Punjab By-Polls – Is Imran Khan Turning The Tides?

On July 17, 2022, Punjab province, Pakistan, concluded its by-polls to elect 20 members to the provincial assembly. To everyone’s surprise, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition registered a thumping victory. Imran Khan’s led coalition won 15 out of 20 seats, leading to a majority in the provincial assembly. This led to the de facto collapse of CM Hamza Sharif’s (son of PM Shehbaz Sharif) government. This is the first and most massive jolt to Shehbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Noon) party after toppling Imran Khan’s government at the center. In a major embarrassment to Shehbaz Sharif, his son Hamza will have to step down from the CM post. Hamza Sharif will be replaced by PTI CM candidate Chaudhary Pervez Elahi, who is also considered a close aide to Imran Khan.

This by-poll is unequivocally notable for many reasons. Firstly, this was the first major election after Imran Khan was dethroned by the establishment. Secondly, this election would determine the level of acceptance people have for Imran Khan’s foreign conspiracy narrative. Thirdly, this election would determine the government of Punjab province (the largest and most powerful province). It is said that the CM of Punjab province is only second to the PM of Pakistan in terms of power. For keen observers of Pakistani politics, these election results came as an utter surprise. Those who follow Pakistan closely know that politics in Pakistan is always conducted under the military boot. Pakistan’s army is the biggest political and real estate enterprise in Pakistan.

Also Read, General Bajwa’s last ditch to save Pakistan from economic collapse.


By-poll victory tweet by Imran khan.

No politician could survive without the blessing of the army chief. In fact, all the prime ministers in Pakistan were nurtured and brought into politics by the army chiefs of their time. The late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was brought into politics by the then army chief, Gen. Ayub Khan. Nawaz Sharif was brought into politics by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. Even Imran Khan was nurtured and brought into politics by the Pakistani establishment (Army and ISI). The by-poll results were astonishing because, despite a strained relationship between Imran Khan and Gen Bajwa, Imran’s led coalition still registered a landslide victory.

He repeatedly claimed in his rallies that this election isn’t between him and the opposition, it was between him and the establishment. On several occasions, he claimed that the army and ISI would use their machinery to rig elections. Imran Khan was so sure of this that he ordered his supporters to guard the election booths and keep a vigilant eye on the ballots. Well, Imran himself came to power due to the establishment, so he would have first-hand experience of how the establishment rigs elections.


Imran khan blaming establishment for rigging elections.

The only difference is that in 2018, the establishment worked in favor of Imran and now against Imran Khan. But, to everyone’s surprise, his coalition won the election, something that no one thought of. Many analysts believe that despite public support, Imran still has the support of certain quarters in the army establishment. Officers who were against Gen. Bajwa’s extension are considered to be behind Imran Khan.

Also, Read, Exposed: Pakistan’s Disinformation Campaign Against Agnipath scheme.


There are two rules for surviving and excelling in Pakistani politics. One is to never develop a mind of your own. The second is to never forget rule one. Once a politician (PM, CM, or MINISTER) starts thinking or acting like a democratic leader, it’s a dead end for him. As a politician, your only job is to tow the army line and polish military boots. Imran Khan too came into power in 2018 by following the above two rules. Imran Khan was promoted by the establishment as they needed a new face for their control. Due to widespread corruption and scams during their tenures, both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari faced massive anti-incumbency. To replace them, the army chose Imran Khan as a new puppet. 

Naveed Mukhtar gave Faiz Hameed (later ISI Chief) the job to manage and fix the 2018 general election in favor of Imran Khan. Faiz Hameed left no stone unturned to rig, coerce, bribe, and manipulate elections. Everything was so blatantly rigged in the elections that Imran Khan earned the title of “Selected Khan” by the opposition.


Things went south between Imran and the establishment when Imran started thinking of himself as the prime minister of Pakistan. On multiple occasions, Imran bragged about his hold on history subjects and being a student of history. But certainly, he failed to recall the history of dissent by former prime ministers and its consequences. Though the relationship between Imran and Bajwa was strained for a long time, the last nail in the coffin was the appointment of the next DG ISI. Imran Khan wanted Faiz Hameed to be reinstated as DG ISI because he was a close aide to Imran and was instrumental in his victory in 2018. Gen. Bajwa knew what was cooking as Imran, along with Faiz Hamid, formed a clique within the army. This clique included Imran’s loyalists within the army and those who were against Gen. Bajwa’s extension.

Also Read, How Did Pakistan’s Support For The Taliban Backfire On Itself?

This was the first time ever in the history of Pakistan that any politician divided the army. Gen. Bajwa certainly wanted to nib it in the bud before it got out of hand. He decided to remove Faiz Hameed from the DG ISI and put his loyalist, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum, as the new DG ISI. Faiz was posted as commander of the Bahawalpur Corps of the Pakistan Army, commonly referred to as the 31st Corps. But the issue here was that Imran didn’t want Faiz to abdicate his post. Removing Faiz means losing control over ISI, that too ahead of elections. Therefore, Imran withheld the official notification, noting that the views of the civilian government had not been taken.


This was not what the army had come to expect from prime ministers. It was a norm in Pakistan that all the decisions would be taken by the army chief and the PM would just give his approval with no ifs and buts. But this time, Imran tried to change the status quo, and this really got on Gen Bajwa’s nerves. Even within Pakistan, everyone saw this as an act of defiance against the army. The rift was now out in the open, where on one hand, Imran Khan didn’t give his formal approval to the transfers, while on the other hand, Faiz Hameed and Nadeem Anjum took charge of their respective positions.

After weeks of delay finally, Imran had to bow down and give formal approval to the appointment. Experts say that this incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and made Bajwa to overthrow Imran Khan’s government. And even in reality after this incident, political circles became a hive of activities with an aim to dethrone Imran khan. And as was expected in a matter of a few months Imran khan lost the majority and his post.

Also Read,  How PLA outpost in Pakistan is a boon for India?


For India, Imran’s coming back to power is like a dream come true. Because as long as Imran is in the picture, the rift between the army and civilians will remain alive. And a divided Pakistan army is a boon for Indian national security. Moreover, Imran Khan, due to his foreign conspiracy narrative, has worsened the US-Pakistan relationship. This means if Imran comes to power, India doesn’t have to worry about the US providing aid to Pakistan. Imran Khan, during his tenure, isolated Pakistan globally. He strained Pakistan’s relations with the Gulf by colluding with Turkey to challenge Saudi hegemony in the OIC. He burned bridges with India due to his personal below-the-belt attacks on PM Modi. Even the Chinese weren’t happy with his administration, as under Imran Khan, all the projects under BRI were stalled.


And if by any chance, Imran doesn’t come to power, he will not let Pakistan’s government function properly. He will keep on attacking the army and the government and keep the entire system hostage. This is even more beneficial for India, as political instability will further worsen Pakistan’s economic crisis. Moreover, for the first time in history, a common man has started questioning Pakistan’s army, all thanks to Imran Khan. Through social media, Imran Khan peddled an anti-army narrative in Pakistan, and, surprising to many, it sold well among the public. In several rallies and protests, Imran instigated and blamed the army for the current instability in the country.

For the first time, the army has lost public support in Pakistan, with citizens labeling the army chief a traitor and a US stooge. This change in public sentiment is displayed in the by-poll results. For India, it’s a win-win situation for both sides. Whether Imran comes to power or not, will be seen in the future, but his presence in Pakistan’s politics is certainly a blessing in disguise for India.


Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (4th year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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