The world is going to closely watch where Imran Khan wants to take Pakistan. As of now, it is a dysfunctional economy, deep in debt, overly dependent on China. The country’s eligibility for liberal aid from the US and European nations has been inhibited by their condition that terrorist organizations and activities be controlled. Foreign investors have shied away from Pakistan because the country is not considered safe. Abductions, suicide bombings and armed attacks are too common to make even the bravest of corporate managers and professional experts think of taking up assignments in Pakistan. The country cries for investment in all sectors of economy. Without investments the Pakistan government is unable to mobilize enough resources for building roads, bridges and ports and augmenting generation of power. The businesses being run by the government are running in losses.
Will Imran Khan lift Pakistan out of the marshland? To be fair to him, the task is supremely difficult, if not impossible. Pakistan is in a marshland because of its unfortunate political history. Its history has been a history of the battle for power between politicians and generals, a battle in which the generals have won most of the times. The army, having tasted power once, has developed an unquenchable powerthirst. Corruption has plagued governments in every Asian country, even the developed Japan, but the army does not step in if a government is discredited for corruption. One government is replaced by another through elections. But in Pakistan the army, because powerthirst is now in its genes, rides the waves of popular denunciation of the corrupt government to exert control of the levers of power. Chiefs of army staff of Pakistan have been holier than the ayatollahs in their lamentation of the erosion in virtues and values in politics. On July 25, the polling day in Pakistan, Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesperson of the Pakistan army, tweeted on behalf of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa: “Thank you fellow Pakistanis. World has seen your love & respect for Pak Armed Forces today. U hv rejected all kinds of malicious propaganda. We are strong because we have your unflinching support. Our lives are dedicated to Pakistan and its People. Pakistan wins again!”
One severe handicap Imran Khan starts with is the widespread perception in his country and across the world that he has won with the covert and overt support of the army. There are people who have gone further and branded him a ‘puppet’ of the army. Such public perception can be lethal, whether it is backed by truth or not. He will therefore be watched first for his power relationship with the army than for anything else. Every decision of his will be judged in terms of whether he has independently taken it or at the army’s instance. It is sad to see Imran Khan in such a situation: a man who is more widely recognized internationally than any other prime minister of Pakistan, a man who declared cleansing of the dirty stables of politics as his mission when he founded his Pakistan Tehrik-Insaf, a man who people have generally seen as a liberal. It is also a pity from another point of view: he has been able to win a hundred plus seats owing to massive support of the youth. They betted on his charisma. If he disappoints them he will be cast away at the next elections, or maybe earlier, as it has happened with many of his predecessors.
The west will refrain from deepening its economic relationship with Pakistan unless Imran Khan achieves effective control over terrorist activities. The chances of this happening do not seem very bright, as the army refuses to stop categorizing terrorism in three groups. One group is that which carries out terrorist acts within the territory of Pakistan. The army is against this type of terrorism. The second group carries out subversive acts in the territory of Afghanistan: the army backs this type of terrorism. The third group creates problems for India in Jammu and Kashmir: the army backs this type of terrorism too. Quite reflective of the army attitude was the last Eid message posted on twitter by the Chief of the Armed Forces of Pakistan: “Armed Forces of Pakistan, CJCSC and Services Chiefs wish a very happy Eid to fellow Pakistanis. We owe this festivity in a peaceful environment to all our Martyrs & Ghazis. Salute to them. May Allah continue His blessings upon Pakistan. Amen.” Note here: those who die doing subversion in Afghanistan are Martyrs and those who wage a war against India are Ghazis, Holy Warriors of Islam.