LONDON: A guest essay attributed to incarcerated PTI founder Imran Khan in The Economist indicates that the former prime minister has serious doubts about whether the upcoming elections will be held or not.

The piece, published on Thursday, repeats Mr Khan’s allegations about how a regime change brought about after US government pressure led to a vote of no-confidence against him, and describes the May 9 riots as a “false-flag operation” which was “pre-planned”.

But an editor’s note at the end of the essay noted that the Pakistan government and US State Department denied the allegations of American interference, saying that the government is prosecuting him under the Official Secrets Act.

While sources within the party were hesitant to comment on how the writing may have been relayed to the publication from inside prison, they insisted that the words were indeed those of Mr Khan.

The Economist article attributed to former PM repeats allegations of US conspiracy to oust him from office

Some observers expressed doubts over whether the article was indeed by Mr Khan, but many noted that the tone and content of the article was consistent with his views.

‘Disaster and a farce’

While expressing fears that the election scheduled for February 8 may not take place at all, the article stated that even if they do, such polls would be a “disaster and a farce since PTI is being denied its basic right to campaign”.

“Whether elections happen or not, the manner in which I and my party have been targeted… has made one thing clear: the establishment — the army, security agencies and the civil bureaucracy — is not prepared to provide any playing field at all, let alone a level one, for PTI,” the article said.

In the article, Mr Khan also criticised the PDM government’s performance, saying it “destroyed the economy, bringing about unprecedented inflation and a currency devaluation within 18 months”.

“Unfortunately, the establishment had decided I could not be allowed to return to power, so all means of removing me from the political landscape were used,” he writes, recalling “two assassination attempts” and the abduction, incarceration or torture of party leaders, workers and social-media activists.

“Some were compelled to join other, newly created political parties. Others were made to give false testimony against me under duress,” he writes, yet claiming that despite all this, his party remains popular.

Mr Khan also hit out at the courts, who in his words “seem to be losing credibility daily”, referring to the easy exoneration of Nawaz Sharif.

He alleged that it is his belief that “Mr Sharif has struck a deal with the establishment whereby it will support his acquittal and throw its weight behind him in the upcoming elections”.

Essay from jail

The Economist essay by Mr Khan went viral on social media on Thursday, with many PTI supporters lauding the piece. Some shared a translated Urdu version, while screenshots were posted to circumvent the publication’s requirement for a paid subscription.

It is worth noting that after his removal from office, Mr Khan went on an international media blitz and appeared on several major global media outlets, but this stopped after his incarceration, as access to the PTI chairman became limited to his lawyers and family members.

But in recent months, the party has found unconventional ways to deliver his message: at a recent virtual jalsa, an AI-generated address was delivered in Mr Khan’s voice.

Mr Khan’s words have also made it out of prison in other ways, over recent months. He recently wrote to Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Esa, requesting the top judge to protect the party’s fundamental rights.

Other incarcerated members of his party, such as fashion designer Khadija Shah, have also written open letters from jail in the recent past.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2024

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