Pakistan’s system not ready to embrace Khan again

Nothing will change in Pakistani politics for foreseeable future, believes acclaimed writer Tariq Ali

In his recent essay published on British bi-monthly journal New Left Review under the title ‘Pakistan’s Godfathers’, acclaimed writer and intellectual Tariq Ali elaborates the state of affairs in the country in the following words:

“But whatever [Imran] Khan’s fate, nothing will change in Pakistani politics for the foreseeable future. The monstrous greed and immovable indifference of the elites brings to mind the words of Abu al-Ala al-Ma’arri, the great secular tenth-century poet from Aleppo:

“And where the Prince commanded, now the shriek

Of wind is flying through the court of state:

‘Here,’ it proclaims, ‘There dwelt a potentate,

Who could not hear the sobbing of the weak.’”

During a conversation with the audience at the Institute of Ideas and Art in 2018, the influencer behind the John Lennon’s revolutionary song ‘Power to the People’ had also predicted the bad-ending of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

“So, what the poor Imran Khan is going to do…I mean…politics doesn’t come to him naturally. If he just builds more hospitals, it will be a step forward…let’s say that…but in other way…look at the people in his party…the members…his foreign minister currently…[He] has been a foreign minister under military government and every other civilian government. It’s the same small group of people who are rotating. He [Imran Khan] has not been able …he won the support of lots of young people…none of them are in the leadership… doing things they should be encouraged to do. So…I think…I fear…I hope I’m wrong… but I think it will end badly.”

Ali made this prediction a couple of months after the victory of the PTI in the general elections and four years before Khan’s ouster from power. He proves him right. Today, many of Khan’s so-called loyalists left the party and some are ready to flee. He is struggling to rebuild the castle but veterans like Tariq Ali believe he can’t.

A senior journalist having links in the real ‘power circle’ of Pakistan tweeted a couple of days ago that Sheikh Rasheed – interior minister in Khan’s former cabinet and who is widely considered as establishment’s guy – was conveyed that Imran Khan had no future (in politics). While sitting close to his chairman during frequent pressers in recent days, a visible sign of concern could be seen on the face of Shah Mehmood Qureshi – the former foreign minister of the PTI government – and so does on many of other senior members who know how the system works in Pakistan.

Wanted in more than a dozen of cases, according to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Khan is likely to be arrested in the near future. If he escaped arrest with the help of the courts, a permanent threat would remain hanging on his head. The PTI is likely to face bitter opposition of religious parties in the election due to their close alliance with the establishment.

His party is already facing threats of ban from the Election Commission of Pakistan, the watchdog responsible for holding polls in the country. The PTI has already declared the ECP as ‘pro-PML-N’, the name of its head being forwarded by the establishment before appointment, according to the former minister.

Many believe Khan’s chances of coming into power again are as rare as hen’s teeth. Scheduled to be held in July 17, by-polls in 20 constituencies of Punjab will be a test for the PTI. It is widely expected that the former ruling party will hardly make success on half of the seats which it grabbed in 2018 and which fell vacant recently after disqualification of the PTI MPAs for voting against the party direction during Punjab chief minister’s election.

“This system looks completely rotten from the outside. But once you spend some time in it you realize it’s a well-oiled machinery. Every part knows its job well. And the one that doesn’t, simply gets replaced. But the system never changes.”

This dialogue between two police officers in Indian politics-crime series “Paatal Lok” perfectly explains the future of Khan.

Iftikhar Alam is a correspondent writing on religion, politics, agriculture, and energy. He takes people on a rich journey through the culture of Punjab. He tweets @imiftikharalam and can be reached at

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