Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in 2022 as the “most popular politician of Pakistan,” despite being ousted from government and facing an assassination attempt. In an exclusive interview, Khan shared his plan to return to power, which included creating a new social contract to vest power in political institutions rather than the military. Khan has been demanding snap polls since his ouster a year ago, taking out two long marches and claiming that his opponents, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and others, were behind the attack on him. Despite facing over 100 cases involving allegations of corruption, sedition, blasphemy, and terrorism, Khan remains the most popular politician in the country with thousands of diehards willing to take to the streets on his one call. Khan claims that the country’s economy has gone into a tailspin, and the election could bring political stability, which is the starting point for economic recovery.
Khan’s loss of power and his subsequent mobilization of his diehard supporters to demand snap elections have left an imprint on him. Despite his wound, he remains the same charismatic leader who can communicate with all strata of society on their level. According to Shaheena Bhatti, a professor of literature in Rawalpindi, “The other politicians are … not going to do anything for the country because they’re only in it for themselves.”
The November attack on Khan’s life intensified the burning sense of injustice in members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, who have since clashed with police in escalating street battles involving slingshots and tear gas. Although an avowed religious fanatic was arrested for the shooting, Khan continues to accuse an assortment of rival politicians of pulling the strings. Khan has also been hit by charges, including corruption, sedition, blasphemy, and terrorism, which he claims have been concocted in an attempt to disqualify him from politics.
Despite facing resistance, including crackdowns involving the use of tear gas by Punjab police in riot gear at his Lahore residence, Khan remains undeterred in his mission to steer Pakistan out of its ongoing crisis. He asks the government if they have a plan to do the same and claims that the country’s economy has “gone into a tailspin.” In another argument to support his demand for polls, Khan asserts that the election could bring political stability, which is the starting point for economic recovery.
Khan reiterates his idea of the State of Madina while speaking about his plan to turn the country into an Islamic Welfare State. He believes that a “completely new social contract” is required to enshrine power in political institutions rather than the military. Despite the challenges he faces, Khan remains optimistic and believes that he can get Pakistan back on track.