BS (Social Sciences & Liberal Arts)

Faculty / School

School of Economics and Social Sciences (SESS)


Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Date of Submission



Dr. Shehram Mokhtar, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences

Project Type

SSLA Culminating Experience

Access Type

Restricted Access


The following research paper analyzes Imran Khan's rise to power in Pakistan through the lens of affective politics and theories of populism. It examines how Khan developed a successful populist strategy by appealing to the emotions and passions of the masses. The study focuses specifically on the recent Haqeeqi Azaadi movement launched by Khan after being ousted as Prime Minister in 2022. Furthermore, the paper situates Khan's politics and the Haqeeqi Azaadi movement in the broader global context of the populist moment, marked by the crisis of neoliberalism and representative democracy. It traces the evolution of Khan's political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from its founding as a reformist movement to becoming a major political force that came into power in 2018 with backing from the powerful military. The paper argues that prevailing rationalist models like deliberative democracy are limited in explaining the affective dimensions of populist movements. Instead, it applies Chantal Mouffe's framework of agonistic pluralism which views politics as inherently conflictual and driven by collective passions. Through discourse analysis of Khan's speeches, posters, party anthems and social media content, the research demonstrates how PTI tapped into feelings of injustice, desire for change and religious nationalism among the disgruntled middle class and marginalized groups feeling the impact of economic crisis through precarization of their daily lives. By positioning himself as the defender of 'the people' against 'corrupt elites,' Khan fostered strong identification among supporters. During the Haqeeqi Azaadi movement, PTI strategically channeled affects of anger, fear and pride to mobilize crowds both online and on the streets. The study concludes that examining the affective strategies and emotional resonances underlying populist politics can provide deeper insight into collective political identities. This analysis of Khan's emotive communication reveals the limitations of procedural democracy in contexts like Pakistan shaped by hybrid regimes. Overall, the research aims to provide insights into the rise of right-wing populism in Pakistan through the case study of Khan and PTI, and its implications for democracy.



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