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Pakistan’s 13th general election, held on 8 February 2024, bolstered the almost mythological power of currently jailed, former prime minister Imran Khan. Despite being out of favour with the country’s omnipotent military establishment, extensive manipulation of the pre-poll political environment, and massive irregularities on and immediately after election day, candidates affiliated with Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) won the most directly elected seats in Pakistan’s lower house of parliament.

Imran Khan’s primary support base is Pakistan’s tech-savvy youthful population, now comprising 65% of the country’s 250 million people. In contrast to other bourgeois parties like the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People’s Party headed by scion of the Bhutto family, Bilawal, the PTI has succeeded in winning over large sections of the country’s youthful population by appealing to an idealised middle class subjectivity around slogans like fighting corruption and freeing the country from the clutches of an entrenched domestic and foreign elite.

In this sense, Imran Khan and the PTI are not dissimilar to the other iconoclastic political-ideological formations in contexts as diverse as neighbouring India, Turkey and the US. Rather than representing a stable hegemonic coalition of social forces, the enduring appeal of the Imran Khan and the PTI reflects a crisis-ridden political economy reproducing classed, gendered and racialised inequality, and characterised by violent modalities of accumulation, ecological despoilation, and colonial statecraft. The results and aftermath of 8 February will deepen this crisis, which can only be addressed by winning over the youthful ‘middle class political subject’ to a genuinely hegemonic alternative.


Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University. He was previously at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). ASA works on diverse subjects such as state theory, informality & class formation, colonial history, and social movements. He has published widely in journals such as Third World Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Journal of Peasant Studies and Critical Asian Studies. He is also the author of four books, most recently The Struggle for Hegemony in Pakistan: Fear, Desire and Revolutionary Horizons (Pluto, 2022) & The Politics of Common Sense: State, Society and Culture in Pakistan (Cambridge, 2018). Aasim also writes a syndicated column for Pakistan's newspaper-of-record, DAWN.

Aasim is contributing editor for the New York-based journal Socialism & Democracy, and Honorary Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has been a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford, King’s College London & the School of Oriental and African Studies. Alongside his academic pursuits, Aasim has also been closely affiliated with political and social movements in Pakistan for more than two decades and is currently deputy secretary general of the Awami Workers Party. He obtained his doctorate in political sociology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; an MA degree in Economics from Yale University and a BA degree in Economics from Northwestern University.


Christophe Jaffrelot

Christophe Jaffrelot is the Avantha Chair and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King's India Institute and also the Research Lead for the Global Institutes, King’s College London. He teaches South Asian politics and history at Sciences Po, Paris and is an Overseas Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was Director of Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po, between 2000 and 2008.

Currently, he is the chair at the British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS). He takes part in the editorial board of several journals and is the senior editor of a Hurst book series that he has founded in 1999, Comparative Politics and International Studies. He is also a Non Resident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. and is a regular commentator on Indian and Pakistani politics in France, UK, North America and in India where he writes a fortnightly column in The Indian Express.


Srilata Sircar

Dr Srilata Sircar is Lecturer in India and Global Affairs at the King's India Institute. She is module leader for the Introduction to Global Affairs and Contemporary India modules. Trained as an urban geographer, Srilata received her doctoral degree from Lund University, Sweden in 2017. With a prior background in History and Development Studies, her research interests include urban political ecology of South Asia, the politics of caste in infrastructure-building, and the political economy of subaltern urbanization. Srilata is a contributing writer for Feminism in India. She is also interested in documentary film-making and podcast production.

Her current research focuses on the knowledge politics and caste dimensions of urban infrastructure building in South Asia. With a focus on smaller urban centres, she adopts both archival and ethnographic methods to expose and dismantle the ways in which dominant knowledge regimes shape urban planning and development. She assumes an intersectional-feminist and postcolonial analytical stance.

At this event

Professor Christophe Jaffrelot

Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology

Dr Srilata Sircar

Lecturer in India and Global Affairs

Event details

South Wing 2.06
Bush House
Strand campus, 30 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BG