SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

History, Rage and Reversal; The Imran Khan Phenomenon

Dr Ammar Ali Jan

Date: 28 October 2020Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 28 October 2020Time: 3:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar


In this talk, I argue that Imran Khan emerged as a symptom of the deadlock in Pakistan’s political economy. This includes the decay of mainstream parties, an erosion of civil liberties under the pressure of militarization and an increasingly elite-based economy. These failures led to widespread disillusionment from the political class as well as anger against US interference in the country, a rage captured by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (Movement for Justice).

Yet, the opposition built by Khan in the name of “change” relied on tactics used by traditional parties in their ascent to power. It included an alignment with the country’s powerful military establishment, using rhetoric of accountability to victimize opponents as well as welding a coalition of wealthy landlords and industrialist. Today, as Khan makes spectacular “U-turns” on the economy, education, healthcare missing persons, his government increasingly symbolizes the loss of hope in Pakistan’s political structure.

We will also discuss how the Pakistani youth’s peculiar relationship to history permitted the PTI to pose as a force of change while reinforcing the traditional power structure in the country. Finally, as Khan’s government becomes increasingly repressive by accusing dissidents of being foreign agents, we will examine whether there is a possibility for the emergence of a politics that can genuinely address the social, economic and moral decay in Pakistan.

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History, Rage and Reversal; The Imran Khan Phenomenon


Ammar Ali Jan finished his Phd in history from the University of Cambridge. His work explores the formation of communist thought in Colonial India. In particular, he examined how European ideas were rethought by militants of the anti-colonial movements. He is also a member of the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement in Pakistan and has been active for education reform and workers rights. He also writes articles for The News International, Al-Jazeera and The Jacobin. He was recently fired from his teaching post for supporting students rights. He is also facing sedition charges under the current government.

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Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

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