Khan’s image as a reformer and anti-corruption crusader has been central to his political brand.
by Sahibzada Muhammad Usman
Imran Khan, the former cricketer turned politician and ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, has been a controversial figure since he entered politics. Over the years, he has been accused of corruption and faced numerous legal challenges. In recent months, there have been renewed allegations of corruption against him, leading to his arrest.
Imran Khan rose to fame as a cricketing legend in the 1980s and 1990s, leading Pakistan to its first and only World Cup victory in 1992. After retiring from cricket, he turned his attention to philanthropy and activism, founding the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore and becoming a vocal critic of Pakistan’s political establishment. In 1996, he founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, with the aim of ending corruption and dynastic politics in the country. However, despite being one of the most popular politicians in Pakistan, Khan struggled to gain a foothold in national politics for many years. It was only in the 2010s that the PTI began to gain significant traction, with Khan’s calls for reform and anti-corruption message resonating with a younger, more educated electorate. In the 2018 general elections, the PTI emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly, allowing Khan to become Prime Minister. Since taking office, Khan has faced numerous legal challenges and allegations of corruption. However, his supporters argue that these allegations are politically motivated and that he is the victim of a smear campaign.
|A police officer fires tear gas to disperse the supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan, during a protest against his arrest, in Karachi, May 9, 2023. [ Photo credit: Reuters]|
However, this is not the first time that Khan has been accused of corruption. In 2017, a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that Khan had failed to disclose assets and accounts held in offshore companies in his nomination papers for the 2013 general elections. The case was eventually dismissed, with the Supreme Court ruling that Khan was not liable for any wrongdoing as he had not been a public office holder at the time. However, the ruling did not fully exonerate Khan, with the court noting that “it is the duty of every citizen to be truthful and honest.” More recently, Khan has been accused of granting amnesty to a close aide who was facing corruption charges. The aide, Tareen, was a prominent figure. He was facing charges of money laundering and fraud, but the charges were dropped in March 2021 after the government reached a settlement with him.
Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was detained by NAB officials on Tuesday at the Islamabad High Court in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case. Al-Qadir University for Sufism was established in Sohawa, Jhelum district, in 2019 with the help of the country’s former prime minister, Imran Khan. However, he and a real estate magnate were accused of stealing Rs. 50 billion from the national coffers and registering the Trust on 450 kanals.
The ongoing allegations of corruption against Imran Khan are not only damaging to his reputation but also to Pakistan’s standing on the international stage. Corruption is a major issue in Pakistan, and any perception that the country’s leaders are involved in corrupt activities can erode public trust and undermine efforts to attract foreign investment.
Moreover, Khan’s image as a reformer and anti-corruption crusader has been central to his political brand. If he is found to have engaged in corrupt activities, it could undermine the legitimacy of his party, the PTI.
The allegations of corruption against Imran Khan are a cause for concern for his supporters and critics alike. The ongoing allegations and investigations are damaging to his reputation and that of his party. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to determine whether Khan is guilty of any wrongdoing. In the meantime, it is important for Pakistan’s leaders to take strong action to combat corruption and restore public trust.
Dr. Sahibzada Muhammad Usman earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pisa, Italy. He is an Assistant Professor and MS Cluster Head in Department of Strategic Studies at Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan.