imran Khan was a great leader and social worker. His vision for Pakistan.

    I was shocked. when i actually started following his political stands and his alliances with different parties. sitting around with Zaid Hamid and A Quersi .. Gazwa-e-Hind followers.. and praising them.. was quite shocking..

    You are on the spot — “taliban apologist and suffers typical twisted envy of the West”

  11. Balaji

    i wonder why supporting Islamic groups and opposing US military operations in Pakistan, are crimes which disqualify Imran Khan. Really?

    As long as Taliban and the Pashtuns don’t interfere with other’s liberty (by not hosting Al-Qaeda for instance), there is nothing particularly wrong about their way of life. If average Pashtuns don’t like the Taliban, its their problem to rebel against the Taliban. No regime can survive if people don’t tolerate it.

    Why have an assembly in Peshawar, if bloggers in Lahore and Karachi can decide for all the residents of Pakhtoonkhwa?

    while a left liberal blog like this one can very well oppose Nawaz Sharief, Musharraf or Imran Khan, it must be understood that such opposition is merely based on politics and not necessarily in support of common good.

  12. bushranaqi

    I liked the directness with which this subject was tackled. There was no devious manoevering away from the subject. My criteria too of a patriotic pakistani is one who looks the storm in the eye and goes head on to tackle the problem. Excuses, pretenses and rationalizations only confuse us hopelessly and we get stuck in the quagmire of conflict. Why don’t we have the courage to face our problems..whether it is the taliban, alquaeda extremism, or cricket?

    Sugar coating evil does’nt make it go away or make it more edible. Raza Habib’s criticism of Imran is therefore very apt and as he rightly refers to him as a bundle of contradictions, since his statements lead nowhere, and evaporate into thin air.

  13. azhar aslam


    what issues matter to the majority in your opinion ?


  14. D Asghar

    Raza Bhai, I agree with you once again. I read an article from IK criticizing the West and the social decay of the West. When he decided to pursue his career as a social reformer and a politician. IK was brought in politics by Ex ISI, Hamid Gul. So he has ISI to thank for that one.

    Secondly his criticism of Western moral decay is more hypocritical, as he has not accepted his own daughter out of wed lock.

    IK may be well intentioned, but will not be able to engage public en masse. Despite his years of philanthropic work. Yes he appears like a confused “Brown Sahib”, the identity he tries to shy away from.

  15. Raza Raja

    @Dasghar Bhai

    And sir add to it his nonsensical pro taliban ranting…
    I mean that is denial par excellence!!!The guy can never bring himself to even mildly condemn those monsters

  16. Mir

    The article raises a few interesting points. I, however, take issue with its sweeping generalizations and wonder which “we” the author claims to speak for.

    The middle class as a whole is accused of suffering from a “twisted envy of the West” because it emulates the West on the one hand but defends its religion and national identity on the other.

    The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines envy as “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage”. How does defending one’s national identity and religion signal a resentful awareness of the West advantages?

    Reacting defensively to assaults on one’s identity are a basic, universal human characteristic, rather than a unique Pakistani disorder.

    (This accusation of “envy of the West” as the author likely knows has been applied ad nauseum to the broader Muslim world, not just to Pakistan, along with the indictment that we hate the West’s freedoms. Haven’t we heard enough of this hogwosh?)

    The author says that projecting self-respect to politics is “a naive delusional state of self-denial”. Should we instead be projecting self-hatred?

    There’s no doubt that a section of our society lives in self-denial and feeds on conspiracy theories, while refusing to engage in introspection, and perhaps even being envious of the West. But to cast whole segments in this mold is simplistic and naive itself, bordering on the delusional and twisted.

  17. Ali Abbas

    Regardless of one’s political affiliation, one has to laud this article for asking questions and making observations that are not the norm in our society. I appreciate Raza Raja’s work because there is an element of evolution in his thought process that make his observation timely and relevant. Most of us, myself included, grew up hero worshipping Imran Khan as a cricketer. Wasim was the more talented bowler but as a cricketer, Imran is clearly number one in Pakistan. His philanthrophy is welcome and from all accounts, SKMT is a well run hospital that hires some of the best medical talent.

    However, his arrogance and chauvinism, easily overlooked when he graced the cricket field and developed donation networks, are not endearing to the average Pakistani. Most importantly, his pro Taliban outlook and romance with shady Islamists is deeply offensive to the vast sections of Pakistanis who wish for a secular and progressive Pakistan. Similarly his chauvinism puts him at odds with Pukhtuns, Balochis and Sindhis whose outlook is vastly different than the prevailing narrative.

    I am glad that someone is taking on the elite chattering classes, their deluded sense of self-importance and their warped vision for our country.

  18. Raza Raja

    @Ali Abbass

    Thanks for actually adding to the main theme of the article…In fact I had skipped Imran’s conflicting viewpoint with regard to other ethnicities. Actually too much stress on defining identity in sheer Islamic and Pakistani nationalism terms would invariably put you at odds with the subnationalities…

    @ Mir

    Sir in social sciences eventually we are talking about generalities while being mindful of the fact that not everyone which belongs to a particular class thinks in similar terms. It is obvious that it is not possible. So this article was not trying to bracket every single person of middleclass as “delusional” but a reasonable of urban middleclass unfortunately fall into that category.
    Several surveys from Gallop show that despite horrific bombings by Taliban, the middleclass actually brands USA as enemy number 1.
    And yes a substantial number beleives in conspiracy theories..

  19. DN

    The middle class does have an identity crisis which is embodied by the likes of IK. While IK maybe factually correct, he is politically incorrect while addressing the masses, which mayb attributed to his naiivete as a politician. While his support for the right-wingers has made him the target of liberals, they (the liberals) have failed to come up with any concrete steps to counter terrorism other than blaming mullahs and Ziaism.

  20. Talha

    Imran Khan was very impressed with Hamid Gul early in his political career. They both were devising an Islamic plan for Pakistan.

    This is 1994/5, I am speaking of. Things have not changed much since then.

  21. Mir

    Could you kindly provide me the link to the Gallup Poll you refer to about the middle class perceiving the US as the greatest “enemy”?

    I have found this poll conducted jointly by Al Jazeera-Gallup, published in Aug 2009.

    For the pool, “Interviews were conducted across the political spectrum in all four of the country’s provinces, and represented men and women of every economic and ethnic background.”

    This is what a representative cross-section of Pakistan feels (not just the Middle Class):

    41% favoured the military operation against the Taliban. Only 24% disapproved of it.

    67% apposed the drone attacks.

    59% considered the US the greatest “threat” for Pakistan. [note threat, not enemy].

    One possible reason given for the negative opinion of the US was the drone strikes. This did not come as a surprise to a US official quoted in the second article who said the battle of hearts and minds is far from won–no mention of Pakistanis being abnormally delluded and twisted in their thinking. There was no mention of envy against the US as being a reason for the percived threat.

    I am sorry, I find your article disjointed in its reasoning and making unsubstantiated generalization (even by social science standards).

    I, however, support you in your exploration of the ills that afflict Pakistani society and psyche. We need introspection but one that doesn’t frame the discussion in sensational, counter-productive terms.

    Thank you.

  22. micksdad

    An excellent article. You have very eloquently put into words my feelings towards Imran Khan exactly.

  23. Feroz Khan

    Pakistani middle class morality is based on a hypocrisy of self-interested in politics and for this reason, it will never vote for Imran Khan. To be a leader in Pakistan, you have to make compromises and you have to have the vunerability of being bribed.

    Imran Khan’s drift to the right maybe a disappointment to the left and the so-called liberals of Pakistan, who would not know ppwhat “liberalism” even if it was explained to them. The reason that Imran is drifting to the right is, because the liberals of Pakistan and its middle classes, are a status quo society who are more interested in securing their niche in society and which is why, they have been apathetic; supporting any military ruler and any politicans as long as their own little sphere of life was not threatened.

    Imran Khan, regardless of his politican views, is a self-made person, who owes nothing to anyone and such a person will never be considered as a “team player” by the status quo society in Pakistan.

  24. @Feroz Khan

    The trouble with your argument in favour of Imran Khan, without going into the merits for the moment, is that a mere reversal of roles carries as much sense as your original wording. If the matter is so flexible, is the argument strong enough to withstand wind and weather?

    Thus (your original in italics, and changes in bold face):

    [Insert any well-known liberal personality’s name here]’s drift to the left maybe a disappointment to the right and the so-called conservatives of Pakistan, who would not know ppwhat “conservatism” even if it was explained to them. The reason that hero du jour is drifting to the left is, because the conservativess of Pakistan and its middle classes, are a status quo society who are more interested in securing their niche in society and which is why, they have been apathetic; supporting any military ruler and any politicans as long as their own little sphere of life was not threatened.

    Hero du jour, regardless of his politican views, is a self-made person, who owes nothing to anyone and such a person will never be considered as a “team player” by the status quo society in Pakistan.

    It appears that your argument is like a pair of socks – one size fits all.

  25. Majumdar

    Feroze Khan sb,

    Are you our esteemed colleague from chowk. If yes, welcome aboard then.


  26. Raza Raja


    Yes he is the same Feroz sahab….I really like hos writing though may not agree to his comment above!!!

    I hope in time he contributes somethin for PTH.

  27. Maryanne Khan

    Great article, Raza.

    Love this, “designer patriots”!!

    A sincere question: given the enormous divide between those who have absolutely nothing and those who have a little, let alone between these and the ‘middle class’ how can a person of relative privilege ever hope to speak with (or even ‘to’) the so-called ‘masses?’ What dialogue might they have in common?

  28. Raza Raja

    @Maryanne Khan

    Thanks a lot for liking the article

  29. Maryanne Khan

    I did like it, in its tone and its substance.

    It made a lot of sense because one might imagine that IK (cricketer, philanthropist) might have a massive following in Pakistan, but his apologist attitude to the stake holders in the Taliban and the interests they serve, smacks, to me at least, of a lasissez faire attitude towards those interests no matter how detrimental to the polity they might be.

  30. Raza Raja

    @Maryanne Khan

    yes apart from taliban apologist behaviour, i think it is also an utter failure to really connect with the voters. That is why even after 14 years his party is no where in the poles.

  31. Mnoor

    “Sometimes, I really feel disappointed that a person with his education, brilliance as a cricketer and above all his extraordinary services in the field of social work had to take a political direction that I actually have to pray that he never wins.”

    I have problem with this article on many levels.

    Pakistan suffers from a crisis of leadership (among other things), and even if we forget about leaders, reasonably competent managers for our government are hard to come by. From Mr. Raza’s article it appears he has an array of political leaders to choose from, and he is being Oh so picky! Sure IK has given brilliant record of actual service to Pakistan, and yes he is honest and of course he wants the best intentions for the country, but for Mr. Raza these things are not enough, he dreads the IK win because … horror of horrors…he actually wants to understand the Taliban problem, may even have a soft spot for them. The fact that he has never endorsed their brutal tactics, and always condemned suicide bombings is irrelevent for the author.

    Apparently the current leaders or the leaders in waiting of PML N are much better choice in the views of Mr. Raza. Just a small reminder, PPP and the like have not achieved the elimination of Taliban problem in spite of US aid and military operation, coupled with the fact that they are failing in all other fronts also, don’t make them a very hot choice. But of course for Mr. Raza just the verbal rhetoric of these politicians makes them rise above IK.

    Every person has plus and minus points. IK is no embodiment of perfection. One doesn’t have to agree with all of his politics all the time. I don’t even know whether he can ever be elected in the corruption ridden, zamindar driven political system of the country; but he certainly doesn’t deserve such extreme view about his political stance. If Pakistan can try and live with persons like Zardari and Gilani I am quite sure Imran Khan would be an improvement.

  32. YLH

    Hey Feroz… good to finally see you drop in.

  33. YLH

    PS: You are missed over Churchills and JD.

  34. Raza Raja

    @ Mnoor

    I have given my reasons…The issue is that typical supporters of Imran and who typically do not even vote come up with this typical defense that who are the alternative choices.

    Well every where in world mostly voters even when sick of mainstream parties still try to change polity through mainstream parties as no matter what their flaws, they embody a more pluristic and large section of the society. The idea is to be part of those parties and then try to force change. Yes it is difficult but certainly more do-able then supporting fringe parties like PTI and that too only on Facebook!!!!
    Yes Imran does not endorse attacks…for that matter no one does..But he has not even once condemned taliban. He is far more vocal in condemning drone attacks which by the way are targeting militants!!!
    Giving aplogetic defence and utter failure to self introspect are a lready well entrenched in our society. I really do not think that imran with his Allama Iqbal brand of Islam and political hollow sloganeering based on already hyped up nonsesne of “qaumi ghairat” is the right answer

  35. Raza Raja


    It is our privilege that Feroz sahab has come on PTH. I really like his writings on chowk.

  36. Raza Raja


    And I hope feroz sahab writes something for PTH

  37. Mnoor

    “The idea is to be part of those parties and then try to force change. Yes it is difficult but certainly more do-able then supporting fringe parties like PTI and that too only on Facebook!!!!”

    Please do let us know who is working on change in those parties, whenever that happens!

  38. Raza Raja

    Yeah sure..but for that you have to leave facebook support of Imran khan….
    In fact I would prefer that supporters of Imran actually bother to vote, EVEN, if they vote for him. at least they will be a part of participatory process.

  39. Dear Raza Raja

    Many of your points regarding Pakistan Middle Class actually applies to Indian middle classes as well.Its interesting to see the similarities.


  40. Raza Raja

    @ Indian pundit

    I think middle classes due to their monopoly over education, corporate sector and civil services have broadly similar outlook in the developing countries. These are upwardly mobile, self centered, patronizing towards masses and are more “patriotic” and identity conscious.

  41. Tilsim

    I would add that IK comes across as naive on economic matters. I saw him speak in late 1990s when Pakistan was facing the possibility of default on it’s international debt obligations. IK’s prescription was that Pakistan should immediately default and ask the loans to be written off (the lenders being blamed for Pakistan’s woes).

    I did not feel that he understood what the consequences may be for Pakistanis as a result of such a default. The freezing of foreign exchange accounts by Nawaz Sharif’s government resulted in very significant problems for the country’s economy but that real world experience had not introduced any caution into IK’s thinking.

  42. Mustafa Shaban

    @mnoor: Completely agreee with your comments. Hit the nail on the head. Couldnt have said it better myself.

    @Raza: Thnx for raising the issue.

    ”Well every where in world mostly voters even when sick of mainstream parties still try to change polity through mainstream parties as no matter what their flaws, they embody a more pluristic and large section of the society. The idea is to be part of those parties and then try to force change. Yes it is difficult but certainly more do-able then supporting fringe parties like PTI and that too only on Facebook!!!!”

    The continued support for mainstream parties in the world especially in US and Pakistan, is the reason why the status quo remains and nothing changes for the better. I am surprised that the masses resort to voting for the same parties over and over again!! Its Einsteins definition of madness!

    Your comment regarding change within mainstream parties made me laugh! Lolz! Dont see it happening within the next century or so! Maybe when Zardari’s and NS great, great, great, great, great grandsons get kicked out of thier respective parties than we mite see change!

    @feroz: agree with you 2!

    My opinion is that IK is a great leader and will take Pakistan ahead. Much better than PPP or PMLN and the other politicians. He is honest, no accusation of corruption and has a good graps of history and has proven himself before.

    First of all Imran Khan ”ghairat” model is completely valid. If a tiny Cuba and Fidel Castro can be a strong country and stand up for itself and be independant, and if other countries like Iran can stand up for themselves and not depend on foreign powers then why cant we? Tons of other examples i can give in both todays and world and in modern history. Many countries who have a lot less than Pakistan are doing much better simply because they have self esteem and independance.

    Second of all IK has alwayz condemned the TTP, he has never endorsed thier actions and he beleives that they are disgusting animals who need to be severely punished. He has said this time and again. Another thing is that his idea is that the people fighting the Army are not all the same, some of them are religious extremists and criminals who deserve to be punished . There are other groups of people who were wrongly targetted by the drone attacks and thier families were killed. IK suggests dividing these people into thier respective groups and then tackling each group separately. I dont agree with his plan but I am just makin it clear that he is not ”apologizing” for anyone. If Palestenians blow up Israeli civilians , and if someone links it to the Israeli occupation then does that mean that they are apologizing for the acts of Palestinians against Israeli Civilians??

    Thirdly, extremist Islam is not what IK is promoting. IK promotes progressive Islam with all the values of secularism included such as respect for minorities, scientific progress, human developement and investment, many of the great secular ideals you see in the West were also practised during the reigh of the first four Caliphs despite the controversies. IK has alwayz condemned what he calls the Taliban ”midevil” Islam. He has never allied himself with extremists.

    Fourthly, one valid point all of you do make is that he doesnt get any votes. This has also confused me, as people trust him with money but not with votes. However I beleive this is going to change, the incompetence of PPP , PMLN and other mainstream parties has put down thier popularity and I beleive other parties will take thier place. I beleive that a much larger percentage of the population will vote for him now then they did back in 2002 especially considering that we didnt have a fair and free media.

    Everybody is entitled to thier opinions but the frustrating thing is how badly misunderstood IK is. He is one of the most misunderstood personalities, people just dont get what he is really talking about and then draw wrong conclusions. Dont want to offend anyone here especially Raza who wrote a good aritcle , I am just putting forth my point of view.

  43. Raza Raja

    @ Wow

    I like this passion. Of course to bolster your point you have selected like minded posts on this thread and ignored majority of anti imran posts. But heck we all do that.

    In my opinion, try to work with a mainstream party is still possible rather than fringe party coming into power. Mainstream parties are more representative and plus electable.

    Over playing qaumi ghairat in pakistani scenario has been counterproductive as we have not been able to confront terrorism because of obsession with qaumi ghairat. I find it amusing that imran khan has so much to say against drone attacks and yet is speechless when taliban kill far more people.

    Any ways, have you wondered as to why he only appeals to urban middleclass tv watching internet surfing and above all NON VOTING populace?

  44. Raza Raja

    The above post is intended for Mustafe shaban

  45. Raza Raja


    Sir if you start picking words in an argument and start deliberating on semantics then frankly then every thing will appear disjointed and over generalized.
    Like the word “threat’ and “enemy”..I mean come on….An article is often an opinion and the author is making his opinion not TESTING a hypotehesis…

    Most of the Polls, and it was pointed out in muharraf era also are focused on urban areas. in fact come to think of it. PPP apparently fares very badly in some opinion poles and yet continues to win in the Bi electiolons in the rural area.

    I have nothing to add. may be I should have used some of the middle class or majority of the middleclass to satisfy your objections.

  46. Sher Zaman

    It’s true that he was a star cricketer and a philanthropist, but yes his career in politics is doubted by most of the people.

  47. Feroz Khan

    re: YLH

    Yes, I miss the cigars too, but it is not JD that I miss with my cohibias but something else.


  48. Feroz Khan

    re: Vajra

    My argument was not in favor of Imran Khan.

    The fact is, the idea of liberalism is misunderstood in Pakistan and though we may pretend to be liberals; we are not. Liberalism, in Pakistan, is confused with a life style choice that has nothing to do with the political idea of liberalism itself.

    Liberalism, as an idea, favors political change within a constitutionally defined manner. This idea then goes against the very grain of liberal thought in Pakistan, which has been traditionally anti-constitutional. There has never been any support for liberalism, as an idea, in Pakistan by its middle classes, because they were always more interested in securing their interests within a status quo dominated political environment rather than challenging the basic tenets of that environment.

    The Pakistani mindset is against the idea of the rule of law and it believes in the exclusivity from the law rather than in its obedience. Our society exists, and prides itself, in ignoring the law and not following it. The so-called Pakistani liberals, have always supported military dictatorships over civilian governments, because they have prefered the stability of a military rule over the chaos of a civilian rule, simply because their own interests were protected and for this, they have repeatedly made the choice in support of a non-democratic regime over a democratic one.


  49. @ Raza Raja

    i hate subscribing to comments on pak tea house because you end up getting mail for the next 100 days of two obscure commenters crying themselves hoarse over how the other is uncivil, and a motherf****r to boot.

    but when i read something as good as this…

    so much of the debate about imran khan is about what he said versus what he did. this really gets at the heart of the matter – imran is stuck in the dilemma of using establishment motifs to define identity, and hence is unable to politically divorce himself from them.

    great work. also, i am writing a blog about the “youth”, and if so, may i cite this article as an example of writing by young people.

  50. Splendid article Raza, it was really something worth reading. After reading your article, taking the opportunity I would like to share that I too have always liked or rather admired the services of Imran Khan for Pakistan. I, in fact, have been a die hard fan of him like many others, and perhaps this was the reason that when he first stepped in politics, I thought the country had got its real “messiah”. However, it was only before he came up with his first pro taliban remarks and his insistence upon the usefulness of traditional tribal justice (injustice in reality) system.

    I just can’t understand that when people like Haroon Rasheed, the renowned columnist, who is considered a great supporter and a close friend of his has utterly condemned his remarks as well as his liking about the above mentioned points, the guy himself never felt sorry about what he said and what he believes in this regard. this was really something heart breaking for people like me who had always considered him the savior of the country. Had he not been obsessed with this kind of thoughts and mentality, the guy could have been proved a real gem.

  51. @Feroz Khan

    I was misled by the use of Imran Khan as an example to make your larger point, that the Pakistani westernised classes were what is generally considered to be the Pakistani liberal section of society, with complete confusion ensuing.

    However, there is no doubt in my mind about the larger and rather more satisfying issue that you have raised, which is of course true not only of Pakistan but of its sister states Bangladesh and India as well. We do have a tendency to confuse westernisation with identification with a modern mind-set and with modern beliefs, and among them the liberal point of view about politics.

    That confusion does not mean that the liberal does not exist in any of these three countries. It does mean that sometimes we confuse westernised individuals, individuals who are politically autocratic or oligarchic, correctly speaking, in rather the ancient Greek sense, with liberals.

    That is all.

    Sadly, it leaves us with a very small number of people who happen to be of a democratic bent of mind. The larger section of the westernised are as you have described them, rentiers interested only in military dictatorships which allow them to increase the scope of their rentier activities.

    What the implications are, is a different story. For the moment, I shall confine myself to denying as emphatically as possible, from the example of those that I have been dealing with, and from the example of those that I encounter with reasonable frequency in India, that the only class that exists is an autocracy-prone westernised class of the conservative.

    I am sorry for the incoherence. It is due to a mad rush to conclude my theft of band-width, occasioned due to an unfortunate period of bereavement of my own broadband connection. More later, perhaps.

  52. Raza Raja

    @ Fayaaz and karachikhatmal

    Thanks a lot. You can make use of this article as much as possible.

    thanks for appreciation and encouragement.

  53. Raza Raja

    @ feroz Khan

    I fully agree about middleclass not understanding about liberalism…particularly constitutional liberalsim. In fact for those who have studied evolution of democracy in western europe know that constitutional liberalism which is underpinned by rule of law, seperation of powers actually PRECEDED universal suffarge.

    Farid zakria’s book future of freedom chronochiles evolution of democracy in various countries and concludes that for democracy to be stable rule of law has to be there.

    But having said, so imran Khan supported Musharraf initially and his own party is totally on cult of personality.
    I am not sure whether Mr Khan is the right example in political aspect

  54. humanist

    simply a great article..superb

    i agree with you 99.9%

    BUT i will vote for IMRAN KHAN in next election.I am secular,liberal,humanist..and there are many more like us..but we dont have a choice..
    IMRAN has that tribute which is enough reason for secular humanists like me to vote for him..and that is INTEGRITY..we have to sacrifise perfectionism and idealism temporarily..IMRAN is the best choice for us..we secular humanist(like midlle class)dont have much choice.

  55. humanist

    secondly in countries like Pakistan masses cant be mobilized without using religious sentiments..even SECULAR HUMANIST like MOHAMMAD ALI JINNAH had to use it in 1947 to mobilize muslims of subcontinent to protect their political rights..

  56. I’m not sure what to make of this…there are some very good points in this, but some very serious flaws as well.

    I don’t see why you think that patriotism and westernization are mutually exclusive; why you choose to completely rule out the ‘Taliban are reactionary’ argument.

    What, for example, do you consider to be ‘aping the West’ – using iPods and wearing jeans? How does that contradict the Pakistani identity? Since when is a precondition of being Pakistani to wear only shalwar kamiz and only listen to folk music? Exactly why is someone being self-contradictory if they say that they are Muslims and enjoy cheesecake?

    I also disagree with some of your generalizations – how can you say that everyone who expresses pride is being self delusional? Is it delusional to be proud of the natural beauty of Pakistan? Is it necessarily self-delusional to be proud of sufi music?

    I would also add, by the way, that any nation subjected to the biased media portrayal of Pakistan would be defensive. Not that it’s a good thing to be defensive – but I am merely trying to explain how it is a natural phenomenon, not strange or twisted or illustrative of any hypocrisy. In the upper middle class you speak of, there are people who completely deny any association with Pakistan (mostly amongst those who move abroad) and then there are many who realize that their identity is irrevocably Pakistani and cannot be erased. And when Pakistan is attacked, they feel like THEY are being attacked – and, understandably, respond. Some get defensive, some cook up conspiracy theories, some cite a lack of religion…some criticize the govt, others join NGOs, others try to be good Pakistanis in their own capacity…there are many different ways in which people respond, most of which are not intrinsically bad, but probably incomplete and imperfect.

    And I am hardly a Taliban apologist, but your argument seems to be that anyone who cites drone attacks as a reason for extremism is one. Come on. No one can doubt that they are at least part of the reason, can they? Again – I’m not an expert in international relations and sovereignty law, but it seems to me that if the US military were carrying out any operations without the Pakistani government’s knowledge/implicit approval, it WOULD be a violation of sovereignty. The Pakistani government’s traditional public position that they do not approve of these attacks is what causes confusion in so many people.

    So, yes. While I agree with your statements about Imran the politician, I disagree with your pronouncements about the ‘middle class’.

  57. Raza Raja

    @ nabeel

    I have not mentioned anywhere in the article that wearing jeans and patriotism is mutually exclusive.

    That was not the point. read again and you would find a reason as to why it was aping west was mentioned. you are pretty intelligent as is clear by your post, you will gauge it. the word used was “twisted” envy

    regading drone attacks…well what is apologetic defense in the first place..that basically those who are blowing themselves are not blowing themselves because of ideological issue but merely as a reaction.
    Yes you are right this may be part of the reason but unfortunately majority of people do not think as reasonably as you think. Just listen to your most of media and general media watching people. They think either it is a conspiracy or just that hardliners have been forced to blow themselves in lahore because USA drones killed someone in FATA!!

  58. Feroz Khan

    @ Raza Raja

    I agree, with you on the rule of law.

    That is why, the real argument for the suitability of a political candidate in Pakistan, has to be removed from from issues of personality to one of procedures. Pakistani political parties and our leaders’ biggest flaw is the lack of a democratic tradition and the fact that they do not preach, what they practice.

    Hopefully, in Pakistan, we will mature to the point that we debate the potential of our leaders not on the basis of their personalities or even issues, but on the basis of the process, which allowed them to assume the positions of leadership. Our leaders and our political parties cannot represent the people as long the leaders are the self-appointed messiahs of their own vanities and remain unaccountable to the people.


  59. humanist

    “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

    Ronald Reagan

  60. Feroz Khan

    @ Vajra

    Yes, I would agree with you and would add, that a liberal is one who is willing accept a result or an opinion, which has been arrived in a constitutional manner, regardless of his her/her personal opinion.

    Case in point: lets say there are fair and free elections in Pakistan in 2013 and all the international observers confirm that their results were free of any irregularities, but those elections bring the religous parties to power in Pakistan.

    What happens then? A liberal minded Pakistani would have to accept those results no matter how much they may personally detest the religious right.

    Are the so-called Pakistani liberals willing to accept the results or will they justify a military coup in a Machavellian sense that denies the religious parties their right to form a government?

    Liberals do exist in these nations, but they are still immature in their political belief structures and still mis-identify liberalism, and their stance, as a reaction to a view rather than understand liberalism as a belief in process of politics itself governed by constitutionalism.


  61. No, actually, I’m not too clear on what you mean by the contradictions. Could you explain?

    ‘merely as a reaction’ can probably be called an apologetic defense, but saying that suicide attacks are at least partially reactionary is not a defense by any stretch of the imagination – it’s just an explanation.

  62. @humanist

    And who should have known better than that raddled old panderer to the baser elements of every citizen?

  63. Mustafa Shaban

    @Raza: We have been re electing mainstream parties for a very long time, and this is not unique to Pakistan but elsewhere as well. The result: Same old status quo, no change.

    My friend we have never had any ghairat in our leadership, they have been doing the same thing for years which is taking the weak position and taking dications from foreign powers. Again expecting that the same thing will bring different results is Einsteins definition of madness. Obviously if one thing doesnt work then why not try the other?

    IK for the millionth time….has condemned ttp attacks, and has not tried to justify them but understand them, and is as critical of them as much as the drone attacks. Do you even watch his interviews?

    Also as for your comment on ”non voting populace” . Has it not occured to anyone that not a lot of people knew what IK’s position was in 2002 becuase we didnt have a vibrant media that could get his message across? Also he boycotted the 2008 elections so we didnt get the chance to see his popularity on a national scale. Now that we do have a media, and now that people do know what he is about, we will see in the next national elections how many people vote for him. I am sure its going to be a lot more, who else do we have? Altaf Hussain? Zardari? Nawaz Sharif? I think we have better choices.

  64. Raza Raja


    Kindly read this article also May be you will understand what I mean by apologetic defense. I think the term is pretty commonly used and there should not be confusion regarding it.
    Aplogetic defense normally comes with a “justification” tone rather than as explanation and adopts somewhat sympathetic tone.

    If I am still not able to clarify…well then I apologize and will try to do better next time..

    Thanks for giving me a balanced prespective on this article. I am happy to note that you looked both its positives and negatives which is the right way to analyse any stuff.

  65. tahir

    Writer starts the article with wrong assumption.Very few in Pakistan vote for Pakistan.Voting criteria in Pakistan is etnicity,barardism,feudalism.There are those who win votes by using guns.There is massive riiging always.
    PTI in last 5 elections had bagged good votes and turned out to be second in three elctions out of five.
    Writer my suggestion to you is,get your basic rights.Are you among those who consider Bush better than Iqbal?You seem to be so suggested by your writing.

  66. I agree with the general message of the article, i.e., that the people who are most enamoured by IK are the non-voting types but that he has failed to attract the masses. Nevertheless, I also feel that the article conflates a lot of issues and thus is inaccurate on certain matters. For instance, the intro really doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the article. The debate in ET with respect to the Sialkot killings (referenced in the intro here) really has little to do with which side of the IK divide you fall on. In fact, I doubt that the people who wrote in support of looking beyond Pakistan to widen the debate were either conspiracy theorists or IK fans. That is a wholly separate matter and does not fit in with this subject matter or line of argument. Besides, one could also make the argument that a lot of those who insist on not taking a global view of Pakistan’s failings (which has nothing to do with justifying wrongdoing) may not have spent any time abroad and thus developed a narrow view of how “Pakistanis have lost all values” without taking into account the shortcomings of others. Again, pointing this out does not mean that Pakistan’s flaws should not be discussed or rectified.

  67. Aura

    It seems the author is expecting perfection and I hope he/she must define how a perfect leader should be? In my opinion people have to compromise on certain traits/points just so they could move on unlike the author who’s approach is rather pessimistic.

  68. Aura

    Plus I think the writer should consider the voting in Pakistan is not done by intellectual, people sell their votes every year. There’s nothing much IK can do when people want to live in misery.