Home Editorial Editorial: Does Imran Khan Have a Future?

Editorial: Does Imran Khan Have a Future?

Results of the 2024 general elections suggest the PTI and its founder will remain a potent force in Pakistani politics for years to come

by Editorial

File photo of PTI founder Imran Khan attending court proceedings

Critics of former prime minister Imran Khan have voiced claims that his political future has come to end with three convictions that have sentenced him to prison and numerous still-pending cases related to the May 9 riots during which supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) attacked government and military assets in anger over his arrest. This view, however, appears to ignore how political leaders in Pakistan often go to prison after being ousted from office—as Khan was through a vote of no-confidence in 2022—finding a new lease of life through public sympathy. Unfortunately in Pakistan, public sympathy can only take you so far, and all political leaders are required to wheel-and-deal with the country’s “real” power-brokers if they have any chance of returning to power—and staying in it.

While there is no denying Khan’s popularity among the masses, it should be recalled that prior to his ouster, public anger over his poor governance was peaking and it was likely that his party would be voted out if the then-opposition hadn’t rushed to unseat him. After several months of protest rallies, Khan had attempted to pressure the government though a long march to Islamabad; this had failed to gather sufficient numbers to achieve his goal, as he lacked the key ingredient support of establishment support he had enjoyed in the past. After this, he had proceeded to dissolve the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies still ruled by the PTI, hoping to trigger nationwide elections. This plan, too, failed, as the government refused to proceed to piecemeal polls until the National Assembly had completed its tenure.

After several delays, general elections were conducted earlier this month, with the results proving the voters were unwilling to abandon Khan. Despite Khan and several of the PTI’s leadership in jail; the party lacking a party symbol; and many former stalwarts exiting the party under pressure, the PTI secured a comfortable mandate in the polls—though insufficient to form government independently. It is now abundantly clear that the more the state strives to pull down Khan, the stronger the pushback of his party. If Khan plays his cards right, he—and his charisma—could haunt Pakistani politics for years to come.

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