When Imran khan made his victory speech on national television, he gave the country a ray of light, which the people were desperately looking for. His words made people realize that finally there maybe something good around the corner for them. While there is nothing wrong in this hope and promise of a better tomorrow, there is the big puzzle of how he is going to go about fulfilling these promises. His promises of creating countless jobs, homes for the poor and for turning practically every governor’s house into a hotel for public, surely gains him the trust of the wider cross section of the public. Nonetheless, it also leaves the political analysts of the country with the job of making sense of it all.
Pakistan is not an easy country to govern. It has seen more than its share of adversities and scandals. This includes the recent mockery of the security establishment in front of the whole world making not just the public aware of the games at play, but also prompting other countries to ask explanations for Nawaz Sharif’s blame-game with the army. Imran now takes over a country that is in severe need of better water management, faces a sinking Rupee value, a structurally weak society, a name in the FATF’s grey list and tightly tied hands in terms of policy implementation. Let us look at it critically. Have we in real terms moved forward with these elections or is this just IJI’s election scenario of the 1990s playing out again. Has the establishment chosen Imran as another one of their laadlas.
To sum it all up, the elections can conveniently be seen as a scenario where a party perceived as less corrupt, more likely to deliver and less likely to toe the Pindi line has replaced a party perceived to be more corrupt but beginning to demonstrate more of its own mind, a fact that is not easy to fathom for the status quo.
Imran is surely a favorite these days among the wider cross-section of the public mostly because they think an honest top-man in the parliament might do the country some good. However, if history is of some relevance, most of these so called top men have failed to deliver or to end misrule in Pakistan; be it Ghulam Muhammad, Iskandar Mirza, Yahya, Bhutto, Zia or Musharraf. To sum it all up, the elections can conveniently be seen as a scenario where a party perceived as less corrupt, more likely to deliver and less likely to toe the Pindi line has replaced a party perceived to be more corrupt but beginning to demonstrate more of its own mind, a fact that is not easy to fathom for the status quo.
If we compare the performance of PML-N and PTI in the last tenure, we would not observe a lot of differences. Both did almost the same amount of good and bad in their time in the government, all the while engaging in hateful speeches to bring each other down. With the allegations of a wide scale rigging and the severe involvement of army in the elections in all these master plans, the stakes are high this time around mostly because the people in the country are a little more aware of the situation this time. Although the general public seems happy with how things turned out, the hard facts are that Imran won the elections by a slim margin, that too after entries by many independent candidates making its hold unstable.
Moreover, the newly formed government has its hands tied in policy implementations. The large external deficit by the last government could mean going to the IMF for help which would lead to further unfavorable sanctions on the country. Then there is the matter of mending relations with international players including Afghanistan, the US and India which is going to be the toughest of his tasks. The US expects Pakistan to deliver the Afghan Taliban to them and legislatively, his lack of simple majority in the Senate and the National Assembly makes it impossibly hard for him to accomplish this or any other policy he may want to implement. In addition to all this, he will have very high hopes on delivering his promises to the country, mainly by its educated youth with little grasp on the ground realities of the major hurdles that will severely hobble Pakistan’s fast progress. Looking at this grim picture, it is safe to say that Imran may fail too like PML-N.
With the image of the country’s courts and a severely curtailed freedom of media on sensitive issues, the establishment might feel more liberated to take part in important decisions of the country’s foreign policy and politics with impunity. Imran has to play his cards right and if he is a true democrat, he would try to make amends in his ties with other parties to ensure minimum interference by the outside forces.
With the image of the country’s courts and a severely curtailed freedom of media on sensitive issues, the establishment might feel more liberated to take part in important decisions of the country’s foreign policy and politics with impunity.
Meanwhile in this entire tussle for power, conservative Punjab’s hold on politics has multiplied. Two major parties and all the key unelected institutions will most likely be headed by elements from the conservative Punjab. The trend has also shifted from centrist parties to right wing ones, both in Sindh and Balochistan where in 2013, purportedly centrist parties were in dominance. This trend has also carried forward in National Assembly as well, plus new extremist parties have entered the political theatre in Sindh and Punjab Assemblies. Thus at best, the 2018 polls represent half-steps forward in a few areas but two steps backwards in many more. One can only hope for PTI to build a ‘Naya Pakistan’.
is a graduate of School of Economics, Quaid-i- Azam University Islamabad. His area of expertise include the Middle East, European Affairs and political economy. Currently, he is working as an Operations Associate at CSCR.