By Ishfaq Jamal
The recent victory of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) in the general elections of Pakistan has become a global event of enormous importance. Pakistan enjoys an important position in the global geo politics of t the world and a strong and stable democratic government in Pakistan is in the interests of world peace. What makes the elections of 2018 different from other elections is the emergence of a new face as Pakistan’s prime minister.
Founded in 1996, the PTI is one of the very few political parties in South Asia that has grown by leaps and bounds in a span of two decades. From not winning a single seat in the 1997 general elections and just one seat in 2001 general elections, the party is now on the verge of forming new government in Pakistan and it speaks volumes about Imran Khan’ s journey as a politician and a leader of the masses these years. In 2013 general elections Tehreek-e-Insaf managed to take over the Pakistan People’s Party as the main opposition to PML-N in the National Assembly and the Punjab assembly. In opposition, the role of the PTI was commendable which hitherto had been missing in Pakistan’s unstable and fragile democracy. Khan didn’t allow the government a cakewalk; rather he gave a very stiff time to Nawaz Sharif’s government .
Though initially, like many, I was skeptical about Imran Khan’s role on a bigger political arena with his image was drastically stereotyped by many in media and opposition. For some he was an installation of the Jewish lobby; while for some others he was “Taliban Khan” , a sympathizer of Taliban militants. What changed my perception of Imran Khan was a thorough study of his book “Pakistan: A Personal History”.
In the book, Khan elaborately explains his socio political ideology and agenda, how politicians and generals hitherto have exploited common masses in the name of religion, sects and ethnicities. And, how a faulty education system had created a huge class differences and the continuity of feudal setup as a legacy of British had severely weakened the social fabric of country. Khan, among other things, mentions, in the book, that in 1999, when there was huge pressure on Nawaz Sharif’s government over corruption charges, the PML N passed an order barring all female news anchors from appearing without head scarves on TV and as a populist measure it overnight helped him to restore his tarnished image. This is(was) how politicians very often have played the old cards of populist measures in beguiling common people in the name of religion. In reality, the leaders continued with blatant corruption and exploitation of masses.
Khan’s concept of Islamic polity is that of a welfare state, which he clearly mentioned in his first press conference post victory. Till date, politicians including religious parties have used religion as a mere rhetorical device for attracting voters and in power they have applied the principles of Islam , that is, a welfare state ,which provides economic, social security and equality of opportunity to all.
As a flamboyant cricketer, Khan is admired by many as one of the best cricketers ever born with magnificent leadership qualities. Many renowned cricketers including Geoffrey Boycott, Ian Bishop , Sanjay Manjrekar and many others who have watched Imran Khan closely are very optimistic about his emergence as a leader. Similarly, many think tanks in west are hopeful of the beginning of a new era in Pakistan.
However, all said and done, it will not be a cake walk for Imran Khan either. He will be taking reigns of a country which is groaning under the mounting pressure of an economic crisis. The security scenario is not positive either and he has to t address the lingering foreign policy issue . In his press conference, Imran khan called Kashmir as a core issue between India and Pakistan and he mentioned the kind of atrocities Kashmiri’s have to go through over these years. The people in Kashmir have lot of expectations from the new government in Pakistan, that it will take positive steps for bringing peace and prosperity in the region and resolution of Kashmir issue very early by holding talks with India.
The stakes are very high; people in Pakistan were very fed up with the status quo and now with the emergence of a new party they are positive of a “Naya Pakistan”. The situation is somewhat akin to Narendra Modi’s emergence post 2014 Parliamentary elections in India, where he was seen as messiah to India’s all problems. Let’s hope that situation in Pakistan doesn’t remain akin to India before the next general elections in where even with a huge mandate the Narendra Modi government failed in addressing the genuine problems of people. Let’s hope Imran Khan leads his country like a true statesman.
The author, a Kashmir based columnist and a sociopolitical analyst, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org