Amidst allegations of widespread rigging, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the single largest party and former cricketer is set to become the Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan. In the process, he destroyed the dream of two most powerful political families - Bhutto and Sharif - that someone from their family will emerge as the leader for the top post. Imran’s slogan of Naya Pakistan and corruption free Pakistan appealed voters in general and youths especially.
Imran’s journey from the cricket field to altogether different political field is phenomenal. He was the captain of a Pakistan cricket team which won ICC Cricket World Cup in 1992. Still, people call him Kaptaan. Running country is much more difficult than winning cricket matches for the country. He is known for aggression. He was an aggressive cricket captain and continues to be aggressive even as a politician. His sit-in agitation in Islamabad in 2014 lasted for 126 days and it was targeted against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Imran is not new to politics. His party with the help of Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and a couple of religious parties came to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in 2013. Then militant organisations covertly helped PTI to come to power as left-liberal Awami National Party (ANP) leaders and activists could not go out to campaign because of militants’ threat. Many activists of ANP were killed by Taliban.
Imran is believed to be soft on militant organisations and keeps the alliance with religious parties. His image outside and his politics are two different things. This time JI and couple of religious parties-organisations contested against PTI under the banner of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). Akram Durrani, former CM of KPK, contested against Imran from Bannu.
This time Imran Khan contested elections for National Assembly (NA) from five constituencies. Bilawal Bhutto leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Shahbaz Sharif also contested elections from two seats each. The significant thing is for the first time in Pakistan’s history, women from some conservative areas of KPK came out and vote. So far, they were not allowed to vote by male members.
The point of academic interest is what will be the foreign policy of Imran and how it will affect Indo-Pak relations. Imran is a known hardliner. His stand on Kashmir and India is well-known. During his controversial sit-in, he appreciated Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. While 2-3 days ago, he criticised Modi. Indian establishment, obviously, did not take it lightly. But, it is believed that he made this statement to cater to his constituency. Imran’s line on Kashmir is more aggressive. He alleged Nawaz Sharif as ‘stooge’ of India.
Time and again, he has said that first resolve Kashmir issue and other things will be solved automatically. While many others believe first resolve issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar barrage etc and build trust between two nations and then move towards resolving Kashmir.
Power has its own compulsions. Once in power, automatically, he will have to amend his aggression. Pakistan’s economy is facing a serious economic crisis. The international watchdog against money laundering and financing of terrorism, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has put Pakistan on greylist. The reasoning of FATF is Pakistan’s ‘structural deficiencies’ in anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism. Pakistan has 15 months to devise a strategy to exit from the FATF’s grey list. It will be an immediate challenge for the coming government.
Once in power, people are compelled to stop the rhetoric and look after the nation’s interests. Accordingly, Imran will have to soften his position on US. Donald Trump administration through its South Asia policy has taken a tough stand on Pakistan. But, Pakistan always remains at the centre of US policy as far as South Asia is concerned. To come out of the economic crisis, Pakistan will need international support, including from the US. China’s support is always there. After all, China is known as ‘all weather friend’ of Pakistan.
The other challenge before new PM will be to improve relations with immediate neighbouring countries like India, Afghanistan and Iran. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan need to be improved to liberate the porous border from the militants. Pakistan’s Army has always played a significant role in deciding Pakistan’s foreign policy as far as
India and Afghanistan is concerned.
Giving slogans like ‘Naya Pakistan’ and ‘Corruption free Pakistan’ is easy before elections but moving in that direction in the exploitative system is not easy. The real challenge before Imran is to liberate Pakistan from militants and provide good governance.