Craig Murray: The Silence on Imran Khan

Pakistan has imposed a media blackout over the deposed prime minister and thousands of new political prisoners incarcerated in appalling conditions. Condemnation in the U.K. and U.S. has been non-existent.

Imran Khan in February 2023. (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)

By Craig Murray

Given the large population in the U.K. of Pakistani origin, the lack of serious media coverage of the overthrow and incarceration of Imran Khan, and the mass imprisonment of his supporters, is truly extraordinary.

Imran Khan was last week sentenced to three years in prison — and a five-year ban from politics — for alleged embezzlement of official gifts. This follows his removal as prime minister in a C.I.A.-engineered coup, and a vicious campaign of violence and imprisonment against Khan and his supporters.

It is currently illegal in Pakistan to publish or broadcast about Khan or the thousands of new political prisoners incarcerated in appalling conditions. There have been no protests from the U.K. or U.S. governments.

Imran Khan is almost certainly the least corrupt senior politician in Pakistan’s history — I admit that is not a high bar. Pakistan’s politics are — to an extent not sufficiently understood in the West — literally feudal. Two dynasties, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos, have alternated in power, in a sometimes deadly rivalry, punctuated by periods of more open military rule.

There is no genuine ideological or policy gap between the Sharifs and Bhuttos, though the latter have more intellectual pretension. It is purely about control of state resources. The arbiter of power has in reality been the military, not the electorate. They have now put the Sharifs back in power.

Imran Khan’s incredible breakthrough in the 2018 National Assembly elections shattered normal political life in Pakistan. Winning a plurality of the popular vote and the most seats, Khan’s PTI party had risen from under 1 percent of the vote in 2002 to 32 percent in 2018. 

The dates are important. It was not Khan’s cricketing heroics which made him politically popular. In 2002, when his cricket genius was much fresher in the mind than it is now, he was viewed as a joke candidate. 

In fact, it was Khan’s outspoken opposition to the United States using Pakistan as a base, and particularly his demand to stop the hundreds of dreadful U.S. drone strikes within Pakistan, that caused the surge in his support.

The Pakistani military went along with him. The reason is not hard to find. Given the level of hatred the U.S.A. had engendered through its drone killings, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the hideous torture excesses of the “War on terror,” it was temporarily not in the interests of the Pakistan military to foreground their deep relationship with the C.I.A. and U.S. military.

Safety Valve

Protesting U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan in Hong Kong, July 8, 2012. (Yu Pong, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Pakistan security service, ISI, had betrayed Osama Bin Laden to the U.S., which hardly improved the popularity of the military and security services. Imran Khan was seen by them as a useful safety valve. It was believed he could channel the insurgent anti-Americanism and Islamic enthusiasm which was sweeping Pakistan, into a government acceptable to the West.

In power, Khan proved much more radical than the C.I.A., the British Tories and the Pakistani military had hoped. The belief that he was only a playboy dilettante at heart was soon shattered. A stream of Khan’s decisions upset the U.S. and threatened the income streams of the corrupt senior military.

Khan did not only talk about stopping the U.S. drone programme, he actually stopped it. 

Aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in 2018. (US Air Force/Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Khan refused offers of large amounts of money, also linked to U.S. support for an IMF loan, for Pakistan to send ground forces to support the Saudi air campaign against Yemen. I was told this by one of Khan’s ministers when I visited in 2019, on condition of a confidentiality which need no longer apply.

Khan openly criticised military corruption and, in the action most guaranteed to precipitate a C.I.A. coup, he supported the developing country movement to move trading away from the petrodollar. He accordingly sought to switch Pakistan’s oil suppliers from the Gulf states to Russia.

Relentless Hit Piece

The Guardian, the chief neo-con mouthpiece in the U.K., on Sunday published an article about Khan so tendentious it took my breath away. How about this for a bit of dishonest reporting:

“… in November a gunman opened fire on his convoy at a rally, injuring his leg in what aides say was an assassination attempt.”

“Aides say”: What is this implying? 

Khan had himself shot in the legs as some kind of stunt? It was all a joke? He wasn’t actually shot but fell over and grazed a knee? It is truly disgraceful journalism.

It is hard to know whether the article’s astonishing assertion that Khan’s tenure as prime minister led to an increase in corruption in Pakistan is a deliberate lie or extraordinary ignorance. 

I am not sure whether Emma Graham-Harrison, the author of the article, has ever been to Pakistan. I suspect the closest she has been to Pakistan is meeting Jemima Goldsmith at a party.

The author, left, during a recent trip to Pakistan, where he went to Karachi, Abbottabad and the Afghan border. (Craig Murray)

“Playboy,” “dilettante,” “misogynist” — The Guardian hit piece is relentless. It is an encapsulation of the “liberal” arguments for military intervention in Muslim states, for overthrowing Islamic governments and conquering Islamic countries, in order to install Western norms, in particular the tenets of Western feminism.

I think we have seen how that playbook has ended in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, amongst others. The use of the word “claim” to engender distrust of Khan in The Guardian article is studied. He “claimed” that his years living in the U.K. had inspired him to wish to create a welfare state in Pakistan.

Why is that a dubious comment from a man who spent the majority of his personal fortune on setting up and running a free cancer hospital in Pakistan?

Khan’s efforts to remove or sideline the most corrupt generals, and those most openly in the pay of the C.I.A., are described by The Guardian as “he tried to take control of senior military appointments and began railing against the armed forces’ influence in politics.” How entirely unreasonable of him! 

Literally thousands of members of Khan’s political party are currently in jail for the crime of having joined a new political party. The condemnation by the Western establishment has been non-existent.

It is difficult to think of a country, besides Pakistan, where thousands of largely middle-class people could suddenly become political prisoners, while drawing almost no condemnation. It is of course because the U.K. supports the coup against Khan. 

But I feel confident it also reflects in part the racism and contempt shown by the British political class towards the Pakistani immigrant community, which contrasts starkly with British ministerial enthusiasm for Modi’s India.

We should not forget New Labour have also never been a friend to democracy in Pakistan, and the Blair government was extremely comfortable with Pakistan’s last open military dictatorship under General Pervez Musharraf. 

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


23 comments for “Craig Murray: The Silence on Imran Khan

  1. SteveK9
    August 11, 2023 at 13:55

    I made a comment a few months ago … the the US was now Pakistan. More true than ever.

  2. Wrinkle
    August 11, 2023 at 07:00

    “… in November a gunman opened fire on his convoy at a rally, injuring his leg in what aides say was an assassination attempt.”

    “Aides say”: What is this implying?

    Khan had himself shot in the legs as some kind of stunt? It was all a joke? He wasn’t actually shot but fell over and grazed a knee? It is truly disgraceful journalism.

    This is a straight comment, as written, not implying anything but a possible assassination attempt. I love CM in all he does but he is wrong here.

  3. wildthange
    August 10, 2023 at 21:09

    It appears that the massive US and allies control of arms sales and economic sanctions becomes a useful weapon for our full spectrum dominance and proficiency in promoting coups all over the world. It is a form of control that is the opposite of supporting and promoting freedom in the world.

  4. John Woodford
    August 10, 2023 at 15:22

    Any attention paid to Khan’s plight would distract from the crisis-of-the-day: trying to figure out how to get the puppet back in power in Niger, which holds all that uranium. The Africans who are getting paid to serve Uncle Sam in ECOWAS had better look at the Ukrainians’ fate before they send their troops to serve as cannon fodder in defense of the Western monopolies’ interests in West Africa.

  5. JonT
    August 10, 2023 at 14:52

    Great article as usual from Craig Murray. But I have to say that this comment:

    “I am not sure whether Emma Graham-Harrison, the author of the article, has ever been to Pakistan. I suspect the closest she has been to Pakistan is meeting Jemima Goldsmith at a party.” Did bring some welcome light relief!

  6. sameer
    August 10, 2023 at 14:15

    What this article fails to explain is that Imran khan came into power in 2018 WITH the help of the military. His party barely had any popularity back then. The idea that he genuinely won those elections is laughable. He was basically installed by the military(under the guise of so called democratic elections) and later removed by the military last year when they found no use for him. It’s that simple.

  7. Lifeform
    August 10, 2023 at 13:11

    Thank you, Craig. The silence on this one has been truly deafening here in the UK. That always means those at the top are very satisfied with events which, in turn, means the rest of us should pay attention because the Great Game is still afoot.

  8. W. E.Watson
    August 10, 2023 at 09:29

    Thank You very much, Craig Murray. Few are left to dare speak the truth. To those, who find flaws in Mr. Khan’s persona, a little bit of “whataboutism” is due. What about the shining examples of so called “western values”, bogged down in war crimes, crimes against humanity, corruption, censorship and utter hypocrisy all over the west? Name one politician that can reach Imran Khan the water. Just one. There is none. As to the now five-eye rag “guardian”, its presstitutes have it coming.
    The important comparison between the removal of a stooge for the psychopathic western elite in Niger with any coup d’etat against any head of state opposing those psychopathic policies must be emphasized. It is remisniscent of the hysterical objections to the prison sentence for a convicted criminal in Russia by the foreign minister of the vassal republic germany and her silence about Julian Assange. If hypocrisy would be a deadly disease – as it ultimately may well be – the west would be quite underpopulated.

    Intentional, or unintentional – Pakistan will become another failed state, because Imran Khan has a substantial fellowship, even within the military.

  9. susan
    August 10, 2023 at 07:43

    This won’t be the last until we remove the demons in Washington…

  10. August 9, 2023 at 18:41

    Thank you most sincerely, Mr. Murray, for another informative bit of reporting that we might never otherwise see.

    Your disdain for the Guardian is rightfully given, as it would be for any such publication that once professed liberal values. They are indeed, one of the more committed neocon mouthpieces now.

  11. August 9, 2023 at 18:19

    The fate of those who put their countries first in the face of United States hegemonic aspirations, democracy be damned, as it was in the Ukraine in 2014. Of course, now it is not just in foreign countries that such activities take place but in the United States itself, where inconvenient populist leaders face similar fates.

  12. Lois Gagnon
    August 9, 2023 at 17:30

    The imperial West is in the process of cracking up on the world stage. Unfortunately, a lot of courageous innocents are going to get caught up in the turmoil created as it spins out of control. Best we can do is shine a bright light on the criminals as they attempt to stop the slide so they can be identified and taken into custody when the opportunity presents itself.

  13. Andrew Nichols
    August 9, 2023 at 17:21

    The contrast of the Western Minority World media silence over this bit of risible Latin American style lawfare with the hysteria over the coup in some North African backwater is so telling. Removal of a pesky independent versus removal of a pet neocolonial asset. The gormless masses wont even notice of course and thats why the media have done this.

  14. A.G.
    August 9, 2023 at 17:20

    important further reporting by The Intercept, from a leaked Pakistani document proving US State Department´s serious involvement:

    “Secret Pakistan Cable Documents U.S. Pressure to Remove Imran Khan – All will be forgiven,” said a U.S. diplomat, if the no-confidence vote against Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan succeeds.”


    • Valerie
      August 10, 2023 at 08:49

      Which is why this:

      “There have been no protests from the U.K. or U.S. governments.”

  15. Naveed
    August 9, 2023 at 16:52

    Imran Khan’s own contradictions caught up with him. Veering from a hedonistic life in the West he became Taliban Khan. Pakistan was stuttering towards some sort of democratic system with governments being replaced through elections rather than being turfed out by repeated martial laws. This emerging new order alarmed the establishment which saw this as a threat to their hegemony. A new weapon was found and nurtured to be a fig leaf in the form of a politically naive yet charismatic figure in Imran Khan. A new political party clumsily cobbled together comprised mainly of corrupt politicians from the other two main parties through intimidation and enticement. The result was disastrous. His failures are numerous but the greatest damage Imran Khan has done to the future of Pakistan is the introduction of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) hxxps://

    • Dr. Hujjatullah M.H.Babu Sahib
      August 11, 2023 at 23:25

      So true, except I don’t follow the SNC argument ! Many other states across the world have met success through similar routes.

  16. Rubicon
    August 9, 2023 at 16:42

    Just in 8/9/23: according to a fairly accurate source on Twitter – the person says that the US was behind Khan’s arrest and is now in prison. How many hundreds of times do we have to see this same fate in countries beholding to US financial dictates?

  17. mgr
    August 9, 2023 at 15:53

    I have read a very recent report, sorry, I forget which, that Blinken is negotiating with Pakistan for their stock of 155 mm artillery shells. It’s supposed to be quite large, years worth.

  18. August 9, 2023 at 15:18

    Compare the treatment of Khan’s removal from office and subsequent imprisonment in the UK press with its howls of protest over removal of the US/French lackey in Niger (and CIA money launderer) followed by open calls for invasion! The hypocrisy is staggering!

    • forceOfHabit
      August 9, 2023 at 18:36


  19. Drew Hunkins
    August 9, 2023 at 14:49

    One of the reasons Khan was vilified by the West and jailed by the Washington quislings inside Pakistan is bc he refused to condemn the Kremlin over its Special Military Operation in the Ukraine.

    Khan’s a leader with integrity. He also speaks up for the Palestinians.

  20. JonnyJames
    August 9, 2023 at 14:17

    Thanks for this article Mr. Murray. Also, Khan didn’t go along with the US /UK orders regarding Russia/Ukraine. He didn’t condemn Russia and support Ukraine, but sought to increase trade with Russia. The CIA/MI6 coup (with their clear connections with Pakistani intelligence and military) show what will happen if a popular leader does not follow orders from the imperial overlords.

    However, the people of Pakistan might have other ideas, we’ll see what happens.

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