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There are at least three dozen personnel from the provincial police force stationed on the narrow lane leading to Imran Khan's Zaman Park residence these days. But inside, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman cuts a lonely figure.

Gone are the days when the Tareens, Aleem Khans and other political bigwigs were his gatekeepers, making him unreachable. On Tuesday, other than lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who was escorted to the gate by Fawad Chaudhry after paying Mr Khan a visit, not a single face from the 2018 election coterie or the PTI's 'usual suspects' was at the scene.

Lawyers, journalists and security officials came and went, but only when cleared by Mr Khan's personal security officer. No phones were allowed. His security, it was apparent, was serious business. After all, just days ago, Mr Khan was targeted by a gunman.

'I am relieved to be alive,' Mr Khan said, in an exclusive conversation with Dawn.

It was surprising to see Mr Khan, who usually cuts a towering figure, hunched over a walker, and taking laboured steps to his sofa. His bandaged leg, where bullets had chipped part of his tibia, rested on a plush futon. One would think that the attack had shaken him. But Mr Khan was aggressive.

He did not shy away from addressing the elephant in the room: his bad romance with the military establishment.

Although many of his followers now see him as a born-again democrat who wants to rewrite the rules of engagement between the military and the civilian government, it is clear that he has faith in the institution's power and influence, and believes that - within certain limits - positive working dynamics can produce great results. But three years into his government, he said, their relationship went sour.

'I always imagined that, because the army is so powerful and organised, when I would try to bring rule of law in the country, they would play an important part,' Mr Khan said.

He repeated the mantras that formed the backbone of his 2018 election campaign and were the main obsession of his government: accountability of mafias; bringing the elite to task; ending corruption.

But he rued that the National Accountability Bureau was not in his control. 'NAB was controlled by the army. I...

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