Pakistan, a country embroiled in a socio-political mess with a history of violence. Since Its conception in 1947, Pakistan has come a long way, whether it be for better or for worse.
Characterized by its enigmatic, politically hybrid democratic regime, there have been quite a few turbulent spells where few had hope that this young country would ever recover from its many issues. Even then, when hope seemed bleak, the Pakistani people persevered and today we can see the fruit their hardships bore.
Imran Khan, love him or hate him, but respect is one thing he has unequivocally earned. Twenty-two years in the making, from his first elections in 1996 up to his most recent elections in 2018, Imran Khan is finally the Prime Minister of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and it has been an incredible journey.
When he first came into the limelight, he was seen as a young, inexperienced cricketer who didn’t deserve a place on the national cricket team. Eventually he proved all his critics wrong and went on to become the only Pakistani captain to bring the Cricket world cup home in 1992. The nation was in love with him, that is until he decided to enter the turbulent realm of Pakistani Siyasat (politics). The same politicians and influencers who had loved and adored him as a sportsman turned against him as a politician, they tried to cast him out and make a social pariah out of him, even his family wasn’t spared. Smear campaign after smear campaign he held his own, unfazed , unmoved. He stood for what he believed in even when no one else did. Now, after finally achieving victory, lets hope that he sticks to his campaign promises the same way he has stuck to politics these past two decades.
After of the election was over, Khan said in his winning speech, “I came into politics 22 years ago because I believe that the potential of our country was not being realized…. The Pakistan that I saw growing up deteriorated in front of my very eyes. I came into politics because I wanted Pakistan to become the country that Jinnah had envisioned”. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, envisioned a country which was safe and inclusive of all of it citizens despite their creed and credence. Let’s hope Imran Khan recognizes that dream.
Despite the overwhelming support he has received there have been some concerns about the way he went about winning these elections. Having garnered the support of both the establishment (the Pakistani Army) and the religious right wing, many now question how Khan intends to keep his government both secular and politically unbiased.
The army, which had previously supported Khan’s anti-corruption rallies against the now disgraced and impeached Ex-Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was also heavily involved in the 2018 election season, having deployed 370,000 to ensure safety on election day and prevent election fraud. Many are skeptical of the extent of the army’s actual involvement in the current civilian government. However, one this is clear, Khan is not likely to take on Pakistan army’s’ and security agencies’ support of non-state militant groups, one of the reasons why they seem to have bet on him. In 2013-14, he also argued that the country should engage in peace talks with the Taliban, the same Taliban who have killed thousands of Pakistanis in the last decade alone. In recent years Khan has also been known to be a proponent of the country’s regressive blasphemy laws, which discriminates against minorities such as the Ahmadi community.
Despite these issues Khan’s victory indicates a changing Pakistan. It highlights a younger, urban voter base, rallying behind a leader who advocates for social issues such as education and healthcare, a leader who has promised a clean government with accountability across the board. To focus on these magnanimous deliverables, Khan will have to leave behind the petty politics of embracing “turncoat” politicians from traditional elites, to prevent damaging his image as the candidate of change. He should now focus on being the leader of all Pakistanis instead of just his party, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf).
His supporters seem to think he has done just that; In his winning speech Khan addressed the nation, unscripted, with unwavering sincerity. He talked about his plans of strengthening relations with the country’s immediate neighbours, including India. He addressed the people of the province of Balochistan, something which previous leaders had failed to focus on as much, he thanked them for their services and recognized their struggles in an effort to remind the whole nation of the sacrifices the people of Balochistan had made in recent years, including the terrorist attack in Quetta on election day. He also talked about his image of Pakistan which mirrored M.A. Jinnah’s image. His speech seems to have struck a chord with the Pakistani people, and for the first time in the country’s history there’s hope for a better future.
Undoubtedly Khan’s election represents a changing Pakistan, and it is now up to the Pakistani people to criticize and scrutinize the government every step of the way, to ensure that the campaign promises actually to come to fruition; at the same time the Pakistani people must also stand behind their leader and give credit where its due.
One thing is for sure, that interesting times lay ahead. The spirit of this young nation is likely to be tested, let’s hope they find a strong leader in Imran Khan to guide them into the prosperous
Editor: Sarah Saeed