South AsiaPolitics

Khan is not equal to the challenge of running Pakistan

September 10, 2018 6:09 PM (UTC+8)
Imran Khan often used the slur 'Friend of Modi' on his way to winning Pakistan's election in 2018. Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi

Propaganda is the best tool for keeping the masses ignorant of the facts and realities, and it has always been utilized effectively by Pakistan’s invisible forces.

It has been few a weeks since the establishment-backed government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was installed in the country through the controversial general elections in which the most popular party in Punjab province, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), was denied a level playing field.

Imran Khan, the new prime minister, was portrayed as a reformist and a visionary by the invisible forces in a massive propaganda campaign. As a result, many in Pakistan have started believing that this new pawn of the establishment has the talent and skills to govern the country. During his election campaign, Khan focused all his attention on getting back the money looted from the country and to refuse to surrender to pressure if he came to power. To the contrary, he seems to be a leader who knows nothing about state affairs and who cannot resist internal and external pressures.

Khan’s decision to appoint an Ahmadi, Atif Mian, as a member of his economic advisory team elicited enormous pressure from the religious right wing on his government as adherents to the faith are considered blasphemers by clerics and their supporters. It was the right move to appoint Mian as he has vast experience and expertise in this domain, but Khan was not able to stick to his decision as he was put under immense pressure to remove him because of his faith. Khan did not take long to reverse his decision and ask Mian to resign. Mian is gone and his economic management skills are now going to waste.

Since Khan has been playing the religious card against the previous PML-N government, and he deliberately declared the party an ally of the Ahmadis to grab the religious vote bank, he knew that it was better to retreat and not lock horns with the religious clerics and right wing.

Khan’s immature diplomatic approach and his ignorance of protocol also caused Pakistan embarrassment on the global stage when he put French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone call on hold. While most high-level phone calls are prearranged, Khan deliberately gave the impression that Macron called him randomly and that he was too busy meeting with the country’s TV news anchors to talk with him.

As if this was not enough, his unimpressive meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to yield any results for Pakistan. In fact, Pompeo only spent a few hours in Pakistan and then left for India, where he signed defense and strategic accords. He asked Pakistan to do more to counter terrorism and extremism on its soil.

Instead of addressing foreign policy issues, Khan has chosen to fix domestic problems first and for that, he has established a task force to take back overseas money that has been looted from Pakistan. This accountability gimmick is so old and so unsuccessful that even a common man knows that it is only about victimizing the opponents of the establishment.

Khan’s latest appeal to Pakistanis living abroad to send donations for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam and to help him increase the donation foreign reserve of the country is an indication that he is not aware of even the basic techniques required to run the state. The cost of constructing this dam is around US$14 billion, according to economists, and anyone with a basic understanding of economics can easily figure out that it is not possible to build this dam with charity funds. Likewise, states are never run on donations.

Charity cannot thwart the economic and looming currency crises in Pakistan. If donations could thwart an economic crisis and put the country on the path of prosperity, then all the third world countries would have become first world countries by now by simply asking citizens to donate. It is just not that simple – running a country means understanding its problems and systemic flaws and being able to find solutions. It is all about attracting global investment, reviving local production and starting mega infrastructure projects.

Throughout his political career, Khan has been saying that he has the solutions for all the country’s problems

Throughout his political career, Khan has been saying that he has the solutions for all the country’s problems and that he is going to get back the money generated by corrupt practices and sent abroad. Since Khan is in power now he should fulfill his promises of bringing that black money back to the country and if it was mere sloganeering, he should accept the fact that rhetotic alone is not enough to run the government, nor will it put money in the treasury.

The solution to Pakistan’s deteriorating economic condition is to cut the defense budget and instead spend the money on education, healthcare and technology. Since Khan is beholden to the powerful establishment, it seems highly unlikely that be will be able to cut the defense budget. After all, Nawaz Sharif was accused of being a traitor for challenging the traditional defense narrative and wanting to end the hegemony of the establishment. His removal from office as a result of a court verdict on charges of corruption was a questionable decision in the eyes of many in the country and his supporters believe it was actually the nexus of the establishment and judiciary that threw him out of power for refusing to be dictated to by the establishment.

Khan does not have much time as the elections that brought him to power lack credibility, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the new government. Instead of relying on charity, he needs to fix the economy and for that to happen he will heavily rely on loans from the International Monetary Fund. But will he be able to put Pakistan on the path of progress merely with loans from international monetary organizations? They can only bring temporary relief – for permanent relief, structural reforms are required. However,  Khan is under immense pressure from the establishment and his inability to understand global politics presents a serious problem.

It seems the Khan-led PTI can attract the attention of social and electronic media, but real politics and governance are beyond its abilities. The propaganda that gave birth to the establishment-backed Khan as a self-proclaimed “messiah” is dying a natural death.

Imad Zafar is a columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.
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