Dangerous Lies And Deceits: Time To Call Imran's Bluff

Dangerous Lies And Deceits: Time To Call Imran's Bluff

Cult leaders according to Megan Gannon are charismatic and narcissistic. They inspire a magical devotion amongst their gullible followers inhabiting an ethereal world where the cult leader could do no wrong. Cult leaders like Pied Piper thrive on gullibility and frustrations of people and offer escapist fantasies as an antidote to their insuperable problems. Such leaders read the people well and thrive on chaos and crisis. Often authoritarian and power hungry, they relish blind worship of their ideas by their followers. Cult leaders offer make tantalising promises, to usher in a utopia, remove poverty overnight, or offer an eternal life free of the worldly troubles. They inspire intense love and hatred, love for them and hatred for their detractors.

The famous sex Guru Maharishi Rajneesh had inspired a cult based on his teaching that resulted in weird behavior by his followers. Reverend Jim Jones had ordered 900 Americans to drink poison which they drank to death gleefully because they believed that the doomsday had arrived. Hitler was also a cult leader who thrived on mass hatred and frustrations of the German people. His invocation of racial superiority appealed to a vast segment of population that bought his Aryan race theory to the bad luck of persecuted races and communities like Jews and gypsies.

The cult leader and his followers believe in complete submission to the words and deeds of the cult leader. Any dissent to the views or the ideas of their leader is treated as blasphemy. This attitude spawns a robot like obedience amongst the followers who consciously decide to put logic, reason and argument aside when it comes to the orders/edicts of the venerated cult leaders. In Pakistan the frustrated masses and educated middle class hungered for a promised messiah who could come down from empyrean heights like proverbial Godot to put the oppressed masses out of their misery. They were delivered one such messiah by forces that be through a sedulously cultivated image building campaign spread over a decade. Imran Khan was brought in as a messiah to deliver the masses from the bondage of the corrupt political elite. That was the narrative built over a decade through active collaboration of the classes that felt themselves on the receiving end of dynastic politics and bad governance.

Little did the wannabe revolutionaries know that revolutions are not brought through test tube delivery. Imran Khan who after his philanthropic success had started eying prime minister’s office found out early that he needed crutches to ascend to the top of totem pole of political power in Pakistan. Like a power hungry and shrewd politician, he did a Faustian bargain to come to power. Instead of relying on his political skills to manage alliance politics he outsourced the same to individuals heading institutions that did all that was needed to pull his political chestnuts out of fire whenever needed.

This arrangement looked perfect with state institutions solidly behind him on one page while he focused on accountability and governance. All looked honky dory except when one problem i.e ego. The great leader had a huge ego that brooked no dissent and demanded blind obedience to his caprices and whims even by those institutions that value merit and institutionalized thinking. 

Ego demanded yes men that soon jostled to push the right thinking sane voices out of his inner circle. Sycophants and myrmidons created a cocoon around him where he heard only his fantasies echoed back untempered by the critical scrutiny of sage but blunt voices. An echo chamber effect was created as the groupthink phenomenon took hold of the party. The penchant for fantasies peddled as electoral promises like millions of jobs and millions of houses continued unabated.  When the ground realities pointed otherwise, the reneging from promises was honed into an art form entering the term U turn into country’s political lexicon. Soon U turn entered national hall of derision as the powers that had brought Imran Khan into power watched in exasperation. Ego and megalomania however led him into capricious decision-making annoying international allies like Saudi Arabia and later Turkey and Malaysia.  

All of the above could have been ignored had the governance not tanked. Certain decisions like imposition of a non-entity on 60% of Pakistan were egregiously flawed but the cult followers failed to see anything wrong with the decisions of the great leader. Six IGs of police and five Chief Secretaries were changed in Punjab in three years grinding down the law and order/governance into dust of non-performance. The economy that was initially handed over to a marketing qualified former fertilizer company CEO Asad Umar, who obviously had marketed himself well as an economy expert, also tanked resulting in country’s belated dash to IMF. The IMF standard prescriptions resulted in economic pain most of which directed at the middle and lower classes. The runaway inflation and a thoughtless devaluation of currency increased national debt besides eating onto the disposable income of all Pakistanis. In this economic downturn the great Khan picked up another fight. Miffed by the lack of attention by the US President he started selling what always sells well in Pakistan i.e anti Americanism. The Americans were alright when Trump massaged his ego during a US visit but were bad when Biden refused to call.


Ego demanded yes men that soon jostled to push the right thinking sane voices out of his inner circle. Sycophants and myrmidons created a cocoon around him where he heard only his fantasies echoed back untempered by the critical scrutiny of sage but blunt voices.



The end came unexpectedly for the great Khan as he had come to fervently believe the cacophony of lies peddled in the echo chamber of his hangers on regarding his governance and infallibility. The needless controversy on the appointment of an intelligence chief distanced him from the army and the props having been removed he was on his own in the political arena. That what he now calls a conspiracy was the denouement of a reality and that reality showed that sans crutches he lacked a majority in Parliament. 

The wily and seasoned opposition leaders on the receiving end of an implacable accountability drive soon smelled blood and joined hands to drive him out of power. Past masters at that game and well versed in constitutionalism, these wily old stalwarts cobbled together a coalition and tabled a no confidence movement.  Imran Khan instead of taking this threat seriously hemmed and hawed making empty noise regarding this and that surprise while lurching from one blunder to another. 

Starting with childish and petulant response to a serious no confidence movement tabled in accordance with constitutional law and parliamentary rules, he relied on filibustering tactics and unconstitutional acts like dissolution of National Assembly. If he was so confident of his popularity and keen on fresh elections why did he not dissolve the assembly before the tabling of no confidence motion? Surrounded by legal advisors like Babar Awan, he committed repeated mistakes to stonewall the inevitable. Alarmed at these blatant constitutional violations the judiciary took note and to its credit delivered a verdict strictly in accordance with law burying the ignominious memory of doctrine of necessity.  

The vote of no confidence went ahead and the new Prime Minister was sworn in. In an ordinary country this would have been a cause célèbre. Alas not here. Instead of displaying sportsmanship about which Imran Khan never tires of speaking he sulked and took to the streets. Had he accepted the inevitable and sat in opposition to keep a strong check on opposition, he would have been lionised as a principled politician chasing ideals. Instead he conjured up a monkey trick to fool the gullible masses like a clever demagogue.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Asad Majeed who had called a clutch of US officials over for a lunch meeting for a tete a tete to get a sense of US pulse about Pakistan found US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu reportedly a bit frank about future of Pakistan-USA relations during that informal chat. He sent his impressions of that meeting through a cipher telegram to Foreign Office with the recommendations to take up the matter with USA through diplomatic channels. 

The normal response was to call the US Charge D Affaires to the Foreign Office and serve a demarche. Some smart Alec however in the government thought of a crafty way to use the cipher for political gains. Imran Khan not big on details fell hook, line and sinker for the charade and went along happily parading that cipher in a public gathering.

In an ordinary country, the institutions should have taken cognizance of the act that had put national interests at stake. Those interests included keeping good relations with a global power or at least not trying to sour those relations. Not here in the land of the pure. The deposed PM went about negating the state institutions’ input and even the clear exposition of DG ISPR debunking the conspiracy fiction.  Not stopping at that a former minister Shireen Mazari also jumped in the fray negating DGISPR’s statement that army had neither asked for mediation nor initiated three options for Imran Khan to choose from. PTI apparently started following Goebbelian strategy of repeating a lie so many times that it appears a truth. A credulous cohort of wizened old senior armed forces officers weaned on a heavy Pro PTI diet had meanwhile started feeling betrayed and joined in a chorus criticizing army and judiciary for the ouster of the last great hope for the nation. The naïveté of such over credulous followers of the cult leader calls for a serious analysis of the deification of a demagogue.


The deposed PM went about negating the state institutions’ input and even the clear exposition of DG ISPR debunking the conspiracy fiction. 



Cult worship is a soul destroying act. It saps reason and suspends disbelieve in the perfectly normal and educated people who ordinarily should know better. Pakistan has suffered in the past due to constitutional deviations and political experimentations in the petri dish of authoritarianism. After each such experimentation the country tried to come back to the ideals bequeathed to it by its founding father i.e constitutionalism, rule of law and equal rights for all. The judiciary that in the past under pressure from dictators had validated constitutional violations had finally displayed the wisdom and guts to deliver a verdict protecting constitution. Now in a country that had seen skewed civil military power equation the military was taking a back seat refusing to be tainted by the political scandals. With judiciary protecting constitution and the military deciding to stay out of partisan politics the entire country should have erupted into paroxysms of joy celebrating the reclamation of the constitutional Holy Grail. 

Not so here in the land of the pure where a populist leader incites rebellion threatening to tear down the constitutional order while his blind cult followers lap up each of his calumnious accusations with alacrity. The solution is to call his bluff through a whole of the nation response to expose those dangerous lies that are threatening national cohesion and integrity.

The writer is a PhD from NUST and Director Islamabad Policy Research Institute.