Imran Khan: How Pakistan ex-PM plans to win an election from jail

Imran Khan: How Pakistan ex-PM plans to win an election from jail
People at a rally for Atif Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa watch him speak on a big screen on the back of a truck 3 Feb 2024

Khan Imran and his party had considerably deteriorated from social sophistication, going from prime minister to jail in less than two decades.

Despite the fact that the PTI’s founder was imprisoned in cases he claims were politically motivated and barred from running for office, the group claims it has n’t given up on its hope of winning this week of general elections in Pakistan.

With the aid of a social media fightback and new, frequently unknown candidates, the group hopes to get past the authorities ‘ onslaught.

Rehena Dar is being dragged along Sialkot’s back streets past the banners of her mouth that are affixed to the confined road corners of this city in Punjab state. As rose flowers wash her from below, the sound of beating drums clears her path.

If becoming a politician in her 70s caught her off guard, she does n’t even hint at it. The worries that have kept many of her fellow applicants out of politics or beneath appear to have been dismissed.

She exclaims with the assurance of someone who has worked the public for years,” It is very good that the happy sons and daughters, brothers and mother of my capital Sialkot are standing with me.”

” I’m here with Khan Imran, and I’ll be there.” I will continue to carry Khan Imran’s emblem and walk the streets if I am left alone in common.

Rehena Dar walks through Sialkot

That is unquestionably genuine based on a quick look around. Khan Imran’s graphic is held upright by the little group that has gathered around Mrs. Dar as flags for his PTI fly overhead.

However, Mrs. Dar is never a PTI member. She is essentially an separate, like all of their candidates, because the electoral commission decided to remove the PTI’s cricket bat symbol.

Even though it may seem like a small decision, having an identifiable mark for individuals to use on the ballot paper is crucial in an illiteracy rate of 58 %. Each participant today has their own option symbol; Mrs. Dar’s is a baby cot, while others have objects like kettles or saxophones.

The PTI claims that numerous obstacles have been put in its path as it prepares for the election on February 8 and that the choice is just one of them.

But the battle has n’t stopped. It is demonstrating its willingness to put everything it has into this war, whether it be candidates pounding the streets like Mrs. Dar or systems that can move a chief from incarceration to the front of savages.

People drive past electoral posters of jailed former Prime Minister Khan Imran


Usman, Mrs. Dar’s brother, led the group through Sialkot during the previous election. He was a freshman PTI president who worked for former Prime Minister Khan Imran as the special adviser on children matters.

However, his household claims that Khan Imran was the “mastermind of the 9 May protests” when he made an appearance on television in earlier October after going missing for three months.

On that day last month, after Khan Imran was detained, nationwide protests broke out, some of which turned violent. Numerous Khan adherents were detained on suspicion of attacking military structures, including the home of Lahore’s most senior military official.

Khan was freed, but his group was still under attack.

Officials in his party announced their resignations from the PTI or from politics altogether in the weeks and months following the demonstrations. According to the authorities, the fact that many of Khan’s senior leaders were among them was a sign that his former supporters did n’t want to be connected to any party that was responsible for the unrest.

The PTI claimed that the defections were coerced.

Regardless, Mrs. Dar did n’t seem impressed.

I did not concur with Usman Dar’s speech when he made it, according to Mrs. Dar. I informed him that my son’s death would have been preferable. You have lied in your speech.

But, Mrs. Dar’s explicit campaigning style is certainly a possibility for all of the PTI candidates.

As long as they have not been found guilty of a crime, some applicants who have continued their campaigning while incarcerated are eligible to run for office from behind bars.

Others are waging their activities while hiding and have completely avoided the authorities.

In the northern part of Pakistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Atif Khan served as a provincial secretary. His team then drives around his piece, parking up in town squares to tackle PTI followers, as part of his battle, and he appears on video channels on three-meter windows.

People at a rally for Atif Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa watch him speak on a big screen on the back of a truck 3 Feb 2024

He claims that because he has been in concealing since May, this is the only way for him to deliver his message to citizens. According to the authorities, he is a required person. He thinks a fair trial would n’t be given to him.

We are trying to control it, Mr. Khan told the BBC.” It’s a completely unique experience, not among the masses, nor on stage, but among people.”

The young vote is PTI’s largest support center. They use electronic media, such as cellular phones, so we reasoned that we ought to interact with them more through it. The only thing we can do is run a campaign using online media.

The PTI’s plan has relied heavily on technology.

More people follow the group’s standard X, Instagram, and TikTok sites than the other two main parties, the PPP and PML- N, combined. Khan Imran is the only one of the three parties ‘ leaders with a personal profile on each of those three systems, indicating that their information is reaching the general public.

Khan Imran


Additionally, there have been initiatives to use technology to try and inform citizens of which candidate is PTI-backed. Without the unifying symbol of the baseball bat, the PTI has created a website where voters may enter their district and find the candidate’s symbol who is supported by the party.

Another problem arose when it came to planning protests. Politicians and character are closely related in Pakistan. Khan Imran, the adored cricketer who later became a legislator, was probably one of the biggest, attracting thousands to his gatherings.

But after receiving two and a half words this month, he is currently incarcerated and has been there since August and appears likely to remain for the next 14 years.

The group claims that planning demonstrations has been difficult for it. Authorities in Karachi used tear gas to disperse a crowd of tens of PTI followers in late January. The authorities claimed that they lacked the necessary authorization to obtain.

Pakistani police detain supporters of jailed former prime minister Khan Imran


This is just the most recent instance, according to the PTI, of how they have been prevented from running for office. The BBC spoke with every candidate’s campaign crew, and they all mentioned intimidating their followers. The PTI has claimed that in order to prevent them from running, there has been a battle of harassment, kidnapping, prison, and violence against them.

Murtaza Solangi, the caregiver minister of information, told the BBC,” We find these allegation false and absurd.” Sure, people have been detained; however, some of these detentions were related to the events of May 9 and others to additional criminal cases.

But, even if their claims are unfounded, the PTI is free to voice their disapproval. They are reported in the media. They also have different legal options, such as the highest authorities in the nation, at the same time.

What is the answer to these issues? online demonstrations.

Jibran Ilyas, the head of the PTI cultural advertising, told the BBC over the phone that it was” affordable, safe, and quick.” Perhaps the actual rallies had a little less of an impact, but we were still trying to get our point across.

Mr. Ilyas remarked,” We’ve always had a political protest without Imran before.” Without him, had one still function? They were n’t entirely certain.

People are yearning for Khan Imran’s concept, he claims, which is the issue.

So how do you spread the word?

They used AI to create a conversation for an online march in December.
There are restrictions. Internet monitoring organization Netblocks reports that several times during some of these PTI demonstrations saw widespread disruption across various programs in Pakistan.

Only about 30 % of people in Pakistan use social media regularly. According to Michael Kugelman, chairman of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Centre think tank in Washington, this suggests that as effective as the PTI is at spreading the word on social advertising, there will be natural restrictions on their approach with their virtual campaigning.

Of course, this has been observed before; most importantly, when Nawaz Sharif was imprisoned during the previous vote.

According to Mr. Kugelman,” If everything sounds the similar, that’s because it is; the players have really changed.”

View of campaign posters and flags of political parties along a street, ahead of general elections, in Peshawar


He, like the majority of social analysts, believes that Pakistan’s potent military—the similar military that many believe to be the first ticket to power—is to blame for this turn of events.

The PTI received electoral support in 2018, but it is obvious that electoral engineering, even if it was n’t done directly by the military, benefited them.

There were numerous instances of exploitation and suppression. Users of the PML-N group were detained, and prison sentences were announced shortly before the election, including Nawaz Sharif’s 10 year prison sentence.

However, Mr. Kugelman believes that this is distinct from current times.

The handbook is the same, I would contend, but the depth is higher this time. More leaders and supporters have been detained and imprisoned than in subsequent votes.

Family people have been involved in this this day. Although it is not unusual, what we have observed in more new votes makes that stand out.

The PTI has made an effort to use each setback against Khan Imran or its plan as fuel, but will it be successful?

Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto, two of Khan’s competitors for the PML-N and the PPP, are frequently covered at election rallies on Pakistani television programs. The PTI has received the majority of the media attention in the week leading up to the election regarding their president’s prison terms.

Mr. Kugelman contends that many voters might believe there is no place in election because they believe the PTI has no chance of winning.

How to motivate a sizable help base to turn out and voting in spite of everything that is happening to Khan is the challenge facing the PTI management. Some members of the PTI believe they could pull off a magic and win if they do get out there and vote attendance is large enough.

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