Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Imran Khan: The Poor Man’s Trump

Washington, DC – Biased courts, a divided Army, controversial politicians, and a paralyzed Parliament. This is the sketch of a place called the “Land of Pure,” where it feels like a poor man’s Trump is leading the nation into a sinkhole with a bunch of lies and myths. As former President of the United States, Donald Trump successfully created his own version of a new truth about the political system, with his magnetic talent for spinning myths, calling all his opponents thugs, and declaring he was the only option to save the state. Pakistan is witnessing the same kind of scenario, but the big difference here is that Imran Khan is a poor man’s Trump.

A country like the United States, which is economically so strong, can weather a person like Trump, but in a country where 70 percent of the people live under the poverty line, how can they afford it?

Pakistan’s current economic crisis indicates that it is on the brink of collapse and heading towards a path like the economic downfall of Sri Lanka. According to the UNDP, Pakistan is facing a debt of more than $250 billion. Last month, Pakistan’s foreign reserves fell to $8.24 billion, tipping millions of people into poverty and even starvation at breath-taking speed. With that, the threat of increased social unrest grows by the day.

The ongoing crisis in Pakistan has spilled over to the judiciary. The recent by-elections in the province of Punjab saw a victory for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). Out of the total 20 provincial seats, PTI won 15 on the home turf of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). Initially, PML-N’s Hamza Sharif was sworn in as Chief Minister, only to be de-seated by the Supreme Court the next day, and PTI’s Chaudhry Pervez Elahi was declared elected.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his sons Hamza and Suleman are also in hot water with the law. The Federal Investigation Agency booked them in November 2020 under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act, and a special Pakistani court on July 30 issued a summons for September 7 to frame charges against them in a Rupee 16 billion money-laundering case.

This is the time when all the stakeholders should sit together and launch joint efforts to save the country from crisis. Still, it seems that everyone is trying to take advantage of the political situation and sell their agenda. At the same time, the most affected crowd in this saga is the Pakistani nation, who, as usual, follow the lights of a truck on the road, not knowing where it will take them.

The drama started after the no-confidence vote against the former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who, after losing the premiership, launched a hate campaign against the opposition, the judiciary, and the all-powerful Pakistan Army. He also sold the anti-American agenda and held the great international powers responsible for ousting him from the Prime Minister’s office. This is not the first time that any politician blamed the global powers and the Army for being involved in national politics. We have seen this many times. Before Imran Khan, it was Nawaz Sharif who started a campaign against the Army and even accused the current Army Chief General Bajwa of playing a part in ousting him from the Prime Minister’s office. The difference between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif is that Nawaz was talking about the involvement of the Army in politics. Imran Khan, however, has no issue with Army’s involvement in politics on the condition that they (Army) support him.

General Bajwa, whose term will end in November this year, is actively engaged in rebuilding his image, which has been destroyed by Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. In an unexpected move, Bajwa recently called Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to pressure the IMF to release funds to Pakistan. He might be trying to show how concerned he is about the economic crisis in Pakistan. Imran Khan wasted no time in commenting on this and said that the international community does not trust Shehbaz Sharif, that is why the General called the Americans.

There are also reports of a division in the Army regarding the support of Imran Khan, and the top Generals are worried about this division as the Army ranks cannot afford this. The current Army Chief’s spokesperson vehemently denied Imran Khan’s allegation that the United States tried to oust him from power. DG ISPR, in his press conferences, said there was no international conspiracy, but most Pakistani voters do not want to believe the Army and have faith in Imran Khan. At the same time, many Generals genuinely believe that the United States is part of a conspiracy against Imran Khan.

Imran is desperate to come into power again but on what grounds? Let’s do a quick analysis. During his three years in power, he stated on the record in public gatherings that he was unprepared to run the government, and his team had no idea how to run the country. He obviously lacks the ability and the team to deliver, so what kind of plan of action (POA) does he have right now, and what type of team is he assembling to run the affairs of the country? The opposition parties claimed that Imran Khan’s one-point agenda is to come into power again. That is why he is playing dirty politics. He has no vision and no POA. His critics say that Pakistan started losing friends in the international community because of his ill policies. The best friends like China, Arabs, Turks, and others are frustrated. He (Imran Khan) tries to drag international friends into domestic politics for his support, but it feels that all of them prefer to keep their distance.

“Imran Khan is dragging the nation into mental and intellectual isolation,” a top politician of Pakistan requesting anonymity said. “We supported Imran Khan in thin and thick situations, but the truth is that he failed to deliver.”

A former Pakistani General, who requested not to be named, was of the view that Imran Khan was a ray of hope for millions in Pakistan. He disappointed them, and now, again, the nation is coming forward to support him, but on what agenda, “Honesty? I am sorry his Honesty cannot bring food to the table.” When asked if the Army will again take a chance to support him, the former General said, “Why will the Army support him? He (Imran Khan) is unpredictable”.

Imran Khan has reportedly been sending feelers to the US State Department in an effort to mend fences. We asked State Department Spokesperson Ned Price about media reports claiming that a close associate of former Prime Minister Khan met with Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu here in the State Department to convey a message to forget the past and move forward. The spokesperson did not deny such a meeting, saying, “If there was any such meeting, I just am not in a position to speak to it. We have – we remain engaged with a range of stakeholders in Pakistan, with those currently in government, and a broad array of others. But I’m just not in a position to speak to any such meeting.”

We also contacted the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, but they did not respond to a request for comments.

The rating agency S&P Global recently downgraded Pakistan’s outlook from stable to negative. Other people in their analysis shared concerns about Pakistan’s current chaotic political and economic situation. Former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) convener and head of US-based advocacy group Voice of Karachi Nadeem Nusrat commented, “When Pakistan was doing relatively better, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, they always helped Pakistan get out of short-term crises. But if you look back on the last few years, the Pakistani financial crisis has lingered on and on. There is fatigue running among donors, supporters, and friends. How long will you be bailing out a country that doesn’t want to bail itself out?”

Former Pakistan Senator Enver Baig said, “At the moment, we are politically and economically in turmoil. And I think the answer to the entire situation is that the country now needs general elections because of a lot of uncertainty among the people. People are absolutely fed up with what’s going on with the dollar going up and the rupee going down. So it’s a very pathetic situation at the moment.” Senator Baig added that to build Pakistan’s economy, the country has to maintain good relations with all parties concerned, particularly the United States, and Imran Khan’s outbursts against America do not help.

Imran Khan failed to bring international investments during his tenure, businesses went down, and not a single development project got any attention, but yes, he did succeed in getting money from Pakistanis living abroad.

Imran Khan’s problems are far from over. Right now, he is facing a case in the election commission of Pakistan for embezzlement in foreign funding that can kick him out of politics if any fair decision comes out.

“If we see the big picture, the success of Imran Khan will be a big failure for the nation,” a former top Pakistani diplomat in Washington DC commented. “If he loses in the coming elections, he will not accept it, and if he wins, he will not be able to govern.”

Author profile
Jahanzaib Ali

The writer is a Washington-based journalist and author. He has been covering international politics and foreign policy issues for the last 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]

Author profile
Poonam Sharma
Editor

Poonam is a multi-media journalist, and Founder and Editor of Global Strat View. She was the Managing Editor of India America Today (IAT) for seven years, and launched its print edition in 2019 with IAT's Founder and Editor, the late Tejinder Singh.

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