What linguistic techniques Imran Khan is using to defame Pakistan Army?

Political DiscourseWhat linguistic techniques Imran Khan is using to defame Pakistan Army?

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan Armed Forces on May 8, 2023, responded to allegations leveled by Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan against Pakistan Army. ISPR called Imran’s statements “highly irresponsible and baseless allegations against a serving senior military officer without any evidence”.

Calling the campaign against the military launched by former prime minister Imran Khan “extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable”, ISPR stated that military and intelligence agencies officials are targeted with insinuations and sensational propaganda for the furtherance of political objectives.

I am sure this response of ISPR will not stop Imran Khan and his slur brigade to defame Pakistan Army because he is doing it successfully for the last year and the state has failed to snub him or arrest him for reasons best known only to State itself. Moreover, he knows that the judiciary stands with him and he would get bail even before appearing to the court if ever there would be a case against him for defaming state institutions and state employees.

Cartoon by Feica

I am happy it is the first time ISPR understands that Imran’s comments are actually “propaganda” and I have been writing on this sensitive issue ever since Imran Khan was sitting in PM Office that Imran launches “propaganda” against anybody he wishes to damage and wish to remove from the position. Actually, he had been using negative propaganda for his political gains since he entered the political arena, and his speech components comprising irrelevant, unfair/prejudicial, wrong leading questions, compound questions, argumentative, asked and answered, vague, foundation issues, non-responsive, speculation, opinion, and hearsay. Unfortunately, nobody ever worked on these technical semiotics references in Pakistan, therefore techniques Imran is using against political opponents as well as against state institutions are well-received by the population because such techniques are yet to be deciphered properly by his opponents who spend most of their time in “reactionary mode” instead of contesting his techniques through the scientific way.

Imran’s public speech always evolves around allegations and defaming others and such speech cannot stand in any court of law. Strangely, his victims (those he abused) have never contested his public speech characteristics in the court of Law because they understand there is no use of it as the judiciary would bail him out whatever he says so. However, his opponents at least contest his allegations in the court of the public by challenging his statements word by word and through dissection of what he has claimed.

In a normal society, all public speeches must be evaluated by the public on the basis of actual legal discourse because leaders are presenting themselves to the court of people.

Here are some common reasons for objecting to the act of speech on the basis of being irrelevant, Unfair/prejudicial, leading question, Compound question, Argumentative, Asked and answered, Vague, Foundation issues, Non-responsive, Speculation, Opinion, Hearsay. Imran constantly uses the abovementioned style because he is confident that he would never face his opponents in courts where his every word would be contested on legal grounds. He knows that his all allegations are unfounded having no legal proof so he never joins a court hearing.

In my opinion, Imran Khan is delivering a massive number of speeches containing objectionable discourse which in the actual legal system has no place but in the court of public opinion, he is not only rejecting all norms of authenticity and sincerity but also repeating these figurative linguistics he is altering the mind of youth that the most vulnerable to unauthentic catchy phrases miles away from reasoning, and evaluation.

I will explain these objectionable figures of speech and provide evidence that Imran Khan’s public speeches in the court of public opinion are not admissible in the first place let alone being viral and becoming a source of tarnishing the public view by tainting them with rhetoric. Let us have a look at the type and forms of an objectionable and un-admissible figure of speech the first one is:


You can object to the relevance of evidence if you think a piece of evidence or something a witness is saying has nothing to do with the case or it is not important in determining who should win the case.

Example: Imran Khan showed a piece of paper to the public with a claim that this was evidence of a conspiracy against him. He later was unable to prove that it was evidence of conspiracy therefore such paper is actually irrelevant and cannot be taken as proof because he had never shown that paper to the public and the public cannot read, thus cannot determine the authenticity and admissibility of a piece of paper Imran Khan was showing off. The proof is something that must be available to all the parties, a copy of the evidence must be given to the judge, jury, accused, and plaintiff. In my idea of a court of public opinion, if we minus two parties in actual courts, such as the accused and plaintiff even than the public remains in the position of judge and jury making them the party of the issue under discussion and in that case, they must be provided with a copy of the claimed proof otherwise refrain from even mentioning it.


You can object to evidence, even if it’s relevant if the evidence would unfairly turn the judge or jury against you. This is what is meant by saying the evidence is prejudicial.

Example: “Establishment is neutral and neutral is animal”. Imran Khan’s this speech act comes under the objection of being unfair and prejudicial that’s why the public must refused to accept it. In his statement, it is not clear whether the establishment is an institution, individual, group of people, or an idea so tagging it with the uncertified statement being neutral and then soliciting it with animalistic behavior makes it inadmissible in the court of public opinion.

Leading question

If the other party poses a question on direct examination that leads the witness to a certain answer, then you can object to the question as leading.

Example: “A conspiracy was hatched against me in July 2021”. This loaded premeditated statement leaves no room for a question of an existence of a conspiracy because this statement tactfully self-determined that “there was a conspiracy” leaving room for an irrelevant discussion about the time and date of the conspiracy. In my opinion, it is still to determine that there was a conspiracy until that, the statement of date and time of conspiracy is just a brain game, and playing mind game is not allowed in court similarly must not be allowed in the court of public opinion.

Compound question

A compound question is when two or more questions are combined as one question. Compound questions are not allowed because they can confuse the witness, the judge, and the jury. Also, it may not be clear from the court record which of the questions the witness is answering.

Example: “Do you stand for justice as a good Muslim and decide not to be neutral in this war of good vs evil?”. This statement is a compound with pre-established right and wrong answers leaving no space to answer in NO —because of the trickiness of the phrase construction. Am I a good Muslim? I think I am. Am I neutral? The word neutral needs to be defined. Which side I will choose in good vs evil? Of course, good. But who is good? needs to be established


When the statement leads to an argument or confrontation.

Example: those who deserted me will face the consequence, nobody will marry their children, how can we promote this Lota culture, can we? Imran Khan is pushing the public into direct confrontation by providing them with an unauthentic argument. There is no clarification of the word Lota, and any logical connection between parents’ political affiliation and children’s marriage and the consequences Imran Khan is referring to un-dauntingly violence as evidence proved in the aftermath of this statement.

Asked and answered

Sometimes a question is phrased in a way that also proposes the answer leaving no space for saying anything other than what is expected.

Example: “Do you know who threw me out from the power? They are the ones who now want to kill me and Dirty Harry (coined diction for a very serious military official) was after my life”.

There is no evidence that someone through a conspiracy threw him out of power because the process was crystal clear and he was voted out through a vote of no-confidence. First, he had a mantra that the US asked him for a military airbase that he refused and he did not support Europe and the US on the Ukraine issue so he was thrown out of power. There was no witness of such allegations and now he is mending his relations with the US by hiring US lobby firms and is now stating that the US was not against him and it was not a US conspiracy etc. He never discussed why he shattered the confidence of his allied parties and colleagues who voted against him in the National Assembly, or what does he mean by “imported”?


A vague question is when it is difficult or impossible to tell what the statement is about.

Example: “Farah is innocent”. The statement is vague because there are no clear charges against the alleged woman, even the relationship between her and Imran Khan needs to be established and the connotation of her innocence is also subjective. The connotation of being innocent comes when someone is tagged guilty. There are no proceedings against Farah in any court and no evidence has yet to be presented. How can Imran say she is innocent before even hearing legal charges against her?

Foundation issues

A question or response can be objectionable if a person failed to explain the background circumstances of how she/he knows the information.

Example: “A middle eastern ruler informed me about a conspiracy against me that Bajwa (former COAS) wanted to remove me”. Imran Khan does not name this middle eastern ruler so this falls under Foundation issues of his speech.


When a witness starts responding to a question with information that is completely unrelated to the question, you can object to it as being “non-responsive.”

Example: Imran Khan’s entire political discourse is a textbook example of non-responsive statements. Whenever he is being asked a direct question he always responds with totally irrelevant information. For example, when he was asked why his followers were damaging the property in D Chowk, his answer was “They might get lost on their way”.


The speculation statement is when in the absence of hard fact, one idea is being presented as a fact.

Example: “We will flourish if we break the chains of slavery”. In this statement, Imran Khan is touching on the idea of a nation’s prosperity from a surface level and connecting it with an ancient form of slavery. He is not providing any hard facts about being enslaved in the 21st century and the link between an unknown form of slavery with an unexplained promise of prosperity or anyone important thing if he is not in the equation of suggestive prosperity that is why prosperity cannot be achieved. H is also unable to establish with the facts why he is imperative for nation-building and development. He is merely speculating that his presence is a catalyst for prosperity.


If a statement is technical in nature but not based on any facts, then you may be able to object to it based on its being just an opinion.

Example: “He is a thief”. He is Begherat” They are lota”. He is Diesel”. He is a boot polisher. He is neutral. Neutral is an animal. I said no to Superpower. I have an independent foreign policy. I don’t need anything. I had a successful life. I know the West the best. West accepted me as one of their own. I am a true devotee of Islam. I was making Madina State.

They are all opinionated statements, without providing any testimony, justification or logic.


A person can only testify as to what she/he knows to be true, not what she/he heard from someone else. If a witness tries to testify about what a non-party told him/her or tries to enter into evidence something in writing that a non-party wrote, then the testimony or written evidence is objectionable as hearsay.

Imran Khan always accuses people of hearsay like he calls a religious leader Diesel because other people had been calling him the same slur. Calling anybody chor (thief) without any case against him in theft because others are calling him/her chor is the best example of hearsay that Imran Khan uses.

The majority of Imran Khan’s statements are objectionable and questionable but his luck is above any question because even courts provide him relief whenever he approaches them.

The rhetoric having aesthetic value directly deals with human emotions, the language of theater could be the best example but a politician cannot arrange a theatrical display claiming prosperity and nation-building but playing human emotion in reality.

For me, Imran Khan’s public appearances are a case study of theatricality. His theatrical performances have all the sources of meaning-making, all forms of communication, communication with music, communication with exaggerated moments, communication with different intonations and stressed patrons, and a narrative structure having empathy, misery, valor, grandeur, and mischief.

Even by providing an authentic theatrical experience with a full theatrical aesthetic, I have my reservations about it. Instead of a theatre hall, filled with an audience, it must be a courtroom having the public as judge and jury.

Now one can contest me that if Khan’s all statements are in contradiction with basic principles and logic of meaning-making why do his followers trust him blindly and get on the streets whenever he calls them to come out?

My answer to this question is that one should study the cult following to find this answer. The dominant characteristic in cult formation is being a functional addict. As substance use deprives the human cognitive system of existent reality and transfers the human brain into a subjective reality, construed by a cult leader, another astonishing resemblance between all the cults is dependence on illusive hopes based on human vulnerabilities. It is also observed that all cult followers are not practically addicted to any substance use but sing the same tune as their cult orchestra is playing with extensive repetition.

Cult followers mainly get detached from ideas, and information that contradicts their preaching. This phenomenon can be studied as a trance, a state of mind in which followers kept themselves and nurture the imposed illusion.

Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is an 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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