Imran Khan’s speech at the founding rally of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on April 24 was moving. He denounced Nawaz Sharif for transferring assets abroad and evading taxes, while a third of Pakistani children are malnourished; for running to London for medical treatments, while the resources that should have been invested in healthcare were diverted to Metro bus and train projects. Khan vowed to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state — as Mohammad Iqbal had dreamed — and assured Pakistanis that they were a great nation held back only by corruption of their rulers. His story of Pakistani politics is powerful because it so accurately expresses the frustration and longing of citizens, but it is also dangerous because it absolves from accountability both military rulers who have governed Pakistan for nearly half its life, as well as Imran Khan himself, under whose leadership the PTI has become a largely undemocratic party controlled by business interests, a combination unlikely to yield a welfare state. First, in Khan’s story of Pakistan, the military is a benevolent saviour. There’s no anger towards military officials who made the foreign policy and national security decisions that led to civil war, insurgencies, and terrorism. Never has he questioned why most of our national budget has been devoted to defence, without civilian oversight of military spending and strategies. The contrast Khan drew between Sharif’s sons selling London real estate worth 650 crores and malnourished Pakistani children could evoke tears from the most unemotional among us, but we would also be driven to tears if we considered how much Pakistan has cumulatively spent on defence versus on public health and education.Corruption of politicians is reprehensible, no doubt, but by perpetuating the military’s saviour narrative, Khan is reducing the ability of civilian rulers — including him — to challenge military’s hegemony over foreign policy and national security, and to question its expanding land and commercial interests. Pakistan’s military has the unique distinction of being the country’s largest landowner and contractor, as Mehreen Zahra-Malik reported in a recent news article, of establishing a business empire, as Ayesha Siddiqa detailed in Military Inc., and of involving madrassas in mercenary warfare. Military rulers are probably in a neck and neck race with politicians in terms of who has caused more harm to the country and its people. Some politicians may have transferred national coffers to their overseas accounts but the military leaves little in the coffers to begin with. In any honest story of Pakistan, both would be held to task. However, Khan’s story is more self-serving than it is honest. Second, the changes that have occurred within the PTI, under Khan’s leadership, make his talk of a welfare state seem little more than a ploy to exploit the feelings of Pakistanis. In his speech, Khan blamed Sharif for denying judicial redress for rigging complaints, and for running a party of darbaris (courtiers), but this is precisely what Khan has done within the PTI, which has strengthened politicians with vested business interests (and military connections), marginalising the advocates of a democratic welfare state.Since March 2013, many PTI workers have been protesting against rigging in the intra-party elections. An internal commission led by Tasneem Noorani found evidence of rigging, and a tribunal led by Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed suggested punishments for Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan for their role in rigging. A power struggle ensued at the end of which Khan ousted Justice Wajihuddin — an upright man who had refused to take an oath under General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 — in order to shield Tareen and Aleem, who were part of Musharraf’s government when he was repressing the lawyers movement (which the PTI workers took to the streets for). In a recent tweet, famed playwright Anwar Maqsood, aptly described Tareen and Aleem as Khan’s ‘ATMs’. If Sharif delayed recounting in four constituencies to protect his kitchen cabinet, Khan has done the same within the party to protect his ATMs. In his speech, Khan called the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) a party of darbaris, which was too afraid to demand Sharif’s resignation. Yet only a few weeks ago, PTI’s Chief Election Commissioner, Tasneem Noorani, a retired senior civil servant who is renowned for his integrity, resigned because Khan changed the method of the intra-party elections in order to remove checks on the presidents of all tiers, which will, essentially, create a party of darbaris, the very thing Khan finds so distasteful about the PML-N.Under the old system that Noorani supported, party members could directly elect party representatives at all tiers, from the PTI chairman to the Union Council level. However, under the new system, members can only directly elect presidents at each level, and presidents can then nominate their own teams. What this means is that the president’s team will owe its power to him rather than to party workers; there will be a king and his courtiers, not an elected president who has to negotiate with other elected representatives. In a television interview immediately after his resignation, Noorani explained that he resigned because he knew that there was little chance that Khan would be unseated as chairman. If he was given the power to nominate his team, PTI workers clamouring for a change in the party’s top leadership and policy direction would lose hope. Noorani explained that he could not, in good conscience, endorse this electoral design as democratic when he knew that it tilted the playing field in favour of incumbents and against challengers. Instead of allaying Noorani’s concerns, Khan accepted his resignation, co-opted Senator Noman Wazir as Chief Election Commissioner, and gave the green-light for this new electoral design, which will make it easier for politicians who rigged the last intra-part elections s to preserve their grip on the PTI. This does not bode well for a welfare state.Over the last two years, Khan has ousted Javed Hashmi, because he revealed the alleged back-door talks between the PTI and military officials during the dharna (sit-in), and Justice Wajihuddin, because he insisted that Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan should be punished for violating the party’s constitution. He also allowed Noorani to resign when he refused to endorse an electoral system that he found to be patently undemocratic. Hashmi, Wajihuddin, and Noorani are men of unimpeachable honesty. It is PTI’s great loss that Imran Khan, in his storytelling and politics, has favoured expediency over truth.