Imran Khan Gives Me Heartburn.
I can no longer deny that Imran Khan seems to be growing more and more popular by the day. People, who in the past would have laughed at his irrelevance, do not any longer. Some go as far as to even support him now.
I must say that I am quite surprised by this phenomenon. There has been no sudden change in tack by Imran Khan to cause this surge in support that we’re apparently seeing. His argument has, by and large, remained the same: 1) get rid of the corrupt politicians already in power, 2) cease all Pakistani support to the West’s war in Afghanistan , and 3) cease military activity against the various Jihadi outfits operating in FATA.
I can certainly rationalize why Imran Khan has grown more popular recently without changing his argument. The general populace is terribly war weary, and the economy has been in a slump that we seem unable to shake off. In all honesty, no war and a booming economy is an option anyone in their right mind would take.
Keeping the upsurge in popularity in mind, my thoughts on Imran Khan have changed from the dismissive, “He’ll never get it” to ”Alright, Imran Khan is Prime Minister. What’s the worst that could possibly happen?”
And it’s when I ask myself this question that I truly begin to get troubled. Remember how Rumsfeld once infamously said something about “known unknowns and unknown unknowns”? That’s about the same amount of confusion I get from Imran Khan.
Let’s start with Imran Khan’s associates over his political career. General Hamid Gul was an early adopter of Imran Khan. The man incidentally still quite proudly speaks of cobbling together the IJI; so that’s great company for a politician to be in. Another of Imran Khan’s close associates has been Shireen Mazari. In case you weren’t aware, Ms. Mazari had an altercation with an American gentleman in a restaurant and yelled, “Yankee, go home!” at him. This was because he had the temerity of brushing his chair against hers. Perfectly mentally stable character, that one.
While speaking of Imran Khan’s associates one must never forget the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Jamaat has stood by Imran through thick and thin. Except for that time when they had all that “Imran Khan is bringing the Jewish Lobby to Pakistan” business in 1996, and then when the Jamaat’s student wing had Imran Khan arrested for protesting against Musharraf. Friends like these.
I don’t know if any of these people are going to be in an Imran Khan government should that happen. However, I’d rather not take my chances with Foreign Minister Mazari. Thank you very much.
Another argument, which is tossed around often, is that Imran Khan has never been tried and therefore should be given a shot. Conceded. We haven’t. We also haven’t tried The Mazdoor Kissan Party, or the Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaaz, or the SSP really. Apparently, electoral politics is now a single-turn carousel that everyone gets to get on. [Save the military. Naturally, they run the carousel.]
What irks me most about Imran Khan is that I have no idea how he’s going to do anything that he has said that he’s going to do. His slogan for this campaign has been, “Tabdeeli Ka Nishaan, Imran Khan” (Imran Khan: The symbol of change). Yet, his politics or the ways that he has presented his politics are no different from that of the two major parties in Pakistan (the PPP and the PMLN). There is no clarity as to how anything will be achieved. If Imran Khan is going to run on a “Change” platform, thereby placing himself on a pedestal, I as a voter demand for him to display behavior that is uncommon among Pakistani politicians.
This entry is by no means meant as a defence of the sitting governments in Islamabad or Lahore. The fact that Imran Khan has managed to acquire the level of popularity that he has is a scathing indictment of their governance failures. However, I have a fairly clear idea of what I expect from them. I have a good idea that the PMLN will push forward with an aggressive trade agenda with India and will push back against the military (mainly due to Nawaz Sharif’s personal vendetta against the institution). With the PPP, I know that they’ll continue to pay lip service to nominally liberal clauses, will continue their alliance building / breaking politics, and will probably oversee greater devolution to the provinces.
Truly think about it for a minute. Do you have any idea what Imran Khan’s economic policies are? Or how he’ll work with India? What’s his relationship with the military going to be like? How would he manage a severance of ties with the United States or at the very least with the war? On what terms will he make peace with the Taliban?
Yes, he’s opened a hospital and a university and he’s perceived as being incredibly clean. But do you really know what he’s going to do with the country?
My true fear is that Imran Khan is the “pait mein daarhi” that some have been waiting for, for so long. And that’s not a great feeling to have when you’ve moved your question from “Oh he’s irrelevant let me laugh at his idiocy!” to “What if he does?”