Imran Khan's Wears an Uneasy Crown

Photo Source: The Sunday Times

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

Imran Khan, the cricketer, who won the 1992 World Cup for Pakistan, has surprised a few after becoming the new prime minister of Pakistan in the 2018 election.

For the ardent followers of Imran Khan in Pakistan, and in the diaspora, this might be the happiest day of their lives. It is because he has come a long way, from being one of the finest all-around players in Pakistan’s cricketing history, to Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister.

Imran Khan's historic win has happened because Pakistanis were brimming for a change. He, in many ways, was an embodiment of a change, in the minds of many Pakistanis, with his strong, strategic, catch all politics.

By believing that corruption is a national malaise, his cause, it seems, was helped through, by the people. Before the election, there was a threat of around ten suicide attacks, but a transition in the electoral process happened smoothly. If Imran Khan sticks around for five years, to implement his political proposals, he might be the first political leader, in the history of the country, to do so.

During the last election, he has made quite a few promises to the public, through his slogan, ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan), that includes an end to corrupt institutions, bringing back wealth to Pakistan, improve tax collections, a national water policy, reforms in health and education, a billion-tree planting programme, introduction of an ‘Islamic welfare state’, around ten million new jobs and five million new homes. He claims to have seen Pakistan, in its highs and lows, and dreams of a Pakistan, as imagined by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal.

In terms of foreign policy, Imran Khan vows to keep good relations with Afghanistan, a stance which earned him a quick congratulatory call from Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani. With India, as relations have been fragile, he has made promises to improve trade relations and believes Kashmir, to be the country’s biggest bone of contention. Narendra Modi also called him after the election win. This has been a very optimistic development, after India’s claimed surgical strikes inside Pakistan’s occupied Kashmir.

His tenure will be a daunting task, as this time around, Pakistan’s two eminent political parties will be reviewing his actions, from the opposition. In fact, they have already made accusations of election rigging, and blame the army for instigating the election result in Imran’s favour. He needs to be at the centre to pacify relations between the civilian government and the military.

Imran Khan has been around in politics for a while. His political career has been full of perseverance. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, (Movement of Justice), which he found in 1996, didn’t even win a single seat, in the 1997 election. During 2002 election, he got nicknamed as ‘Taliban Khan’, for leading protests against US drone strikes in Pakistan. With time, he became a harsh critic of Musharaf, Zardari and Sharif. It made him a populist in the public, claiming to represent the people from the grassroots.

According to him, resistance from the Pashtun Taliban is happening, because they are fighting for the protection of their land, from outside forces in Afghanistan. He boycotted the 2008 election, due to allegations of election rigging, by tearing his nomination papers apart, in the public. In the last to last general election, he became the leader of the third largest political party.

After the Panama Paper investigation, that indicted Nawaz Sharif for embezzlement charges, he spectated the exit of the former prime minister, his biggest political rival, before the election. It paved the way for his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, a three-time chief minister of Punjab, to lead the rival party.

By calling supporters of Sharif, as ‘donkeys’, he received flak from the Election Commission, for usage of inappropriate language. During the investigation, he often made unwarranted political attempts, which included a threat to lockdown Islamabad. In the past, Imran, and his party members, also had confrontations with the police, during protests.

After coming to power, there are rumours that Imran Khan will be seeking a $12 billion bailout plan, from the IMF, the country’s biggest till date, after discussions with the Finance Minister, coming September 2018. However, the United States has demanded that the cash should not be used to repay Chinese loans, that are used to fund major infrastructure in the country, a blame that Pakistan has refused.

At the present moment in time, Pakistan needs about $3 billion to repay the IMF, to avoid defaulting on loans, in the next few months. There is a balance of deficit crises in Pakistan, the Pakistani rupee has devalued, soaring inflation. There is also an acute electricity shortage and a looming water shortage, that can likely come in 2025, with less than 500 cubic meters available, per person.

In recent times, Pakistan has been named in the list of countries, deemed, non-compliant (from 2012-2015), by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). By being added to the list again, it will become very hard for foreign investors and companies to do business in Pakistan. President Trump, recently suspended about $2 billion in aid, over the country’s alleged ties with Islamic militants.

Pakistan, at this moment in time, needs a leader, who is honest and accountable, to improve their image, in the global scenario. Imran Khan might fit this role. His primary task, after assuming office, will most likely be making immediate reforms to the economy, and ending red tape and bureaucratic inertia.


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