BY ASHIMA SINGH
Pakistan’s democratic history has been very turbulent at its best. From the formation of the nation in 1947, the fear of Indian military action and that of the Cold War led to the rapid growth of the Pakistan military leaving the civil institutions behind. And to safeguard the weak institutions, Pakistan chose to take a centralised approach regarding its politics. Thus, the combination with periods of direct military rule and Islamist influence was established. In modern Pakistan, it paved the way for inequality in the political and social landscape. And a weak democracy and constitution. Since then, no party has ever been able to complete its full term without the intrusion of the Army. In this article, from this point of view, I will shed light on the present prime minister of Pakistan – Imran Khan.
A former Pakistani cricketer, Imran Khan established his party – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996. Khan was mocked by many who felt that he was just a pretty face and would not be able to make his way in the country’s strong two party system. In 2013, his party managed to secure 35 seats and form a provisional government in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This actually marked the beginning of his political career. He proved his political opponents wrong when his party-led government made the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a model for the entire country. This happened by bringing in tangible governance reforms which contributed to his popularity in the 2018 elections.
In the 2018 elections PTI came in as the largest single party in Pakistan, and elected Imran Khan as the prime minister. And since then bets have been made on how long will his term last. The party has indeed witnessed turmoils, political scandals and public policy challenges which have been difficult to fix. People have literally been counting days and waiting for a storm to sweep away. It has been nearly two years in office, and his party’s credibility has slumped. The way the government handled the coronavirus crisis has been highly criticized. I, however, believe that Imran Khan isn’t going anywhere. This may be a strategy of Pakistan’s hybrid regime buying time, but he is definitely not going anywhere any time soon.
Imran Khan has many personal and political success stories to his name.However, he is inexperienced in comparison to the opposition who have had more number of years in politics. Imran Khan for that reason is like Pakistani military’s favourite son. He even went on to reappoint the almost retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure. He called for an ‘urgent’ meeting of his cabinet for the approval of this proposed amendment. So much so that the retirement age for retirement was increased from 60 to 64 years. And he now has the power to extend the tenure of all three defence chiefs. Thus reinstating the ever-increasing influence and hold of the army on the government.
Imran Khan’s political opposition may be encouraged to have him removed due to his struggles. But let’s face it, both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP) lack the capacity and the desire to oraganize a mass campaign against the present government. Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) (JUI-F), in late 2019, led a full anti-government campaign which not only lasted only two weeks, but also failed to unite the opposition. At this point, everything seems to be in favour of Khan. As long as he follows what the Pakistani military tells him to do, he will stay in power. He is backed by the military and they even continue to guide him on policies and decisions.
In my concluding remarks, Imran Khan is a charismatic leader who is Pakistani military’s safest bet. Furthermore, he is actually improving their image abroad. The military has him where they want, with no logical replacement from outside or within PTI. There is plenty of time for his position to go down the drain. But for now, the military has him right where they want and for that reason Imran Khan might now be going anywhere anytime soon.