Volume 23 Issue 5, June 2019


By S.R.H. Hashmi

Former president Gen Pervez Musharraf, though not an authority on such matters, when asked about Imran Khan said words to the effect that apart from cricket, the gentleman really didn't know much. While it was too much of a simplification, the remark did have some truth in it. After all, while recounting his achievements, until quite recently, Imran mostly talked about cricket, and of course the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital.

While bringing costly cancer treatment within the reach of the poor was no easy task, it is not a one-off thing in the world. After all, in our own country, Addul Sattar Edhi, a very ordinary person, having little education and absolutely no prior foreign exposure, managed to establish and run Edhi Foundation which does humanitarian work on a scale much larger than what Imran Khan has done.

I am not trying to belittle Imran Khan’s achievements but merely pointing out that he is not some sort of Superman and that we should not expect impossible feats from him and additionally, Imran Khan should not over-rate himself and promise miracles.

It is for this reason that it took him two decades to make a place for himself in the political field.
Even now, his success has not come about solely on account of his personal qualities but mainly because people had became thoroughly disillusioned with the ruling parties, the PML-N and the PPP, whose leaders are now being chased by the National Accountability Bureau for their astronomical corruption. The track record of these two parties in terms of governance is equally dismal.

Another factor has been in Imran Khan’s favour. This is a time when the major parties, the PML-N and PPP, have become known not for much else but corruption, and of the extreme type, with the second generation like Maryam, Hamza and Bilawal, aspiring to take over from their fathers with equal gusto. It is at this time that Imran Khan has appeared on the horizon as an honest man. Since his sons are abroad with their divorced mother, there is little possibility of their coming to Pakistan and participating in politics. That means succession in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will be on merit. Imran Khan has the kind of perseverance which has enabled him to wait for so long for the opportunity.

However, simple honesty and perseverance are not enough to run a country. He has got to learn the ropes fast, which he seems to be doing. His statements now show considerable improvement and he has already started taking strong, corrective action in many areas.

His honesty, friendly style and personal warmth have impressed leaders around the globe which has brought Pakistan out of isolation and saved it from imminent bankruptcy. While the country may not be quite out of the woods yet, things definitely seem to be improving. Considering the mess that the PML-N and PPP have landed the country in, recovery won’t be easy and would necessitate taking some tough measures in order to survive. That is the reason why the nation should be prepared to face hard times until the corrective measures start bearing fruit.

The Pakistan Peoples Party never fails to take credit for the 18th Amendment through which power was devolved from the centre to provinces. However, the masses would be benefitted only if power were to be devolved further down to the grass-roots level. Instead of doing that, in the larger provinces of Punjab and Sindh, the provincial governments clawed back even the powers that a military dictator had given to the local governments. Moreover, in the race to grab more power, and the finances that go with those powers, some functions which could be best handled at the federal level were also devolved. All this has to be corrected. In fact, the PTI government has already legislated to introduce a comprehensive local government system in Punjab and Khyber Pankhtunkhwa, much against the machinations of the opposition parties.

Imran Khan also seems prepared to take bold decisions like bringing in Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in place of Asad Umar as the top member of his finance team. The decision would not have been easy but he took it all the same in the interest of the country and the nation, which means that he will not stay beholden to loyalists, come what may, and would make changes whenever the situation demands. The Governor of the State Bank was also changed and so was the FBR chairman.

Imran Khan has nothing to fear from the combined assault of the opposition parties. A bunch of thoroughly discredited politicians, who can stoop down to being coordinated by an even more discredited religio-political personality. However, it is good to see that Imran Khan is avoiding creating unnecessary difficulties for himself. He could do even better by controlling his tongue and tone. Calling Bilawal ‘Sahiba’ was definitely in poor taste and totally unworthy of his status.

The majority of Pakistanis prefer Imran Khan to the discredited politicians of the PML-N and PPP, but he should not take their support for granted. Even though the massive inflation that the masses are now experiencing is not due to Imran’s fault but because of theft, robbery and bad governance by the former politicians, it has come during his tenure with little chance of reversal anytime soon.

Imran Khan should not push his luck too far. He must avoid creating needless controversies like the rumoured introduction of a presidential form of government. Parliamentary democracy could perhaps be a better choice but it suffers from many defects which must be removed. After all, Imran Khan is no Tayyip Erdogan. He has the chance of a lifetime to put Pakistan back on rails. It would be a shame if he were to lose it.

The writer is a free-lance contributor with interest in
regional, South Asian and international affairs. He can be reached at hashmi_srh@hotmail.com

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