The much-awaited elections in Pakistan are over and the results, albeit controversial, have been declared.
Imran Khan is the people’s choice and is busy cobbling together independent candidates to get to the magical number after which he can be sworn in. Whether the election was “managed” by the army or not is no longer an issue. Imran Khan is now the leader of one of the most dangerous nations on Earth. His opening speech seemed to have all the right words for India and yet he chose to continue his nation’s hard line on Kashmir.
There has been widespread criticism of these elections from political spokespersons and media around the World. He has been criticised as being close to the Taliban. The tell-all book by his former wife Reham Khan trying to rake-up his playboy image, called Imran Khan a “directors actor.” Her book was strategically released just before the election but seemed to have no impact.
India and the rest of the World have to deal with Imran Khan and his backers for the next 5 years. India has cautiously welcomed his win and reiterated their position of making South Asia free of terror and violence.
The two principal opposition leaders and their parties, Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto (PPP) have lost out but have managed to garner sufficient seats to be able to provide a strong and credible opposition if they are able to handle their own sets of issues. Both parties have rejected the election results, though the PML(N) has not questioned their victory on the province of Punjab nor has the PPP questioned their majority in Sindh. Their post-election comments should be seen only as political posturing and covering up of the reasons for their failures.
The Pakistani voter has strongly rejected the religious and anti-India rhetoric of Hafiz Sayeed but he and his organisation have not disappeared. Unless he is reined in by the Pakistani Army, which is not likely, he will continue his sabre rattling and his open training of militants against India. The other self-appointed non-playing captain, General Pervez Musharraf, who openly acknowledged his admiration for Hafiz Sayeed was threatening to contest the elections is now simply reduced to providing “expert comments” on television and sabre rattling.
What are the implications of Imran Khan’s win for his “Naya (new) Pakistan”?
- After a long time, Pakistan has elected a leader who is not corrupt and who has, demonstrated his resilience in fighting the system since he founded the Tehreek-e-Insaf in April 1996. He has been targeted repeatedly on various fronts but has stood his ground to improve governance and root out corruption. Yet, with 115 seats in the 269 member assembly, he needs the support of 15 additional legislators. It would be interesting to see how much these independent legislators will demand as the price for their support and how this will impact on his governance.
- He has the blessings of the Pakistani Army and this must be seen as a positive development. The Army has always been either directly in control or been in an antagonistic relationship with the political party. Now that they are, supporting Imran Khan, couched in the cloak of a democratic win, India and the rest of the World has an opportunity to deal directly with the powers behind the throne and not someone who cannot get decisions implemented.
- The Pakistani voter is getting restless and is tired of all the religious propaganda. They have been waiting patiently for prosperity promised over the past seven decades since independence. They see the major development in India and are looking for a leader who can deliver economic development for their country as well. Imran Khan has an opportunity to deliver for his backward nation.
- The Pakistani economy is bordering on the brink of bankruptcy. The country is saddled with huge debts and does not have the money. The Pakistani Rupee is at its weakest, making the external debt even larger. In June 2018, Pakistan was put back on the terror financing watch list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Imran Khan will need some deft maneuvering to find the money and start work on rebuilding the economy. Unless the economy bounces back and starts creating jobs and wealth, nothing significant can be expected from any politician.
- Perceptions about Pakistan in the World are probably at an all-time low. Pakistan has not had a foreign minister for several years. Nawaz Sharif chose to handle this portfolio directly and did a lousy job. Serious confidence-building measures are needed to bring some semblance of respectability to the green passport. Continuing its support of terrorists and claiming that Pakistan itself is a victim is no longer acceptable in the corridors of power around the World. Saudi Arabia, towards whom Pakistan always looks up to, has undergone a significant change under the leadership of Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. If they can change, so can Pakistan.
- China, Pakistan’s all-weather ally has its own agenda in supporting the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) since Chinese exports will get access to the Middle East and Europe without circumventing the time-consuming sea journey around Asia. On the other hand, China is also troubled with militancy in its Uighur province which it blames on support for Pakistan. No nation can be completely dependent on another. Pakistan needs to start building strong relationships with India, USA and Russia. Imran Khan recognises this and has mentioned: “you take one step and we will take two steps.”
- The opposition parties PML(N) and PPP can demonstrate their commitment to their nation by providing checks and balances of a responsible opposition in Parliament and not disrupt the business simply because they must. Between them, they have substantial numbers. Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz Sharif are young and have a long time ahead of them in politics. Sitting in opposition can be a great learning experience.
India and the World need to give Imran Khan a chance to deliver a different model of governance without letting down their guard. A peaceful Pakistan will help in the growth
and development of the entire region and the stakes in this success is the highest for Pakistan.
Imran Khan needs to change the narrative in his country. He needs to carry several contradictory views within his nation with the simple promise of development and good governance. For him, the days of adulation are over and the time for brick bats and blame games has arrived.
The common Pakistani citizen is tired and fed-up of the politicians who have repeatedly demonstrated their greed for money and unlimited power and done nothing for the common Pakistani. Imran Khan needs to start communicating directly with the people, much like President Trump and Prime Minister Modi so that his message reaches directly and is not lost in interpretation.
He has no other options.
Besides, this may be his only chance!
The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies. A keen political observer, he is an Angel Investor and Executive Coach. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.