Imran Khan's Personality Has Interacted With The National Psyche In Worrying Ways

Imran Khan's Personality Has Interacted With The National Psyche In Worrying Ways
Mr. Khan’s latest constitutional breaches have given birth to comparisons with leaders like Mr. Trump whose mental health was questioned by psychiatrists and mental health experts. Video leaks of him saying that “the lighting is everything!” and remarks about Mr. Khan’s narcissism fail to provide an accurate depiction of his personality type. As per researchers, he may share his personality type with about one-fifth of the population. Since the ambit of mental health is broader than politics, it necessitates the assessment of Mr. Khan’s personality through the three distinct phases of his public life: 1) as a cricketer; 2) as a celebrity; and 3) as a politician.

Unfortunately, Mr. Khan’s indoctrinated audiences are oblivious to his viciousness and shrewd intellect. As a humble academic, I urge all global mental health experts to either challenge or support my analysis (in an academic and principled manner) - as society is largely at threat from possibly the “most dangerous” personality type. After all, Mr. Khan happens to be at the helm of a political movement in one of the world’s most populous nations. The repercussions can be devastating.

In a 2020 psychological study of nearly one thousand participants, executed as a partnership between the Nottingham Trent University in the UK and the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, Dr. Heym & Kibowski revealed a novel high-functioning personality type (mostly found in men) called the Dark Empath – defined by high empathy in the presence of dark personality traits. This unique combination distinguishes it from two other personality types: 1) Empaths (high empathy, low dark traits); and 2) Typicals (average empathy, low dark traits). Their dark personality traits are characterised by a constellation of four elements that comprise the Dark Tetrad:

  • Narcissism (arrogant, entitled)

  • Machiavellianism (deceptive, calculating)

  • Sadism (callousness or cracking “mean jokes” at the expense of others)

  • Psychopathy (charming, ruthless)

According to Dr. Brenner, the American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, dark traits provide evolutionary advantage otherwise they would not be as common as they are in society. Therefore, these traits are present in successful individuals. Moreover, this unique combination of traits is actually “in fashion” and somewhat desired by the youth of today, as per the German psychologist, Michels. In 2021, merit to the existence of this personality type led to the development of the Dark Side of Humanity Scale (DSHS) by Dr. Katz at Arden Uni., UK. Its versions are available as a range of online tests available to the general public. For example: the Dark Triad Personality Test ( Moreover, what makes Mr. Khan a textbook example of this personality type are: 1) strong belief in conspiracy theories, 2) propensity for cyber-bullying, trolling and fake news; and 3) his strong fatalistic beliefs (close relations with pirs).

This personality type is commonly found in leaders and public office holders. Austrian psychologist Duspara has shown this personality type as displaying political extremism. Along with the presence of global examples, in 2020, the academic psychologist Dr. Murad successfully established the local presence of the Dark Tetrad in a group of 400 politically active doctors from the health sector in Pakistan. In 2021, the prevalence of these traits in the Pakistani populace led to the development of a psychometric scale that is tailor-made for the local population (titled: Shorter Dark Tetrad for Muslim Societies – SD4-MS: a study among young adults in Pakistan).

Following are the four salient identifying features of the Dark Tetrad in Mr. Khan’s career.

Conspiracist ideation

The connection between the Dark Tetrad and conspiracist ideation was clearly established in 2020 by Cameron Kay, American research psychologist. According to him, conspiracies serve as tools for exerting control over intractable situations. Furthermore, Michels elaborated that given the fact that politicians with the Dark Tetrad are incompetent leaders, their employment of conspiracies is a common method for justifying their failures. In a sense, it is a way of projecting “victimisation” as a tool for evading responsibility for failures. In Pakistan, politics is one of many fronts that battle conspiracy theories. A key lasting example is the apprehension of polio vaccine that continues to plague our populace. Another current global example of strong faith in conspiracy theories lies in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The examples below will further illustrate this point.

The Anti-Miandad Rebellion
Mr. Khan conspiratorially achieved his captaincy in 1982 through mutineering and revolting against his captain, Mr. Miandad. Upon assuming captaincy, he ensured the unceremonious and public dismissal of the cricketing legend, Mr. Majid Khan – his first cousin and partner in crime. Mr. Majid Khan had spearheaded the “anti-Miandad rebellion” that eventuated in Mr. Khan’s captaincy. This betrayal of trust was categorised by Mr. Khan as “matter of performance.”
In 1996, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital was tragically bombed, and Mr. Khan wielded this tragedy to serve his politics. He refused to receive PM Bhutto upon her condolence visit. He stated that PM Bhutto was involved in “theatrics.” In return, he entertained Mr. Sharif, PM Bhutto’s rival. This incident gave rise to conspiracies that damaged PM Bhutto’s government. Moreover, Mr. Khan claimed that the blast would not deter him from his “political plans” and formed the PTI. His undue callousness towards PM Bhutto is evidence to his blatant disregard for her support and empathy for the cancer patients whose lives the explosion had claimed, especially in light of the government support provided for the Shaukat Khanum campaign.
The Neutral Umpire (1996, 2011, 2022)
Upon the formation of PTI in 1996, Mr. Khan challenged PM Bhutto to providing Pakistan with a “neutral umpire.” Subsequently, in response to his low political support, Mr. Khan claimed a Zionist conspiracy because of his first marriage. In 2011, Mr. Khan launched the Memogate jalsa conspiracy to share a memo that unraveled the “not-so-neutral” role of the military. In 2022, Mr. Khan launched the Lettergate jalsa conspiracy and then refused to accept the “neutral umpire” he always desired. Now, his political narratives claim that neutrality is only an animal instinct and he also has unfailingly misused religion in the process.
Bhutto Conspiracy
While the VONC was taking place, Mr. Khan related his political turmoil with that of Mr. Z. A. Bhutto’s in 1979. While Mr. Bhutto was the architect of the nuclear program and a major threat to international power structure, Mr. Khan’s grandiosity led him to believe that his international significance could cause him to be conspired against and assassinated by the Pakistan military in collusion with the US. In light of the recent Pak-US relations, this level of fear and paranoia over a diplomatic communique can be categorized as irrational. He voiced his fears of assassination as well. While Dark Empaths are well-known for conspiracy theories, they also fall victim to them in their own minds.
Rendezvous with Fatalism
In 2018, his decades-old Bollywood friend, Ms. Simi Garewal, labeled Mr. Khan’s victory as a “poisoned chalice” (another World Cup). She revealed that many years ago, Mr. Khan related to her about a pir who predicted both his PM-ship and his assassination. She felt it was unfortunate as Mr. Khan chose to become PM “despite its cost.” A key trait of conspiracist ideation is the firm belief in fatalism – that all events are “inevitable” or “predetermined.” A strong belief in one’s assassination plot can give birth to paranoias; hence, such individuals may exhibit superstitious behavior. Relations with pirs, along with donning amulets and rings, can be characterized as traits that exemplify their strong belief in fatalism. This trait is particularly common in our society.

Heightened arrogance

As per Cornell psychologist Dr. Travers, such individuals carry an inflated sense of self and pride in their “uniqueness,” or unmatched class, almost as if they are special and gifted. Because of this quality, Michels highlighted that they possess “low agreeableness” and believe in their own sense of revolutionary powers vested within their charismatic and charming personalities. Their arrogance stems from the sense of clarity of their long-term goals. They also intend to capture an audience of people they’ve charmed, a cult following whose reactions they can control. They exhibit antagonistic traits in relationships and in conflicts as they always believe that they are somehow superior and better than the others that surround them.

The following incidents can help one understand this phenomenon.

Tiger Force
In his autobiography, Mr. Wasim Akram claimed that during the 1992 World-Cup winning speech, Mr. Khan neither thanked nor acknowledged the efforts of his teammates, his “tiger force,” in helping him win “his World Cup.”
Fragile Ego
In his public spat with the cricketer Sarfraz Nawaz, Mr. Khan claimed that Mr. Nawaz was incapable of generating any funds, unlike Mr. Khan who had successfully generated hefty amounts for his cancer hospital project. He went on to elaborate this claim by condescendingly challenging Mr. Nawaz to building even a “dispensary.” Such remarks are not usually voiced by an altruistic person. It also brings into question the lack of popularity of his educational projects in comparison. An altruistic person could also have made the choice to dedicate his life to the education sector instead of politics and the limelight that it brings with it. The choice of choosing a politician’s life would definitely be more empowering and gratifying for a Dark Empath. Their inflated sense of self makes them oversensitive to criticism and hence, they carry “fragile egos,” as per Dr. Katz. Mr. Khan’s callous and sadistic retort to Sarfraz Nawaz classically exhibits the vulnerability of his ego.
Absolutely Not
Before the formation of PTI, Mr. Khan claimed that he had been invited to join politics on three separate occasions and he categorically refused all invitations (Absolutely Not) only to end up forming his own party as he could not work within the “corrupt system” where the umpire is not “neutral.” Three decades on, the exact same claim is responsible for his disruptive politics as PTI has refused to join the democratic setup. Despite his issues with “corruption,” Mr. Khan’s allowance of “electables” into his “corruption-free” party shows that he is open to accepting “corruption” as long as he is in a position of authority and is allowed to “control” or “drive.” A key recent example of this behavior lies in his recent comparisons of himself with religious figures.

Hero worship

Dark Empaths carry a high degree of empathy and understanding of the human psyche, especially when identifying the needs of others. While empathy is perceived as a positive quality, it can transform into a “weapon of deceit and manipulation,” according to the American psychologist, Dr. Hart. High emphatic powers allow Dark Empaths to enter into the minds of others and mirror their emotions. While empathy is the key to all social relationships, empathetic people are also known for “telling more frequent lies.” It is not uncommon for changing narratives to go completely unnoticed. Nevertheless, their high self-esteems are socially desirable traits; hence, they attract crowds. According to Dr. Brenner, the hero-worship earned by Dark Empaths is primarily due to their ability to craftily manipulate the formation of impressions in other peoples’ minds. They are viewed as heroes enjoying public sympathy with impressions, such as “dark crusader for good” or “flawed yet gifted.” Inevitably, they garner a “cult following” – one that is adulating enough to forego wrongdoings selectively.

The World Cup triumph altered the national psyche in the form of the “Imran Khan phenomenon.” Mr. Khan’s effect on society was evident as women tore earrings off their ears and tax-dodging shopkeepers suddenly grew very concerned for cancer. Even the beggars donated. All that, over his World Cup victory. The ability to exert this kind of influence on a society is certainly dangerous, and its political and social effects are evident now. Consider the following:

How Mr. Khan bid farewell to cricket
Despite Mr. Khan’s cricketing career being fraught with conspiracies related to ball-tampering, he is revered and hardly ever criticized in Pakistan. The history of cricket, however, views Mr. Khan as extremely arrogant. In 1996, both cricketers, Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, filed lawsuits against Mr. Khan’s outrageous statements, characterizing them as “uneducated” and lacking in “class and upbringing.” Aside from pointing out their “inferior upbringing,” he was particularly contemptuous towards Lamb for being born in South Africa – where "mud sticks." As per both English cricketers, these slurs arose during the 1992 tour, the same year of Mr. Khan’s World Cup triumph where Mr. Khan’s unacknowledged “tiger force” silently watched on as he celebrated his own victory for his own World Cup – the linchpin that set the wheel for his own political career.
Naya or Purana
The party that Mr. Khan had formed on the basis of newness for the youth opened doors for the re-entry of seasoned politicians like Mr. Qureshi, Ms. Awan, Mr. Rasheed, etc., yet the youth qualified PTI as a “new solution.”  The corruption-free element was tainted as well. Furthermore, Mr. Khan influenced his party members to break the Constitution and subsequently expected his followers to view these constitutional violations as a “necessary evil.”

Disregard of Rules

Dark personalities are highly intellectual and aware of their limitations. Their act of breaking rules is purposeful, never a “necessary evil” that may put them at a disadvantage. They are empathetic enough to get into the shoes of their foes and predict their motives and moves. Traditionally, they are over-thinkers. Their violation of rules is intended to serve as a strategy. Although their narratives are inconsistent because of their deception and psychopathic tendencies, they do reek of danger to society, especially in the case of a politician. Their narcissism certifies their belief system; hence, they perceive themselves as being above the law.

When “class” entered “sport”
In an interview, Mr. Khan admitted to “copying” his ball-tampering techniques from English cricket players because he saw it as an “accepted practice.” Justifying his ball-tampering, he added, “the biggest names in English cricket have all done it.” Mr. Khan had made it clear that he felt that ball-tampering was not “cheating.” The 1996 lawsuits by the English cricketers revealed that Mr. Khan believed that cricketers, Tony Lewis, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Derek Pringle, were all “educated Oxbridge types” and hence, belonged to the “upper class” – the “upper class” that Mr. Khan claimed to be born into. Elaborating on his own “superior upbringing” and “upper class,” Mr. Khan clearly stated that his “mother and father” would be “upset" upon learning that “class” had entered “sport.” If one conflates the statements made by Mr. Khan, he considered himself as being an “educated Oxbridge type” from the “upper class” for whom a major cricketing offence was not tantamount to breaking rules.
Warrior Race
In 1993, Mr. Khan solidified his Pakhtun identity for posterity by authoring a book titled Warrior Race in which he highlights the traits of the warrior ethnicity he carries. Mr. Khan even replaced his Armani suits with ethnic shalwar kamiz. Certainly, phrases like “tiger force” and “warrior race” and “cornered tigers” breed toxic masculinity within society, which includes behaviors such as breach of law.
Law of Mr. Khan
The phrase, “aakhri gaind tak khailoon ga” is a political narrative that includes the breach of the Constitution. It reflects game-theory in individuals whose emotive capacities are psychopathic – the ramifications are immense. If Mr. Khan has no regard for the very Constitution he served as a PM under, his supporters prove that they support no law other than the law of Mr. Khan.