By Abhinav Pancholi
Imran Khan has led his party, Tehrik-e-Insaaf, to a spectacular victory in the polls and is set to become the next Prime Minister. After struggling for twenty two long years, his dream has is about to come true. With the Army firmly backing him, his party should easily cobble up the numbers and form the government.
Amidst widespread allegations of rigging, Imran rushed to hold a twenty eight minute press conference to claim his victory, even as counting was still in progress. There seems to be no doubt now-he is the ‘man of the moment’.
His 1992 World Cup winning speech was all about himself. The triumph was his, not the team’s, as was the dream of lifting the Cup. They did work hard, yes, but they worked for him. The obsession with building the Cancer Hospital was his alone, a project which he declared from the podium would get a boost because of the victory. There was no ‘we’, nor ‘us’. Perhaps Imran has no idea or appreciation of this collective pronoun.
Likewise, his election victory speech was also completely dedicated to worshipping the cause of I, Me and Myself. The way he sees it, the efforts, the battle and the vision have all been Imran’s, and he has been a lone traveller in this political struggle. The consistent need to remind the countrymen of his privileged status when he started the party, arguing he didn’t need to do anything because he already had everything, betrays his self-obsession, bordering on megalomania. As if he did his people a great favour by becoming, and remaining a politician.
His ideal governance model is based on the Prophet’s regime in Medina which established rule of law, and took care of the weak and the needy, and China, which is a single party socialist system that tolerates no dissent and is now led by a President without any presidential term limits. He doesn’t come across as a leader with much faith in parliamentary democracy, but seems to favour some variant of paternalistic despotism.
In any victory speech, what is left unsaid or only briefly hinted upon is often more crucial than what is harped upon. Imran did cursorily mention minorities’ welfare towards the fag end of his speech, but it seemed more like a customary concession than an enthusiastic promise. The harassed minority groups would have taken some heart had the PM-in-waiting assured them regarding their safety and security in more vehement terms.
Imran discussed his ideas regarding foreign policy towards the very end of his speech. He mentioned India only after he had paid his respects to China and Saudi Arabia, wished for open borders with Afghanistan, maintaining strong relations with ‘hamsaya’ Iran, and reconstructing the relationship with the USA. Was there a subtle message here through which he wished to do away with the ‘India-obsession’ of the Pakistani administrations and treat it like any other normal foreign relationship?
Imran was mighty pissed off with the Indian media for portraying him as a quintessential Bollywood villain. But it seemed as though he was secretly pleased at being so referred as it helped consolidate the hardline vote in Pakistan behind India’s worst nightmare. He expressed his wish that the two countries would enjoy better trade relations, but normalcy was subject to finding a solution to the core issue of Kashmir. In this regard, he is prepared to sit across the table, and he lay the ball firmly in India’s court. It is here that Imran Khan showed his colours when he jumped to draw an evil equivalence between what Pakistan alleges is Indian role in Balochistan and what the world accepts is Pakistan’s hand in Kashmir. This equivalence would surely have irked the Indian establishment.
In his long speech, the PM-elect didn’t refer to the word ‘terrorism’ even once. IN Pakistan itself, terrorism and ethnic violence result in a large number of deaths every year, and given the situation in Kashmir and Afghanistan, this must have been a priority issue. The complete omission gives us an idea about Imran’s dangerous worldview, his support systems as well as priorities of his administration.
The rest of the South Asian countries-Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan found no mention in the speech, indicating just how much value does Pakistan attach to them.
Imran Khan expressed his admiration for the poverty alleviation efforts of China, and desired an even stronger relationship with them. He expressed gratitude towards China for their massive investments through the CPEC which has given a fillip to economic activity and generated some employment. Imran also wants ‘mutually beneficial’ relations with the US, and not an unequal relationship, which has done incalculable harm to Pakistan in the past.
But perhaps the most interesting part of his speech was the declaration of his intent to convert the palatial PM House and other Governor Houses into public buildings to be used as educational and commercial institutions. This move has the potential to not just influence Pakistan, but also create immense pressure on the politicians in India to give up their luxurious sarkari mansions and bungalows for public welfare and adopt simpler lifestyles.
Imran began his speech with the reasons behind his joining politics in the first place. He was perturbed with the eroding of the ideals of the late Qaid-e-Azam, and the potential of the promised land going waste under corrupt regimes. This led him to take the plunge, and it was now, after a struggle of twenty two long years that the people of the country had given him the opportunity to walk his very big talk.
The PM-in-waiting highlighted the problems of child malnutrition and lack of education, a very high Maternal Mortality Rate, poor healthcare and even absence of proper drinking water which kills thousands of Pakistanis. He pledged to resolve these issues to the best of his ability, and also discussed the dire economic crisis that Pakistan faces. He talked about improving the tax culture by targeting corruption and ushering in economic reforms.
Imran believes his country doesn’t receive much investment because of economic instability and policy uncertainty, and deep-rooted corruption which scares investors away. This lack of investment hurt Pakistan’s economic development and resulted in rampant unemployment.
Imran Khan displayed rare magnanimity and declared that his government would not persue vendetta politics. Rule of law would take its own course. He also dismissed allegations of widespread rigging and said his party would welcome any probe in this regard.
The iconic cricket captain arrives at the helm of affairs with lots of hopes from his people, and a bit of apprehension from across the border. Let us hope he lives upto his words, and ushers in an era of peace and cooperation. An Army backed civilian government in Pakistan is our best bet, as then the one institution does not undercut the efforts of the other. With elections in India to be held in the first half of next year, there is not much hope for any meaningful engagement in the foreseeable future.
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Pragativadi.com and Pragativadi.com does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.