Is Imran Khan a Cult Leader and his “Paradigm Collapsed”?

By Shazia Anwer Cheema


Pakistan is under a series of hurricanes. Thank God we averted the eye of a tornado because our courts swiftly responded in the mid of the night. Our courts intervened when Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri abrogated the Constitution that I called “Honour Killing of the Constitution”.

Courts again had to show their presence when Speaker and Deputy Speaker National Assembly refused to accept orders of the Supreme Court to hold the counting on a Vote of No-Confidence. For avoiding the Contempt of the Supreme Court on them, they left the Assembly without holding a counting on a Vote of No-Confidence but did not bow down their heads to the law and the decision of the court. Good enough was our Constitution that has a mechanism so we survived the situation.

The whole crisis started when former Prime Minister Imran Khan challenged the then Opposition to come forward and move a Vote of No-Confidence against him if the opposition had the potential to do so. Interestingly, the opposition accepted the challenge, and the Vote of No Confidence was moved. Then former Prime Minister Imran Khan built up a case that a Vote of No-Confidence was moved on the instructions of foreign powers. He claimed that the United States planned a regime change against him because he refused to accept the demand of giving operational airbases to the United States. He also claims that he is the leader of the Muslim world therefore West is against him. He claimed he was the victim of saying “Absolutely Not” to the United States. The White House and the State Department of the United States categorically rejected the claims of Imran Khan but he kept accusing the US of his regime change.

PTI chief Imran Khan appears to be kneeling in prayer at Sufi saint in Pakpattan, but says he was kissing the ground
PTI chief Imran Khan appears to be kneeling in prayer at a Sufi saint in Pakpattan but says he was kissing the ground
PTI chief Imran Khan at Sufi saint in Pakpattan with his wife

He also claimed in his March 27 public meeting that the United States wrote a threatening letter to Pakistan and demanded his removal. First, he said the US wrote a threat letter to him. Then he changed his stance and said that US authorities wrote a letter to the Pakistani Ambassador in Washington. Then he changed his stance again and said that the Pakistani Ambassador wrote a letter to him indicating a conversation with US authorities. Then he again changed the stance and said it was a Démarche sent by the Pakistani Ambassador to Foreign Secretary in Islamabad.

He also dragged National Security Committee (NSC) into the scene and said that all services chiefs accepted that there was a conspiracy hatched against him. He was so confident to promote this point that he had been saying that minutes of NSC could be declassified to confirm his claim. Alas, his all claims collapsed when Director General Inter-Service Public Relations (DGISPR) Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar held a detailed and long press conference on April 14, 2022.

Information provided by DG ISPR categorically rejected claims of former Prime Minister Imran Khan when Maj Gen Babar said that the US had never asked for air bases, there was no mention of any conspiracy against Pakistan in the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting and there was no mention of any regime change in Pakistan found at any level. The DG ISPR said the word ‘conspiracy’ was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee.

“As far as the military’s response about the NSC meeting, the stance was fully given and a statement was issued which clearly shows what was concluded in that meeting. The words are in front of you, the words are clear. Was there any word such as conspiracy used? I do not think so,” said Gen Babar.

Former PM Khan also claimed that Army leadership came to him with three options to resolve his issues with the then Opposition. The DG ISPR also refuted this claim. He said that Army was approached by the Prime Minister House to find some breakthrough with the opposition therefore Army Chief met both the parties (Imran Khan and the then opposition).

Since all allegations and claims related to the theory of former PM Khan have been rejected by the United States, Pakistan Army, and the opposition, he has no moral grounds to keep saying that he is a victim of a conspiracy but I believe he shall keep saying this because his entire paradigm for forthcoming elections is based on this accusation. Though his paradigm has collapsed, he would never stop to keep saying everybody is a liar except him. He is habitual of calling people thieves, liars, security risks, etc and he has no shyness to keep saying it. Now the question is how to move ahead? Why would this phenomenon continue to work and what for?  There may be many reasons for many questions that can be asked in reference to some questions I raised above. We should understand that neither PTI nor Imran Khan are political realities rather they are much more of that—-may be a form of Cult—

There are three known models of cult formation, (1) the psychopathology model, (2) the entrepreneur model, and (3) the subculture-evolution model. Each of them is based on a peculiar paradigm. Entrepreneurial and Subculture models are part of human evolution, directly related to the economy and new ideologies. Existing paradigms create a new ideological sphere and emerge, submerge, and reemerge., recurrence is the key characteristic in the second and third types of cult formation. That’s why they are not static and constantly change their formation. The static paradigm can only be administered in the psychopathological model of cult formation, religious or believe-based cults come under this category.

The psychopathological cult paradigm is fixed and static, there is always an us vs them, situation.

Cult followers are programmed in a way that they feel supremacism affects their existence, their cognitive system trained to be un-inquisitional follow the rules. In the second and third types of cult ideas/ideology/philosophy can be a leading factor however in a psychopathological cult, the leader is important, even consider sacred and heavenly at times. The cult leader acts in a divine way by leaving no choice for the follower. The most suffered element is human logic. The human mind’s higher-order cognitive functions such as reasoning, judging, evaluation, and decision making get mercilessly impaired, members behave like a herd and find comfort in that.

Psychopathological cult leaders attack the follower’s pathology and psyche both. The cult leader presents him/herself as a savior and torchbearer.

Always suggest something difficult to achieve and hard to pursue, false hopes and wild dreams are key components. Cult holder presents himself/herself as holy and above societal restraints. He suggests a parallel set of rules which are not accustomed by society. The psychopathological paradigm is built upon the idea that everyone who is not with us is not on the right side. We the followers are the chosen ones and the rest are doomed only because they are not among us. Cult followers follow the given path blindly in order to get what the leader has promised them.

I provided this preamble to propose my thesis that PTI is not a political party rather it is a cult. If political parties can be studied under the cult models, they remotely touch the boundaries of the entrepreneur model or subculture-evolution model of cult formation. Why I consider that Imran Khan is a cult leader and PTI is a cult, for the obvious reasons of how it is function. PTI has a fixed paradigm of being righteous, pious, and worthy. The idea of us vs them is hyper-evident. The cult leader Imran khan in this case has woven his entire narrative around the difficult yet desired ideals, for instance, peace, justice for all, stuff. Primarily a utopia that no sane person can offer.

He nurtured his narrative by dehumanizing his rivals, portraying them lowest of humankind and the reason for all the hardships Pakistan is going through.

Imran khan is presumed to be a sacred being and he played the religion card competently, he condemns the USA which triggered the emotions of his followers, and now after more than a decade, they consider themselves the crusade. They are ready to pull the rath on anything just by pointing out their cult leader.

Cult followers suffer from cognitive dissonance a cognitive disorder that blocks all who are against the cult paradigm. They stop being receptive and can do anything asked by their sacred leader.

The paradigm Imran Khan was upholding was a façade that has to tarnish sooner or later. It is just a matter of paradigm collapse. But before that paradigm has to shift and the first blow to Imran Khan’s paradigm has got today.

Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is a Prague-based author, columnist, and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She is a doctoral student and researcher in semiotics and philosophy of communication at Charles University in Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email: shaziaanwer@yahoo.com


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

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