ISSN 2330-717X

PTI’s Agenda Of Cult Politics: A Damaging Narrative For The State – OpEd


Pakistan has emerged under the name of Islam in 1947. After its creation, we don’t have any administrative structure like India or well-equipped state machinery. At that time we only had one stable institution which is the army. It held the state strong when it was crumbling because the lack of key leaders in Pakistan politics had suffered unprecedented incidents. Pakistan’s politics has a history of unpleasant incidents, whether the 1971 Bhutto mujeeb tussle or President Ghulam Ishaq khan who sacked Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Cabinet in August 1990. Although the army as an institution did cross its line at various times in history whenever it did it is our political parties which invite the army into politics. 

Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) emerged in the political arena in 1996. Although Pakistan has a history of long marches in 1980, 89, 92,93,2017. PTI is the first party which introduced the sit-in (Dharna) Culture into Pakistani politics. It all started in 2014 when PTI launched its sit-in of 120 days in Islamabad. During that sit-in, it demanded the resignation of at that time PM Nawaz Sharif and an audit of the 2013 general elections. During this whole campaign, media played a key role especially social media platforms proved to be a key tool for agenda-setting and building a strong narrative of swindling in the 2013 general elections. In 2018 when PTI came into power it built strong ties with military leadership and praised the military leadership on every platform. 

On November 29, 2019, the PTI government extended the tenure of the current Chief of Army Staff through special legislation. On 17 Oct 2020 speaking at an event the PTI chief praised the Pakistan army and the current COAS for his efforts to bring the country out of economic crisis and help the government with management and planning issues. In April 2022 when Pakistan Democratic movements brought a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly, it disqualified Imran Khan as an executive of the state. Since then PTI has started a campaign against the current government, especially against the state institution. PTI has also been blamed for bringing cult politics in Pakistani politics according to which only one man can be able to deliver. Other than that man this country would not survive this is where the whole PTI agenda is revolving around. It has been trying to spread this narrative as much as it can through media channels and social media. Social media has been proving to be a lethal weapon for this propaganda of PTI against state institutions and promoting their agenda that Imran khan is the only hope for Pakistan. PTI has long carried a history of prohibited foreign funding. 

On November 9, 2022, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) summoned the PTI chief in a prohibited foreign funding case. According to authorities’ transaction worth, more than 0.6 million pounds was recorded through a local bank account. These prohibited funding cases and Imran Khan’s aggressive narrative against state institutions are proving its political campaign damaging for the state. On 28 October 2022, PTI again started its march towards Islamabad t to get dates for early elections. During this whole march, PTI criticized the state institution and security agencies for their role in political instability and the ouster of the Imran khan government. It has been followed by a strongly organized social media campaign maligning institutions and security agencies. 

The ultimate agenda of PTI so far doesn’t seem to get an early election date but to malign security agencies and institutions to become popular among foreign actors. Imran khan blamed the USA and security institutions for his government ouster during his 2022 Azadi March. But this narrative of Imran khan is also changing with the passage of time. Imran Khan and PTI’s malicious agenda can make them vulnerable to foreign agenda because many of foreign actors are very happy with Imran khan this narrative against state institutions. This kind of hostile situation has been brought in Pakistan after the shooting incident at the Imran Khan container on November 3 2022. After that whole PTI has launched an organized campaign against security institution by calling their personnel by their names.

Muhammad Ali Raza is an undergraduate peace and conflict studies student at the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad, and has worked as a research intern at various think tanks like the Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies Islamabad and the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. My area of interest is political tolerance and intrastate and ethnic conflicts.

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