Imran Khan wears an uneasy crown
By becoming the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, the cricketer legend who won the 1992 World Cup for Pakistan, has surprised quite a few.
BY: Qazi Naveed Ajaz
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 Khan has come a long way, from being the finest all-around players in Pakistan’s cricketing history to becoming 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 revolutionary 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 masses, through his slogan, ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan) including 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 surgical strikes inside Pakistan’s occupied Kashmir.
It 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 governments 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 won 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 Presidential election, he won 30 seats, becoming 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.
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 . 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 the 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.
His primary task, after assuming office, should be to make immediate reforms to the economy. If he ends the red tape and bureaucratic inertia, that will be a good way to start his tenure.
Naveed Qazi is the author of ‘The Trader of War Stories’ (2018) and ‘Musings on Global Politics’ (2018). For feedback write to [email protected]