Al Jazeera

by N.S. Venkataraman        27 July 2018

Not many were surprised when Imran Khan’s party emerged as the single largest party in the general election in Pakistan. While his adversaries and critics say that his victory was due to the support that he enjoyed from Pakistan army, the discerning observers would view such remarks as uncharitable and unfair.

What weighed in favour of Imran Khan in the election is the fact that most people in Pakistan have become tired of the “tested politicians” and the army generals. None has any doubt that most of the “tested political leaders” in Pakistan have indulged in corrupt practices while they were in power.

It has been a routine scene in Pakistan during the last several decades that someone who has been President of Pakistan or Prime Minister and then lost the power, would flee Pakistan and go to some other country where they have stacked property and money, fearing arrest in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, Zardari, Musharaff and Sheriff and several other political leaders have resorted to this practice.

Majority citizens in Pakistan have now taken a calculated risk to vote an untested person to power, hoping that he would provide good governance. People have no choice other than making this risk, and Imran Khan has been the beneficiary of such a situation.

Immediately after sensing victory and even before the official announcement of election results and with many people still wondering whether there would be a coalition government in Pakistan under Imran Khan’s leadership, Imran Khan rushed to the media to address the people and assured them that he would take Pakistan to glory. He listed several problems of Pakistan and narrated in so many words that he would sort them out without indicating a clear roadmap with clarity. His rushing to the media to speak to the nation even before the announcement of official results make one suspect whether there is a level of immaturity and awkward eagerness in trying to establish his credentials.

The path before Imran Khan is not a bed of roses, and he must be aware of it. His foremost problem is the terrible shape of Pakistan economy, leaving Imran Khan with no alternative other than going to the International Monetary Fund for a massive loan. It remains to be seen as to what conditions IMF would impose.

The other big issue is that Pakistan has unwittingly got itself so much entangled with China by allowing excessive investment by China in Pakistan under the so-called Economic Corridor Project, with Pakistan now facing the threat of falling into a debt trap with China. It is tough now to wriggle out of China’s iron grip, which China would continue to tighten in the coming years. How Imran Khan will face the pressure from China remains to be seen.

Of course, the firm grip that the extremists and militant groups have on the Pakistan soil and international Islamic groups using Pakistan soil as the base to carry out their activities is a grim issue, which even an experienced political leader will find it difficult to tackle.

The Pakistan army will undoubtedly be monitoring Imran Khan’s governance, and doubt remains as to whether he can assert himself in case the army generals would disapprove his policies and programmes. In the past, several Prime Ministers in Pakistan had paid a hefty price when they chose to “disobey the army’s command.”

Finally, the Kashmir issue which has become a perennial issue will challenge Imran Khan’s leadership capability. He should have the wisdom to understand that Pakistan cannot remain obsessed with Kashmir issue and hatred against India if it were to forge ahead.

There are so many other issues like the ongoing civil war in neighbouring country Afghanistan, unrest in Baluchistan and opposition parties in Pakistan throwing aspersions on Imran Khan’s victory and of course unpredictable President Trump who would blow hot and cold. Such issues will make the balancing act for Pakistan’s Prime Minister a very challenging exercise.

The former cricketer who led Pakistan to world cup victory has the charisma. But, soon Imran Khan will realize that such reputation and past glory will fade away too more quickly if he would take false steps as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Today, indeed the people of Pakistan and friends of Pakistan wish him well and want him to succeed. He can rise to the occasion only if his administration would be above corruption and nepotism and he would firm up his policies with goodwill towards all including the neighbor India.

Unfortunately, one of the central themes of his electoral campaign was hate politics against India. His advisors should now tell him that he should forget such rhetorics.

In spite of turbulent times that Pakistan has faced, there are still many intelligent and knowledgeable people in Pakistan, who can assist and guide an inexperienced Prime Minister. But, the Prime Minister should have the needed wisdom to utilize the services of such people in Pakistan.