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Monday, July 15, 2024

The Rise and Fall of PTI: A Tale of Broken Promises and Polarizing Politics

The rise of Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party initially captivated the hearts of educated urbanites and veterans alike, who had long held a strong bond with the Army and held disdain for the political class. However, as time unfolded, the promises made by Khan proved elusive, and his popularity began to wane.

Till the rise of PTI chairman Imran Khan (IK) in politics in Oct 2011, who captured the hearts of the educated urbanites, the retired officers, JCOs and men of the Army were motivated and wedded to the Army. There was a strong bond between the serving and retired and both took pride in the Army and they looked down upon the political class.

When the late Lt Gen retd Hamid Gul was the Chairman of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society (PESS), and I was his right-hand man, being a visionary, he had given his concept of how to make best use of 2.5 million trained and disciplined workforce of ex-servicemen, He wanted them to become an effective 2nd line defense force of the Army in peace and war. For that he had asked GHQ to extend a helping hand.

Read more: Pakistan’s Imran Khan gets bail on murder charges – lawyer

The Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif pondered over his suggestion but made it subject to amalgamation of PESS with another veteran’s group (PESA), (now Veterans of Pakistan-VoP), led by Lt Gen retd Ali Kuli Khan. The latter didn’t agree due to which PESS remained deprived of the GHQ support. Earlier on, PESS under Lt Gen Faiz Ali Chishti was a non-entity. Gen Musharraf detested the veterans and viewed them as spent cartridges. PESS received attention for the first time when Gen Qamar Bajwa (QJB) was the army chief and PESS was chaired by Lt Gen Amjad Shuaib.

IK Project

IK Project was launched by a few serving and retired army officers in 2011 due to sickening corrupt dynastic politics of the two mainstream parties. To build his image, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari were demonized for over a decade. He was voted to power by the upper and middle-class urbanites in 2018 hoping that he will bring a big change and better their lives. The idea of change was appealing to the armed forces and the veterans as well.

IK’s lofty promises proved elusive and a pipedream due to which his popularity declined within two years of his rule. He proved to be a clumsy narcissist, devoid of moral compunctions.

Descent and Frankenstein Rise of IK’s Popularity

The populous leader of PTI, after remaining in power for about four years (Aug 2018-Apr 2022), lost power in April 2022 due to his bungling. He bounced back to become the most popular leader.

A segment of the veterans (total 5 million) as well as their families got mesmerized and politicized by the magnetism of IK and gravitated towards him. Some behaved like erstwhile Jayalas dancing to the tunes of the pied piper. Some senior veterans joined the show and got emotionally involved in the political fray.

Changed Scenario after 9 May 2023

Today, the scenario has changed.  IK and his largest and most popular party are currently in thick soup after they recklessly bashed their heads against the fortress of the Army on 9 May. Consequent to the crackdown by the law-enforcing agencies, the majority of recognized leaders of PTI have deserted the party and are jumping into the ships of other parties daily. The tigers proved to be paper-tigers when they tried to claw the real tigers. They are now mewing like spanked pussies.

From within PTI, a new party titled ‘Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party’ under Jahangir Tareen has emerged, while many deserters have taken refuge in PML-Q and PPP.  Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervez Khattak and Atif Khan are in two minds, while secluded IK is cursing all the absconders like an old village woman.

PTI’s Diatribes after Regime Change

When PTI was shown the door through a vote of no-confidence last year, IK termed it a US conspiracy. After drawing political benefits from this narrative, he then changed his narrative by putting the whole blame on his mentor Gen QJB and tried to mend fences with Washington. Hatred against the Army was built in the minds of the people and the Army was depicted as the mother of all evils. PDM leaders were declared as thieves, looters and the biggest curse on Pakistan.

Read more: Pakistan’s Imran Khan formally named in ‘abetting’ lawyer’s drive-by murder

Like the cult followers of IK, the veterans also believed in his narratives and joined him in badmouthing Gen QBJ and ISI senior officers. IK made good use of the serving officers and veterans that had remained close to him, to not only get inside information and pulse reports of the Army, but also to create fissures in the rank and file of the Army, and to germinate feelings of mutiny against the seniors.

For over one year, IK injected poison into the minds of his party activists, the youth, his devotees as well as the veterans to demean the PDM Govt and the Army leadership. IK and his hawkish party leaders vilified, humiliated, and demoralized the army relentlessly.

The purpose of abusing the army chief and senior ISI officers and to adopt a belligerent posture was to take the fear of the Army from the minds of his admirers and to prepare the PTI tigers to attack the forts of Pak Army at an opportune time. His tirade against the army leadership helped him in raising his popularity graph sky-high.

Abnormal Behavior of Cult Followers

The cult followers loved IK’s revolutionary style, his invectives against the Generals and the PDM leaders, his defiance of the State institutions, and his call for a Jihad to achieve Haqiqi Azadi. They lauded his determination and fighting spirit and got fascinated by his crowd pulling power. The fun/sex starved youth, the drug addicts, the jobless and homeless, the liberal segment including the singers, transgenders, young girls and women enamored by IK’s charms, middle-aged matrons and aunties infatuated by the magnetism of the Casanova, enlivened his public gatherings where dance, songs, music and food became a norm.

Never before they had enjoyed unchecked liberty, intermixing of two sexes, and receiving huge applause. The prettiest girls could see their faces flashed on TV screens and videos. The public gatherings became venues for promiscuity, groping, flirting, dating and matrimonial matchmaking. It was a cost-free entertainment they loved and relished. Leakage of porn audios of IK excited them and they admired his machismo and sexual prowess.

Besotted veterans wanting PTI candidacy for their children, nephews and nieces, or even for themselves, joined the fun, and many became cult followers. After disparaging Gen QJB, they aggressively castigated Gen Asim Munir and expressed their anger and angst in the veteran’s-run websites. They drew a sadistic pleasure in belittling him.

Bogus Calls for Jihad

While the veterans seconded IK’s call for Jihad against the State and backed him on social media, no veteran came forward with a wish to wage a jihad against India or in Kashmir to liberate the Kashmiris suffering daily rapes, torture and killings at the hands of Indian brutes. Their oppression and brutalities did not hurt the veterans nor the PTI. No aged veteran has the physical strength and heart to fight the external invasion, nor can wage a jihad in Kashmir, but they behaved like warriors and peacetime Napoleons.

I wish the great leader of PTI had prepared his Tiger Force to wage a jihad in Kashmir rather than against own Army. I wish the tigers had ransacked Baramula garrison across the LoC, destroyed the fence along LoC and torched some military posts and army vehicles in Occupied Kashmir on 9 May. I would have saluted them and shamed the PDM leaders and the Pak Army.

The mantra of Snap Polls

The PTI leadership never bothered about Pakistan’s economy which was in dire straits due to upsurge of terrorism, political instability, uncertainty and insecurity caused by PTI’s politics of violence, and the PTI’s baggage inherited by the PDM. Their sole concern was snap polls and two-thirds victory for the PTI. For them, early elections were the panacea for all the maladies. This was the song constantly sung by the PTI leaders, the expats and the veterans.

External Threats Callously Ignored

After the victory of India in 1971, India was waiting for 9 May like situation to cash in. India has more than one million military forces in IOK and is well poised to carry out limited war in AJK and GB, which it claims to be part of India. Seeing the highly disturbed internal security situation, India had alerted its forces on 9 May.

If God forbid, the Indian forces had barged in, the way they had in 1971, the cult-like followers of IK would have forgotten the current price hike, the socio-economic difficulties and the injustices of the elite class. Their fate would have not been different to the oppressed Indian Muslims and Kashmiris. The possibility of the liberals and seculars together with the quislings welcoming the invaders and garlanding them could have become a possibility. It happened in East Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and Libya. Blinded by the glitter of Haqiqi Azadi, hypnotized followers of IK and myopic veterans remained ignorant of the threat of India, and the dangerous designs of the Indo-US-Israeli Nexus and kept chanting Azadi slogans.

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They got so obsessed with IK’s charisma and his wonky idea of Haqiqi Azadi, that they considered the PDM Govt, the State institutions and Pak Army a bigger threat than external enemies. They not only overlooked Modi’s racism, fascism and craze for Hindutva, but they eulogized him. They found all the faults in the PDM Govt and the Army leadership, but hardly pointed fingers at India which has far greater fault lines than Pakistan. They quietly watched IOK annexation on Aug 5, 2019 and subsequent genocide and change of demography and never questioned IK as to why he failed to initiate any step to stop Modi from undertaking this venture which India had not dared since 1948?

Is PTI Different from Proscribed Parties?

While the so-called bunch of thieves and looters defended Pakistan and stood with the Army in testing times, the PTI was hell-bent to destroy the Army’s integrity. IK and other PTI leaders prayed for Pakistan’s default and earnestly wished for Sri Lanka like mayhem, or Sudan-like situation. IK envisioned Pakistan splitting into three parts.

Seeing its conduct since May 25, 2022, how is PTI different from TTP, BLA, BNA, or PTM and TLP? Hasn’t it shed off the cloak of democracy and taken up terrorism against the state? Its connection with the TTP is an open secret.

Are the Veterans Justified to Badmouth the Army?

If the veterans are so convinced with the ideology of PTI and the leadership of IK, and are sure that he will achieve Haqiqi Azadi for Pakistan, shouldn’t they cut off their links with the Army and join the PTI and pick up their flags?  As honorable veterans, they should have stopped drawing benefits from the Army and instead should have sought benefits from the so-called Messiah. They can’t have the pudding and eat it too. And if they cannot, they shouldn’t act as fence-sitters, spoilers, and instigators to spoil the reputation of the Army, which has given them a lot and is still giving a lot.

Are the veterans justified to say that it is their legal right to get hefty pensions, excellent medical facilities, live in posh colonies, and enjoy other perks, and at the same time, it is their legal and morally right to badmouth the Army leadership in public and join hands with chronic army haters? It is like biting the hand which feeds them.

Only the hypocrites indulge in double-dealing, and play on both sides of the wicket. DG ISPR rightly quipped that what the enemies couldn’t achieve in the last 75 years was achieved by the detractors at home in one day.

Read more: Pakistan’s Imran Khan openly accuses military of trying to destroy his party

Is PTI a Revolutionary Party?

Revolution and jihad cannot be waged from Banigala and Zaman Park. Mao Tse Tung achieved freedom after a long march in which the majority perished and few thousand survived. Khomeini lived a Spartan life and not a royal life. The Afghan Taliban achieved the miracle due to the conduct of the top leadership. The leaders ate what a normal foot soldier ate and lived in caves.

They never gave long sermons or gave examples of Prophet Muhammad PBUH and Khulfa Rashada, or indulged in rhetoric. They fought the war with complete faith in Allah. They didn’t fear death or expressed fear that drones, missiles, B 52 bombers and daisy cutters could kill them. They introduced Shari’a in their first rule and have reinstated it in spite of the resentment of the international community.

IK is a rabble rouser and not a revolutionary leader. He is no Mao, Lenin or Mandela. His habits and history match Donald Trump and both are in a fix.

Hypocritic Idea of Riyasat Madina

How could a Riyasat Madina be established with an official stamp of secularism, Westminster parliamentary system, Anglo-Saxon laws, British inherited systems and a financial system subordinated to the capitalist system?

Was the conduct of the PTI even a shade nearer to the conduct of the four Caliphs of Islam of whom IK never got tired giving examples?

His conduct and behavior were opposite to the teachings of Islam. He was merciless and unforgiving towards his political opponents. His party was a mix-pickle of opportunist electables from other parties and PTI’s supporters were softies and fun loving.


The writer is retired Brig Gen, second generation officer and father of a martyr Maj Faheem Asif, war veteran, who took part in the epic battle of Hilli in Northwest Bengal in 1971, which was applauded by every Indian, Bangladesh and western writer.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.