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Will Imran ever introspect?

One of the core teachings for the primary year students of the International Baccalaureate system is to learn how to reflect on their work and actions.These young elementary students are populated with the skill to introspect and learn from their journeys towards completion of any task, project or assignment. This helps them cope with a lot of academic demands of the IB system but in essence it gives them a lifelong skill to introspect at any given time of their life.

Sadly, former prime minister Imran Khan wasn’t taught this fundamental skill of life nor did he learn it through his vast array of experience and tremendous exposure. One of the reasons he and his party are where they are today is because he never learnt the art to stop, ponder and think twice or in his case think three times. Post-2011 PTI was a mirror image of what Imran was all about. The leadership reflected his mind set and the followers, most of them being the youth, echoed his language and attitude. Sadly, Imran saw all those who opposed him as enemies and never wanted to try to engage with them. He sold hate to his fans and vilified all his political opponents by creating an aura of negativity and hostility towards the opposing political parties/ politicians.

He personally attacked them by attacking them with very serious charges and when in a lighter mood he would mock them by name calling, body shaming, misogynist remarks or through his homophobic/ transphobic statements. All this while his fans picked up in numbers and applauded him when he resorted to all of the above. Strangely not many of his followers; if any, called him out for his sexism, bigotry, vilification and charges without proof.His media trial of the leading political parties and their leaders was covered by all forms of the media and was seen more as a form of entertainment by many PTI voters. He had a name for all the leading politicians that he hated and made sure that his fans hated too. The envious attention Imran captured through his rhetoric, utopian claims and a mirage of hopes was mesmerizing with many willing to overlook so many of his shortcomings and lies that they would have hanged others for.

Imran’s past, his U-turns and his contradictions were valiantly defended in public and on social media by many of his hardcore followers. The word ‘troll’ was used for some diehard online Imran fans as they would hunt you in pairs every time you dared to either question or disagree with what he said or claimed. Imran Khan’s era polarized society and created friction within homes, friendships and even relationships.

But the biggest turn of events was when his narrative was picked up by certain journalists, channels and social media activists who became holier than the king and took Imran’s already extreme and violent narrative to a different level. Many made a fortune in the process and gained enormous popularity within Pakistan and especially outside Pakistan. There came a point where instead of Imran giving them themes and trajectories to work on, they started doing the same to/ for him. The tail indeed started wagging the dog.

This was a turning point for his politics as those journalists or social media activists who had millions of viewers or followers now started and raised the narratives for Imran Khan. They started a very well-structured design of fake news which they were able to transmit to millions within seconds through their YouTube channels or social media handles and the blinded zeolites would buy the most unbelievable and the vilest of accusations and statements about anyone without any fact checking, probe or questioning. Reason, logic and facts were oblivious and evasive in this situation – thus resulting in humongous power in the hands of those who actually started to set the ball rolling for the party through Imran Khan.

Those sitting abroad and sitting pretty didn’t care much about the reactions and counter-arguments and continued to raise the political temperatures in the country while Imran followed their lead carelessly and without question. The term Khan-fidence emerged after Imran grew in size and became louder and more aggressive in his language, tone and approach. He became the most popular leader – at least on social media, certain channels, surveys and the by-elections after his ouster as the PM of Pakistan.In this entire roller coaster journey one can’t find instances of action or words when one could presume Imran has paused and reflected upon his actions. We could not find any introspection and felt he wouldn’t look within or reflect critically as he saw the rising temperatures and the increasing applause for him as a sign of all was right and well.

Imran’s back-to-back speeches, his hard-hitting words and his largely flustered opposition made him a giant compared to anyone in the political history of Pakistan. Added to that he seemed to be getting away with virtually anything and everything in the courts and there was talk of huge support for him even in other institutions. Imran seemed unconquerable and his valiant keyboard warriors made sure the impression remained true. They attacked all opposing voices at all media platforms. They ran ugly and ruthless campaigns against dissenting voices in the country. They lied and lied to such an extent that it felt true to even those that didn’t support him.

The wild and often brutal narrative had many takers and few to scrutinize it. They mocked all those arrested during his regime and laughed when the opposition faltered. They sat on this moral high ground where their filthy and often personal attacks were patted by Imran himself.Then came the events of May 9, 2023 and everything suddenly changed. Of course, Imran Khan probably did not ask his followers to go and burn every military installation etc but when you sell so much hate against all your opponents. When you constantly ask your fans to come out on the streets to protest. When you name and shame men in the military all the time. What do you expect out of your blind followers?

Today, despite numerous fact-checks, proven fake news being churned out of some C-grade journalists, many continue to buy into such media channels that had to pay huge amounts, apologize and retract when challenged in courts abroad. They still buy into false claims by certain journalists who sell hot air only because that is what they want to see and hear and not what is actually out there. All this resulted in the PTI now being more broken and sidelined than ever before. This is what one calls a self-inflicted wound.

Imran Khan may take any stance in public today, but one hopes that when he puts his head on the pillow at night he may do an honest reflection of his actions and see how he was egged on by some vested interests who gained financially while he stands to lose everything. How his constant screaming and posturing every time he is not in power acts as a means of destabilization, insecurity and chaos. How he in opposition stalls the entire country and many serious issues affecting millions remain neglected. How his politics of hate, prejudice and violence has damaged the social fabric of this country for several years to come.

In short, one hopes against hope that Imran Khan will think thrice before he even tries to act in the same manner as he has been for all these years.

Taimur K Bandey, "Will Imran ever introspect?," The News. 2023-06-01.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political history , Politicians , Elections , Imran Khan , Pakistan , PTI