The Speaker
Thursday, 13 June 2024 – 05:16

The Pursuit of Naya Pakistan – Imran Khan’s journey to power

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

Twenty-two years. The time it took for Imran Khan to ascend the political ladder and ultimately become the 22nd Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The cricketer-turned philanthropist-turned politician made history by winning five National Assembly (NA) seats in the General Election 2018. Mirroring his electoral success, his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) became the single largest party at the national level as well as the largest party in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces.

Throughout his political journey, Khan tried to convince the Pakistani masses that he and his party were a different breed of politicians. By eliminating corruption, nepotism and ‘VIP Culture’ of the wealthy ruling elite, they would make a ‘Naya Pakistan’ (New Pakistan).  While one must laud Khan for his hard work and the firm stances he took throughout his campaign, accusations by opposition parties of mass-rigging in the elections have plagued the new government. The president of the rival Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Shehbaz Sharif alleged that 1.6 million votes were rejected. Mr Sharif also demanded that a Parliamentary Commission is formed to probe the polls rigging and warned that if such a commission were not formed, he would take to the streets. In the face of these serious claims, the PTI will need to prove its mettle through good governance as well as strict abstinence from corruption, nepotism and all other ills which they declared they would fight against.

At this point, no-one in the country doubts Imran Khan’s good intentions for the country. He is a man who succeeded in all he set out to do in life, from winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup to building the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore. He has also had his fair share of wealth and fame throughout his career and thus, many observers argue that he does not need more money or fame. Rather, he wants to reform the country and make it an ideal welfare state, bridging the gap between rich and poor in the process. In his first televised speech as Prime Minister, Imran Khan also stressed the need for investment in human capital in the form of education and healthcare, with drastic changes in the workings of the Punjab police. However, the problem with Naya Pakistan is not in the theory but in the implementation. Imran Khan’s team of ministers, advisers and bureaucrats may attempt to stop or at least delay a change in the near future due to their dependence on the continuation of the status quo.

Twelve out of twenty-one ministers and advisers chosen by Imran Khan to form his cabinet were once a part of the military dictator, Pervez Musharraf’s government. A significant portion of these cabinet ministers, until only a few months ago, were completely opposed to the change Khan wanted to bring about. As is the case in Multi-party, parliamentary democracies, Imran Khan, to some extent, sacrificed, the ‘clean’ image of his PTI in order to accommodate large hordes of ‘electables’ into his party. Electables are politicians who change their political parties in each election, favouring the party which looks likely to succeed. Electables, despite being looked down upon in Pakistani society, manage to win elections due to deeply-entrenched tribal loyalties and the maintenance of neo-patrimonial relations in their constituencies. In the 2018 General Elections, electables played a huge part in bringing Imran Khan to power. As a reward for supporting the PTI in the formation of governments at the national and provincial level, Imran Khan even appointed a non-PTI politician as the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly. Moreover, one can only hope that under the leadership of Imran Khan, the ministers, advisers and Parliamentarians, despite being largely new entrants to the party, remain loyal to the ideology proposed by the PTI. Pakistanis expect them to not compromise the interests of the average Pakistani in favour of an elite class that has exploited the poor for the past seven decades.

The current bureaucracy is an even greater cause for concern. During the years of the recent Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N government, the PTI wasted no time in accusing the government of ‘having favourites’ in the bureaucracy. Favoured bureaucrats, they would claim, were showered with money, land and powerful posts by the PML-N government. Despite vowing for a complete change-up of the bureaucracy in a future PTI-majority government, the PTI has embraced the same favoured bureaucrats whole-heartedly. Case in point: The PTI’s recent appointment of Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan as Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Dr Suleman Khan as Director General, Intelligence Bureau (IB). Doctor Jehanzeb Khan has been a close aide of Shehbaz Sharif and has allegedly been directly involved in embezzlement of funds in the construction of the 11 billion dollar Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Plant. Dr Suleman Khan was ironically removed from the post of Director-General IB during the PML-N’s tenure on the insistence of the PTI but has now been given the very same post in the incumbent PTI-led government.

On the other hand, by being harsh critics of the PML-N in Punjab Province and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Sindh province from 2013 to 2018, the PTI has drawn significant attention to itself in more good ways than bad. With Imran Khan’s public speeches aimed against the status quo and all societal ills still fresh in the public’s minds, it will be much harder for PTI politicians and workers to get away with the same things that have been rampant in Pakistani politics for the past many decades such as nepotism, extravagance in the use of public funds and so on. The free media will report any and all mistakes made by the PTI, prompting the politicians to be at their best behaviour, lest they fall prey to a media outcry.

With all that being said, the majority of Pakistani voters want to see Imran Khan succeed and fulfil the promises he made over his twenty-two years in politics. And although he might not be able to do everything he promised within the next five years, it is refreshing to see a political outsider in the Prime Minister House. An outsider who successfully politicised an entire generation of young Pakistanis. The pursuit of Naya Pakistan begins.



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