I oppose Imran “Taliban” Khan and his PTI, but there is no doubt that he has made a major impact on Pakistani politics. From nothing, he has turned PTI into the second largest party in Pakistan (by votes). PTI is the no.1 party in KPK and the no.2 party in Punjab, which means PPP will now find it immensely more difficult to win any seats from either province.
The strength of Imran’s PTI platform is that it brings together two separate Pakistani constituencies under the same umbrella for the first time: the Punjabi Urban (Bureaucracy/Army) Middle-Class, and the moderate Jihadis (mostly former JI supporters, who love Al-Qaeda and Taliban but will not openly state this). Standing alone, neither of these two constituencies has ever managed to win many votes. Each constituency has supported past dictatorships, and reaped many rewards in doing so. Under PTI, for the first time, Imran has capitalised on the growth of Punjab’s urban population, and fused these two constituencies together, creating a potent political force capable of getting millions of votes.
In his electric 2013 National Election campaign, Imran campaigned on a slogan of Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan). He condemned the established “status quo” parties, although this always referred to PMLN/PPP, never JI (Jamat Islami), which has been part of the status quo for decades longer than PMLN/PPP. Imran even went so far as to promise that he would not sit in a coalition with either PPP or PMLN. Imran has been outspoken in his condemnation of “nepotism [which] reigns to preserve/further family power, kinship ties, friendships”.
The irony is that Imran Khan’s personal family background (top-level Punjabi Army/Bureaucracy) reveals that there are few people in Pakistan who are more “status quo” than him. The details of Lieutenant-General Wajid Ali Burki (Imran’s uncle) which I am about to reveal have been carefully hidden by Imran – there is no mention of him in any of his autobiographies. An examination of Imran’s background rips apart his delusion of somehow representing a new Pakistan, untarnished by the established status quo. What you will see is that Imran Khan personifies the status quo, in fact even more so than the Nawaz Sharif or Bhutto families.
The Bhuttos are Sindhis – they are outsiders from the Punjabi Army/Bureaucracy establishment which is Pakistan’s status quo. Nawaz Sharif represents rural Punjab. Imran Khan is the embodiment of the educated Punjabi (Bureaucracy/Army) urban middle class, which is the establishment “status quo” of Pakistan since day 1. This class was almost unanimous in their support of Imran Khan in the last elections.
Imran Khan was born in 1952 in Lahore, the son of Shaukhat Khanum (Burki) and Ikramullah Niazi. Shaukhat Khanum’s sister was married to Lieutenant-General Wajid Ali Burki (also her cousin), who was Ayub Khan’s right hand man, and a member of his Cabinet. From 1958 to around 1963, Burki was the second most powerful man in Pakistan. When Ayub travelled abroad, General Burki even served as Acting President of Pakistan.
General Burki (1900-1988) was born in Basti Baba Khel, a suburb of Jullunder (today in Indian Punjab). According to one source, the Burkis living around Jullunder were downtrodden, and the source goes on to say:
“it was a common phrase of original Jullandari’s about the Burkis who lived on the outskirts of Jallandur that “nikka khota tay nikka sikh hamesha sonay lagday nay!” (a little donkey and a little sikh always look cute)!”
In other words, the Burkis were donkeys, and neither they nor the fierce Sikhs looked cute as they got older. The source claims that General Burki had the nickname “The Allotmentee” and says that he “participated in mass corruption during the Ayub era”, as he was in the habit of grabbing as many land plots as he could. The source further claims that:
“Late Major (resigned) Mazhar Ahmad whose elder brother was ICS [Indian Civil Service] in united India went on to reveal that Gen Burki’s father was a 4 anna (false) witness at the kutchery [law courts] till his sons joined the British Indian Army!”
Another source sheds yet more light on Burki’s “allotmentee” activities, claiming that he owned a property in Murree (Hill Station) with a huge garden of apples. There is no record of Burki ever conducting any business activities, or possessing any inherited wealth, so one may conclude that Burki’s assets were gained by corrupt means, or simply the acquisition of absentee Sikh/Hindu property.
This suggests that Imran Khan’s family background in India (East Punjab) was ordinary to say the least. Like many other Punjabi families loyal to the British Raj, Burki’s family entered the British Indian Army to gain advancement.
Wajid Burki was clearly an intelligent and talented army doctor. He was an eye specialist, and sent by the British to the UK (St Andrews and Moorfield Eye Hospital) for training. At independence, Burki was the top Pakistani military doctor, serving under an English military doctor. When the Englishman left, Burki was appointed Director General, Armed Forces, Medical Services. Burki was responsible for building and maintaining the entire network of military hospitals all over Pakistan, a massive responsibility.
At independence, the Burki family somehow grabbed one of the most prime areas of Lahore, and renamed it Zaman Park (after Imran’s maternal grandfather’s brother). It is virtually certain that this was evacuated property of fleeing Sikhs/Hindus, so the Burkis would not have paid a penny for it. Also, given that this is such an unbelievably prime piece of land, other Punjabis must also have been vying for it. This can only mean that it must have been General Burki himself who arranged for this prime land to be grabbed, and renamed Zaman (Burki) Park. Ahmed Zaman Burki was probably General Burki’s father.
In Imran Khan’s 2 main autobiographies (All Round View, 1991, and Pakistan: A Personal History, 2011), he describes his idyllic childhood in Zaman Park, how he used to spend afternoons with his cousins, and aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The Burkis all used to play cricket at Zaman Park, including Imran’s cousin, Javed Burki (son of General Burki) – a future captain of Pakistan’s cricket team (1962). Yet nowhere in these books does Imran even mention the name of Lieutenant-General Wajid Ali Burki. His uncle was the second most powerful man in the land, Acting President of Pakistan in Ayub’s absence, yet did not get a single mention. Imran consistently omitted General Burki’s name, because he wished to hide his own powerful status quo background.
On October 7, 1958, General Ayub Khan (Head of Pakistan Armed Forces) and Iskander Mirza (Governor General of Pakistan) jointly carried out a military coup. Three weeks later, Ayub sent General Burki to personally arrest Iskander Mirza at his residence in the middle of the night . Mirza was sent into exile, and Ayub seized full control. When Ayub announced his Cabinet, General Burki was appointed Minister for Health, Labour and Social Welfare. ZA Bhutto was also in Ayub’s first Cabinet. As Minister for Information, Bhutto’s key role was to crush any calls for a return to democracy.
As various sources indicate, Burki was commonly seen around the world as Ayub’s deputy. In 1962, Javed Burki (aged 24) was appointed Captain of Pakistan’s cricket team. Hanif Mohammed (a Muhajir from Karachi) was Vice-Captain. Burki led a tour to England which resulted in a 4-1 loss After that, Hanif was appointed captain and had a decently successful 6 years at the helm (5 Test series, 1-1-3 record). Burki remains, to this day, the most unsuccessful cricket captain in Pakistan history. It seems obvious to me that General Burki’s power in 1962 was so great that the Pakistan selectors made Javed Burki captain – a disastrous form of nepotism.
Imran’s father, Ikramullah Niazi, was an engineer, first in government service, and then with his private company. Many sources have claimed that Bhutto fired Imran’s father for alleged corruption. This implies that Imran’s father held his government position in the first place due to the power and patronage of General Burki, his brother-in-law.
Burki was extremely close to Ayub. Also close to Ayub was the Nawab of Kalabagh, the Punjabi Governor of West Pakistan (actually a fake Nawab – he invented the title).When Ayub moved Pakistan’s capital from Karachi to Islamabad (Punjab) in 1960, the Ayub, Burki and Kalabagh families built their houses next to each other. Their descendants live there to this day. There could be no clearer indication that these three were the most powerful men in the land.
Imran attended Lahore’s most prestigious boys school, Aitcheson College. It must have been well known that he was the nephew of General Burki, the second most powerful man in Pakistan. Imran’s first love was cricket, but after that he planned to enter the Civil Service. However, by the mid-1970s, Imran stated in an interview that he no longer wished to enter the Civil Service due to Bhutto being in power. In other words, he had been hoping to enter the Civil Service as a super well-connected status quo Punjabi when Ayub and his uncle were in power, but it was no longer a good idea under (anti-Ayub) Bhutto.
Imran is the embodiment of the status quo. His house in Zaman (Burki) Park, his father’s job, his education at Aitcheson College, his cousin’s cricket captaincy of Pakistan, all came from the power of Pakistan’s Military Bureaucracy. Imran grew up playing with his cousins in Zaman Park every day, and the exploits of the great uncle Wajid must have been a central topic of conversation for children and grownups alike. When Imran travelled to Islamabad, he must have visited his uncle’s house, right next to the house of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the President of Pakistan. There can be no doubt that Imran and his family must have enjoyed VVIP protocol wherever they went. It is virtually certain that Imran must have met Ayub as a child, but I have never seen a photo of Imran and General Wajid, let alone a photo of Imran and Ayub.
Many other senior PTI figures come from the same Punjabi Bureaucracy/Army clique as Imran. Ayla Malik, the granddaughter of the “Nawab” of Kalabagh, was guaranteed a National Assembly (reserved) seat, until she was proven to have a fake degree. Asad Umar, the PTI no.2, is the son of General Ghulam Umar, an Islamist General who was Head of the National Security Council, accused of East Pakistan genocide, and kept under house arrest for the 5 years that Bhutto remained in power. Who can be more “status quo” than these shady characters?
Then there are the moderate Jihadis – many senior PTI figures have long family traditions of supporting JI. Dr Arif Alvi, for example, is the PTI MNA for Karachi’s NA250 constituency, and formerly a member of JI. His father, Dr. Habib ur Rehman Elahi Alvi, was an assistant of Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamat Islami. How can you be a more status quo Islamist in Pakistan than that?
Imran built the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) hospital in 1996. With hindsight, it is apparent that the prime motivation was to use this to build his political power. Imran always told the story of how he was inspired to build the hospital when he witnessed the suffering of ordinary Pakistanis whilst his mother had cancer. Imran never mentioned the influence of his uncle Lt-Gen Burki, Director General, Armed Forces, Medical Services and also Minister for Health. The SKMT was built under the leadership of Dr. Nausherwan K. Burki, Imran’s cousin and the son of General Burki. Dr. Nausherwan K. Burki (born 1938) began his own medical training whilst his father was Director General, Armed Forces, Medical Services. You cannot get more status quo than that in the Pakistan medical field.
Imran Khan is status quo, his family is status quo, his hospital is a product of Pakistan’s status quo, the top PTI leaders are status quo, he received almost unanimous support from Punjab’s urban middle class status quo class. And yet Imran would have us believe that PTI is an anti-status quo party. By carefully whitewashing the name of General Wajid Burki from his entire narrative, Imran has been deceitful about his background. So, the Punjabi Urban Middle Class Army/Bureaucracy status quo themselves are voting for a true son of the status quo, who at the same time pretends that he is anti-status quo.
The urban Punjabis wish to grab power from the rural Punjabis. Imran Khan’s PTI is merely a vehicle to achieve that objective.